Suspect agrees to face charges

Thursday, December 4, 2003

CROOKSTON, Minn. -- The man accused of kidnapping a college student from a mall parking lot agreed to be sent to North Dakota to face charges Wednesday, saying barely a word even after an outburst from a woman in the courtroom who pleaded, "Tell us what you did with the girl!"

Alfonso Rodriguez Jr., a 50-year-old convicted rapist, spoke only to tell the judge he understood what was happening. He faces kidnapping charges in North Dakota and could appear in court there as early as Thursday.

Meanwhile, about 1,700 people answered a call to renew the search for 22-year-old Dru Sjodin, the University of North Dakota student who was last heard talking to her boyfriend on a cell phone on Nov. 22 after she left her job at a Victoria's Secret at a Grand Forks, N.D., mall.

As darkness fell, however, the search again netted nothing and was called off for the night.

Rodriguez was arrested Monday at the home he shares with his mother. Authorities have not explained how they connected him to Sjodin, but they said they believe he was in the parking lot the night she disappeared.

At the end of Wednesday's proceeding, a woman rushed toward the front of the courtroom and spoke in Spanish to Rodriguez: "For your mother's sake, tell us what you did with the girl!"

Rodriguez, wearing a bulletproof vest underneath a parka, turned and looked briefly at the woman, but said nothing before being led away.

The woman rushed out afterward and was not available to reporters.

Sjodin's father, Allan, attended the hearing but did not speak. He bowed his head and seemed reluctant to look at Rodriguez.

In Grand Forks and Crookston, searchers used all-terrain vehicles and ventured out on foot in 30-degree weather to search for Sjodin.

"As a search party, I feel we're probably looking for a body," said Dan Williams of Grand Forks, who was joining the search for a third time.

Sjodin's older brother, Sven, said the family wasn't giving up on finding her: "That is our mission. We are still on track to find her."

Authorities said a search by law enforcement officers would resume Thursday.

Mary Amundson searched fields and ditches near Grand Forks Wednesday with her daughter. They covered about five miles.

"It's really hard," the woman said, crying. "I have a daughter who's 22 years old. And there's a mom out there who needs her baby back."

Rodriguez was released from prison in May after serving a 23-year sentence for an attempted kidnapping.

Authorities released a photo of Rodriguez's car, hoping someone might remember details that could lead them to Sjodin. Police said authorities were also checking surveillance video from various spots at the mall.

On the Net:

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: