Dru Sjodin's parents, Allan and Linda, separated when
Dru was just three years old. Within a couple of years,
Linda had remarried and was settling into a new life
with husband Sid Walker. Dru was 11 when the family
moved from the Twin Cities, to the small central
Minnesota town of Pequot Lakes. She had a knack for
making friends and quickly made the adjustment to
her new surroundings. Dru was a member of both the
golf and basketball teams at Pequot Lakes High School.
She was an excellent golfer, and was named Pequot
Lakes 1999 Homecoming Queen.
Dru Sjodin earned the nickname Doodles, at a young
age, owing to her constant desire to draw. Her love
of art wasn't just a childhood fancy, as years later
she would become a graphic arts major at the University
of North Dakota. Sjodin enjoyed photography, painting
and was an avid Minnesota Vikings fan.
In addition to her classes at the University of
North Dakota, she was juggling two part-time jobs,
and volunteered her time with two different women's
safety and violence prevention organizations. She
was involved with the "Take Back the Night" events,
and the "Clothespin" project. November 22nd, 2003,
after finishing her shift at Columbia Mall in Grand
Forks, North Dakota, she did a little shopping at
the mall, then returned to her car. The attractive
22-year-old was last heard talking to her boyfriend,
Chris Lang, on her cell phone. After uttering some
words of panic, the call abruptly ended at 5:04 p.m.
that November night. The plight of the missing UND
student grabbed the attention of the public worldwide,
thanks to seemingly constant coverage by the news
Friends, family and well-wishers hoped for her safe
return. Thousands of volunteers helped conduct ground
searches in Grand Forks County and Polk County,
Minnesota. They aided several dive teams, including
FBI teams, who searched open water on the Red Lake
River near Crookston.
In December of 2003, convicted rapist Alfonso
Rodriguez, Jr., was arrested on kidnapping
charges related to Dru's disappearance. It was
reported that investigators had discovered blood
matching Sjodin's DNA in the trunk of his car.
Additionally, a knife was found in his car that
matched a sheath discovered near her car in the
parking lot of the mall from which she disappeared.
April 17th, 2004, nearly five months after she
disappeared, and after countless hours of futile
searching, Dru's body was discovered outside of
Crookston, Minnesota, near where Rodriguez lived.
Unfortunately, according to news reports, her
body bore signs of "torture and severe physical
abuse." An autopsy later revealed that Dru had
also been raped.
The federal court trial of the convicted sex
offender began with jury selection in July of
2006 in Fargo, North Dakota. Alfonso Rodriguez,
Jr., pleaded not guilty to a charge of kidnapping
resulting in the death of Dru Sjodin. August 30th,
2006, the jury found Rodriguez guilty. September
22nd, 2006, that same jury determined that he
should receive the death sentence for the kidnapping,
rape, torture and murder of Dru. At the time of
his 2006 conviction, North Dakota did not have
the death penalty, but it was allowed in federal
cases. Alfonso Rodriguez, Jr. was charged under
federal law because Sjodin was taken across state
lines (North Dakota/Minnesota). Rodriguez took the
life of Dru Sjodin just a few months after his 2003
release from prison. He had served more than 20
years in jail, having previously been charged with
counts of attempted rape, aggravated rape, attempted
kidnapping and assault of a woman, in cases dating
back to 1974 and 1980.
The Dru Sjodin Memorial Scholarship Endowment was
established in 2004 at the University of North Dakota
to celebrate and honor Dru Sjodin and to continue
to share the joy she brought to so many in her brief
In 2006, Dru's Law legislation became part of a
larger child protection bill. Dru's Law legislation
was authored by North Dakota Senator Byron Dorgan.
Senator Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, who co-authored the
legislation with Dorgan, said "Sex offenders have
run rampant in this country, and now Congress and
the people are ready to respond with legislation
that will curtail the ability of sex offenders
to operate freely." Linda Walker, Sjodin's mother,
traveled to Washington several times to lobby
for passage of Dru's Law.
At a July 2006 White House bill-signing ceremony,
President George W. Bush signed the bill into law.
John Walsh, host of TV's America's Most Wanted, was
in attendance along with Dru's mother, Linda Walker.
John's son, Adam, was also abducted and subsequently
murdered. "This bill is going to save the lives of
children," said Senator Byron Dorgan following the
ceremony. The Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender
Public Registry website established a national,
internet database of sex offenders. It was the
first national online directory of sex offenders
available to the public, and is searchable by ZIP code.
February 8th, 2007, a defense motion for a new trial
was rejected by Judge Ralph Erickson, and her killer
was also formally sentenced to death. "I would gladly
lay down my own life to have had this whole ordeal
avoided, to have Dru Sjodin back with her family, to
have never heard of you, Mr. Rodriguez," Judge Erickson
said. "The life of one federal judge more or less pales
in comparison to the pain that this crime has inflicted
on so many people."
In July of 2007, the family of Dru Sjodin reached a
settlement with the state of Minnesota over their
handling of the 2003 prison release of the convicted
sex offender responsible for her murder. Alfonso
Rodriguez, Jr. was a violent sexual predator who was
released from jail just months before he kidnapped,
raped and murdered Dru Sjodin. The $300,000 agreement
brought to an end any legal action by the family
against the Minnesota Department of Corrections or
any other state agencies in the case. In the aftermath
of the case, Minnesota Department of Corrections
commissioner Joan Fabian noted, "Minnesota has made
significant changes in sex offender management laws,
policies and practices in response to this tragedy."
She added, "We hope these changes will make Minnesota
safer for all of its children and will bring some
consolation to the (Sjodin) family."