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Region mourns Dru Sjodin
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Dru Sjodin's sorority sisters hung this sign outside the Gamma Phi Beta house in Grand Forks, North Dakota. Sjodin was a member of the sorority at the University of North Dakota. (MPR Photo/Bob Reha)
The public goodbyes for Dru Sjodin begin today. A wake is scheduled in Cross Lake Friday afternoon, and her funeral will be Saturday in nearby Nisswa. Next week a memorial service will take place on the University of North Dakota campus. Searchers found Sjodin's body last Saturday in a ravine near Crookston, Minnesota. The Sjodin case has captivated the state and much of the nation since she disappeared five months ago. Some of those who knew her say finding her body will help them mourn.

Grand Forks, N.D. — County Highway 61, northwest of Crookston, is busier than usual on a recent day. Vehicles drive down the gravel road. They slow down as they approach a culvert. Some stop and lay flowers at the side of the road. A small cross stuck in the ground bounces crazily in the wind.

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Image Roadside memorial

The memorial is near where Dru Sjodin's body was found. One man, who asks not to be identified, stops and reflects for a moment.

"I was on the search earlier in the year. A group of us -- ATVs and stuff. Spent a lot of time looking," he says. "Just wanted to see. It's just too bad we didn't find her right away."

Twenty miles away from this spot is the University of North Dakota campus, where Dru Sjodin went to school. She was a senior there. On campus, students hang out at Memorial Union. Some lounge in chairs and watch television while others study. Lindsey Hagel says the mood on campus is somber.

"In a way it's kind of a sense of closure, because people can kind of move on. They know. Things are trying to get back to normal," says Hagel. "But there's a sense of sadness too, because we know now exactly what happened to her."

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Image Dru Sjodin

Hagel says it's been a difficult time for students. She says for a while she felt unsafe walking around campus at night. Some students have even changed their routines.

Karen, who doesn't want her last name used, is a law student at UND. Karen says she's much more cautious than she used to be -- especially about her kids.

"I generally bring my kids to school. Walk them back and forth. If they're outside, I make sure I have an eye on them and they're in distance of where I can see them," she says. "Before I was maybe a little more lax about that."

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Image Lindsey Hagel

For most people, Dru Sjodin was only a face on a missing person poster. For them the story now has an ending. But for the people who continue to investigate her homicide, the discovery of her body means a breakthrough in the case. Even for veteran officers, this case has been emotional.

Sgt. Mike Hedlund of the Grand Forks Police Department is one of many officers working on the Sjodin case. Hedlund says the recovery of Sjodin's body has brought a mix of emotions -- sadness, frustration, a small sense of relief. He says officers have no time to mourn yet, because they have a trial to prepare for.

For Hedlund, the Sjodin case has brought a renewed appreciation for his three daughters.

"There's times you get too busy, and I will have to admit to still being guilty of that. You tend to get too busy with other aspects of your life, and might overlook something that your children are doing," says Hedlund. "I'm trying not to do that as much as I may have."

The Sjodin case has drawn intense local and national media attention. But that attention may bring some benefits, as well.

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Image Sgt. Mike Hedlund

"I think it's helpful to other cases, where a citizen maybe has a question about something they've just seen in a park or someplace," says Bob O'Brien, a spokesman for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. "Ultimately, it's a positive thing."

For many people, it's hard to believe anything positive can come from the murder of a young woman.

Some people say justice must be served. A trial and conviction will answer their questions. But for others, nothing will ever explain why.

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