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Sheriff: Missing Student Probably Dead

December 10, 2003

GRAND FORKS, N.D. (AP) _ The mother of a missing college student said her family has not given up hope that she will be found alive, despite a sheriff saying Dru Sjodin is likely dead after DNA tests showed her blood was found in the car of a man suspected in her kidnapping.

Grand Forks County Sheriff Dan Hill said Tuesday the investigation is now more of a recovery mission than a rescue _ a comment that outraged Sjodin’s family.

``We firmly believe Dru’s return is close at hand,″ Sjodin’s mother, Linda Walker, said from her home in Pequot Lakes, Minn.

Sjodin (pronounced sha-DEEN) was last heard from Nov. 22, when she called her boyfriend on a cell phone from the parking lot of a Grand Forks mall where she worked at a Victoria’s Secret.

Searches of rivers, ditches and snow-covered fields in two states, sometimes employing hundreds of volunteers, have turned up few clues to her whereabouts.

Alfonso Rodriguez Jr., a 50-year-old with a history of violent sexual assaults, has been charged with Sjodin’s kidnapping and is jailed on $5 million bond. He has said through his attorney that he is innocent.

The DNA match would be the most significant break yet in the attempt by authorities to tie Rodriguez, a convicted rapist, to Sjodin’s disappearance. In an interview with The Associated Press, Hill said investigators tested blood from Rodriguez’s car against DNA taken from Sjodin’s toothbrush. He described the blood in the car as a small amount.

Hill confirmed a media report that the trunk of Rodriguez’s car had been extensively cleaned before his arrest.

Searchers found Sjodin’s shoe near the Red Lake River after she disappeared, Hill said. Divers have searched the river thoroughly, and don’t believe the body is there, he said.

The shoe, identified by a college roommate of the 22-year-old Sjodin, is the only piece of clothing recovered so far, Hill said.

An affidavit unsealed later Tuesday revealed some new information, including Rodriguez’s account of his whereabouts at the time Sjodin disappeared. According to the affidavit, Rodriguez told police he had been at the mall watching a movie, ``Once Upon a Time in Mexico″ at about 7 p.m. that night. Police said the movie wasn’t being shown at any theater near the mall that day.

Authorities first interviewed Rodriguez on Nov. 26, four days after Sjodin disappeared, according to the affidavit. It said investigators got Rodriguez’s permission to search his car, and discovered a knife.

Forensic examiners inspected the car, the affidavit said, and discovered blood in several spots, including the inside of the rear passenger-side window and on the back seat.

Hill, the Grand Forks County sheriff, said Rodriguez sat down and fell asleep during a search of his house.

``If I had police walking around in my house I wouldn’t be snoozing,″ Hill said.

Rodriguez has a history of attempted kidnapping with adult women, and has used a weapon in at least one assault. Rodriguez was released from a Minnesota prison in May after serving 23 years for an attempted abduction in 1979.


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