The Murder of Dru Sjodin
Alfonso Rodriguez Jr.
Police believed that Dru had been abducted and that the crime might have been sexually motivated, although they initially refused to release publicly any evidence that supported their theory for fear of compromising the case. Finally, after a few days into the investigation an analysis of the mall's surveillance videos led federal, state and local investigators to their first potential suspect, Alfonso Rodriguez, Jr., 50, of Crookston, Minnesota. On November 26th, one day before Thanksgiving, police launched a stakeout of Rodriguez's home and eventual search. The search was prompted by evidence that he was at Columbia Mall at the time of Dru's disappearance and physical evidence obtained from his car that linked him to Dru. On December 1, 2003, Rodriguez was taken into police custody and charged with Dru's kidnapping.
Rodriguez was no stranger to the police. He had an extensive criminal history, which involved repeated sexual offenses against women. In fact, he had just been released from a Minnesota prison on May 1st, some six months before Dru's disappearance, after having served 23 years for charges that included rape, aggravated assault and kidnapping.
Rodriguez had been listed on Minnesota's public registry as a Level 3 sex offender, which is considered to be one of the most predatory of offenders that had a significant chance of re-offending. However, North Dakota didn't have a sex-offender registry at the time of Dru's disappearance. Thus, Grand Forks area residents were unaware of the potential danger Rodriguez posed to their community.