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Dru Sjodin

Dru Sjodin (pronounced Sha-'DEEN) was an American murder victim whose disappearance sparked a media frenzy of coverage throughout the United States. The kidnapping/murder case was marked by frequent national headlines and widespread television news stories.


Biographical fast facts

Full or original name at birth: Dru Katrina Sjodin *

Date and place of birth: September 26, 1981, Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S.A.

Date, place and cause of death: November 22, 2003, near Crookston, Minnesota, U.S.A. (Murdered - Stabbed and throat slit)

Parents
Father: Allan Sjodin
Mother: Linda (Sutfin)

Burial site: Pinewood Cemetery, Crosslake, Minnesota, U.S.A.

Error corrections or clarifications

* It has been reported that Dru's parents confirmed her middle name was Katrina, not "Kathrina" as is widely misreported.

Also, many sources mistakenly state Dru was born in "Pequot Lakes, Minnesota." In point of fact, Linda and Sidney (her stepfather) didn't move to Pequot Lakes from the Twin Cities area until Dru was 11 years old.


Biography

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 media.

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 life.

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."


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