In the Spotlight

News & Features
More from MPR
Your Voice
DocumentJoin the conversation with other MPR listeners in the News Forum.

DocumentE-mail this pageDocumentPrint this page
Past sex offender arrested in Sjodin's disappearance
Larger view
Dru Sjodin, 22, of Pequot Lakes, has been missing since Nov. 22, when she left her job at the Columbia Mall in Grand Forks, about 30 miles from Crookston. (
Police in Grand Forks, North Dakota are holding a man suspected of kidnapping a 22-year-old college student missing since Nov. 22. But police say there's still no sign of Dru Sjodin

Crookston, Minn. — Grand Forks Police Chief John Packett says the arrest of Alfonso Rodriguez focuses the case on finding Sjodin. Rodriguez, 50, is described by authorities as a predatory sex offender who is being charged with kidnapping. Police chief John Packett says Dru will be found.

"This investigation has only reached the 50 yard line. As additional charges and information becomes available, we will not be satisfied or comforted, until such time as we find Dru," he said.

Larger view
Image Alfonso Rodriguez

Prosecutor Peter Welte says authorities have probable cause to believe Rodriguez was in the mall parking lot at the time Sjodin disappeared. But Welte won't discuss details of the case.

"Out of respect for this amazing family and out of concern for the integrity of this process, we are not going to be able to discuss any of the evidence from this case at this time, nor any of the specifics involving the investigation," he said.

Welte says the investigation has been "a 240-hour nightmare" for the Sjodin family. He says authorities remain hopeful that Sjodin will be found alive.

"Right now our entire focus on this is finding Dru. We have a separate chapter that's been opened by the kidnapping charge. By no means is this the end; this is a marathon. It isn't a sprint. We're going to try and find Dru and that remains our primary focus," Welte said.

Authorities said Sjodin may have been abducted while talking to her boyfriend, Chris Lang, on a cell phone the afternoon of Nov. 22. He called her roommate, saying he heard Sjodin say something like, "Oh, my God," before the phone went dead. During a second call a few hours later, there was only the sound of static and numbers being pressed, he said.

Larger view
Image Chief John Packett

Authorities wouldn't say how they connected Rodriguez to the case, though they said it is routine to look at sex offenders in the area when investigating such crimes. Rodriguez has a history of sexual contact and attempted kidnapping with adult women, and has used a weapon in at least one assault, according to a Minnesota Department of Corrections summary of his criminal history posted on the agency's Web site.

His past offenses require that Rodriguez be registered as a predatory offender. The classification is for those people whom authorities believe are at the highest risk of committing another sex crime. Rodriguez was released from a Minnesota prison in May after serving 23 years for an attempted abduction in Crookston in 1979.

Neighbors of Rodriguez said a town meeting was held in May to inform them about his release from prison.

Sonja Thygeson, who lives about four houses down from Rodriguez and his mother, said Monday that she's never seen him do anything wrong, but took precautions anyway.

"I'm a widow and I'm older, and I was scared, so I had my son-in-law come over and install a motion light after he (Rodriguez) moved in," Thygeson said.

Another neighbor, Milton Stave, said "there were a lot of frightened people around" when Rodriguez returned to the community.

Thousands of volunteers have helped search the area around Grand Forks for Sjodin. Her father Allan says the response has been overwhelming.

"Honey we're still looking for you. We know you're there. Our strength is drawn off you. What we want is everyone to continue doing what they've been doing. Just like these folks have been saying, check your shelter belts, check your buildings, check anything, check everything. We want information. We have the strength and where all to be out there, we're going to continue to be there. Honey we're going to find you," he said.

The case had drawn more than 1,300 volunteers who have searched the area without success. In addition, about 30 FBI agents, along with investigators from 20 different agencies in three states and Manitoba, are working on the case. Volunteers will continue to search of the area Wednesday.

The Associated Press assisted in this report.

Respond to this story
News Headlines
Related Subjects