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National Guard searchfor missing student ends

National Guardsmen from Minnesota were sent home after a broad weekend search failed to turn up any sign of missing college student Dru Sjodin.
Searchers drill a hole, lower right, as another team sends a camera into the frozen Red River south of Grand Forks, N.D., on Friday in the search for Dru Sjodin.  Jim Mone / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

National Guardsmen were sent home after what authorities called their final large-scale searches failed to turn up any sign of missing college student Dru Sjodin over the weekend.

About 150 soldiers from the Minnesota National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 194th Armor, based in Brainerd, Minn., wrapped up their search Sunday morning in Crookston, Minn.

“We just went to a few places, got out and checked some culverts, some ditches — nothing,” said David May of the Minnesota National Guard. “Very frustrating not to find something.”

Troops with the North Dakota National Guard’s 88th Air Defense Artillery were released Saturday, as were scores of law enforcement officers.

“Unless some new information surfaces that identifies an area we haven’t covered, we’re done at least for this winter,” said Maj. Mike Fonder of the Grand Forks County Sheriff’s Office.

Missing since Nov. 22
Sjodin, a 22-year-old senior at the University of North Dakota from Pequot Lakes, Minn., disappeared Nov. 22 from a parking lot at the Columbia Mall in Grand Forks, where she worked. She was last heard from when she spoke to her boyfriend by cell phone.

Alfonso Rodriguez Jr., 50, a convicted sex offender from Crookston, Minn., is charged with kidnapping Sjodin. He remains in jail in Grand Forks in lieu of $5 million bail, awaiting a Feb. 4 court appearance. He has denied involvement.

While Sjodin’s family is holding out hope she’ll be found alive, Grand Forks County Sheriff Dan Hill has said the young woman is probably dead. Police said her blood was found in Rodriguez’s car.

“Obviously, we were wishing we could have found her,” Fonder said. “But there’s no other place for us to look for her.”

“The only person who knows right now, we believe, is Mr. Rodriguez.”

Area familiar to Rodriguez
Despite the end of large-scale searches for now, authorities aren’t giving up on finding Sjodin.

“This is ongoing,” said Polk County, Minn., Sheriff Mark LeTexier. “Whether it’s at this level or the patrol level, this is ongoing.”

The weekend search effort included search of the Red River near Thompson, N.D., south of Grand Forks, on a route Rodriguez often used between Grand Forks and Crookston, police said. Crookston is about 30 miles from Grand Forks.

Soldiers drilled a close pattern of holes through the ice and used underwater cameras to look for evidence. Elsewhere, on both sides of the river that forms the line between North Dakota and Minnesota, soldiers on foot and in Humvees searched ditches, culverts, fields, abandoned shacks and woods.

“The probability of her being alive is decreasing day by day, you have to say. But everybody is looking for a miracle,” Fonder said.

As searchers from the National Guard headed home, people in Grand Forks tried one more thing: turning on porch lights and setting out candles Saturday night. “Light the night for Dru,” they called it. “Help her find her way home.”