AP file
Dru Sjodin, 22, disappeared Nov. 22 from a mall in Grand Forks, N.D. Authorities have said she is probably dead.
updated 3/5/2004 2:13:14 PM ET 2004-03-05T19:13:14

A Minnesota man will go on trial on charges that he kidnapped University of North Dakota student Dru Sjodin, a judge ruled Friday.

The man, Alfonso Rodriguez Jr., 51, of Crookston, Minn., pleaded not guilty moments later and asked for a jury trial. He has denied any involvement in Sjodin’s disappearance.

Grand Forks County Magistrate David Vigeland did not immediately set a trial date. But he ruled that prosecutors had presented enough evidence to try Rodriguez, who has been jailed in Grand Forks in lieu $5 million bail

Sjodin, 22, of Pequot Lakes, Minn., disappeared Nov. 22 from a mall in Grand Forks. Authorities have said she is probably dead.

Sjodin’s blood was found in Rodriguez’s car, and a knife in the car’s trunk matched a sheath found near Sjodin’s car, which had been left in the parking lot.

Friends, family continue search
Sjodin’s relatives and friends have kept up the search for her body, recently using air compressors to force air through holes in an icy river, hoping it would help bloodhounds pick up a scent.

“We’ve just got to keep looking,” said her boyfriend, Chris Lang. “There’s no giving up.”

Image: Rodriguez, Jr.
Alfonso Rodriguez Jr. immediately requested a jury trial. No date was set.

Lang was the last person known to have heard from Sjodin, when she spoke to him by cell phone after leaving her job. He has been searching along with Sjodin’s parents, Linda Walker and Allan Sjodin.

Last week, as the temperature climbed to 40 degrees, the small search party looked through fields and abandoned buildings near Rodriguez’s hometown in Minnesota.

One of the bloodhounds, Calamity Jane, has shown interest in a spot near the Red Lake River, where police said they found one of Sjodin’s shoes three days after she disappeared. Last week, searchers began using compressors to force air through holes in the ice.

Bob Heales, a family friend and private investigator, said searchers found something that they turned over to Grand Forks police, but he declined to say what it was. “I don’t necessarily think it’s anything, but it’s something you just can’t pass up,” he said.

Earlier searches by volunteers and law enforcement agencies — including the North Dakota and Minnesota National Guard — in the Grand Forks area and parts of Minnesota came up empty. Divers and underwater cameras were used in the Red Lake River.

“As thoroughly as the river has been searched, nothing is 100 percent,” Heales said. “The water is murky, and there are some downed trees in the river that make some areas difficult to get to.”

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