Remembering Dru Sjodin

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Alan FredericksSid Walker of Walker Travel in Pequot Lakes, Minn., has kept in touch with me over the years. I hadnt heard from him for a while when an e-mail arrived a few weeks back.

Ive kind of been out of the flow for the last year, he wrote. I dont know if you followed the story of Dru Sjodin, the University of North Dakota student who was abducted and murdered Nov. 22, 2003. Dru was my stepdaughter.

Dru Sjodin, a 22-year-old senior at the University of North Dakota, was leaving her job around 5 p.m. at the Columbia Mall in Grand Forks, N.D. She was headed for her evening job, talking to her boyfriend on her cell phone when the call was abruptly cut off. A few hours later, a second phone call to the boyfriend was made but there was no voice on the other end.

Dru didnt show up for her evening job, and the police were notified. Her car was found in the mall parking lot.

A search was begun with local and national volunteers participating. Three days after her disappearance, a shoe believed to be Drus was found in the search area.

On Dec. 1, 2003, Alfonso Rodriguez Jr., a 50-year-old, recently paroled sex offender from Crookston, Minn., who had served 23 years for abducting women, was arrested and charged with kidnapping Dru.

He was brought to North Dakota, where the authorities had uncovered enough evidence to convince a judge to hold him for trial for kidnapping. He pled not guilty and was held on $5 million bail.

All through this period, the search for Dru was hampered by winter weather, but in April 2004 a full-scale search was resumed. On April 17, her body was found near Crookston.

The charge against Rodriguez became kidnapping resulting in death -- a charge that could bring the death penalty. He comes up for trial in March of next year.

In the ensuing months, Drus grieving family has enlisted the support of federal legislators to create Drus Law, which would establish a national online database of sexual offenders. The Senate passed the bill last year, but it didnt make it through the House. It was reintroduced as HR 95 in the new session of the House and is expected to be reintroduced in the Senate.

The members of the House Committee on the Judiciary cosponsoring the bill are Paul Gillmor (R-Ohio); Mark Kennedy (R-Minn.) and Earl Pomeroy (D-N.D.).

The address of the committee is 2138 Rayburn House Building, Washington, D.C. 20515.

Meanwhile, Drus family, friends and supporters will keep you informed at www.drusvoice.com.

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