Feelings of anger, fear and pain fueled calls for justice in Dru Sjodin’s hometown a day after the body of the University of North Dakota student was discovered in a ravine, marking a heartbreaking end to a five-month search.
The object of the residents’ anger is Alfonso Rodriguez Jr., the man charged with kidnapping Sjodin.
“I’ve talked to a lot of people,” said Dennis Weisman, 49, an usher at the nearby Crosslake Lutheran Church, which Sjodin’s mother and stepfather attend. “A lot of them want to string him up. They say ’Make him suffer like she’s suffered,”’ Weisman told the Star Tribune of Minneapolis on Sunday.
Searchers found Sjodin’s body Saturday morning near a county road northwest of Crookston, Minn. Sjodin, 22, was last seen alive Nov. 22 at a Grand Forks, N.D., shopping mall.
Suspect could face federal charge
Rodriguez, 51, has pleaded not guilty, but could face a federal murder charge now that Sjodin’s body has been found across state lines from where she is believed to have been abducted. The convicted sex offender was arrested in December and is jailed in Grand Forks, N.D., on $5 million bail.
Attorneys familiar with the case have said federal prosecutors probably will take over the case, although the top federal prosecutors in Minnesota and North Dakota have said that is too early to determine. Neither state has capital punishment, but federal law allows the death penalty for murder committed during a kidnapping.
Ralph Eggert, 41, who works at a golf course, said Rodriguez should face the death penalty. “They should bring back public hangings,” he said.
Eggert also said he was discouraged because the tight-knit community of 1,800 people — where everyone used to leave their doors unlocked and their keys in their vehicles — has become paranoid because of the Sjodin case.
On Monday, Sjodin’s boyfriend, Chris Lang, said the community support as the search stretched over months was “the one positive thing out of this horrible experience.”
Boyfriend finds positive in tragedy
“You have to take something good out of that, out of this tragedy, and that is that the human spirit can transcend all and it is a good world,” he said on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” “For every, you know, evil person out there, there’s probably a million good ones.”
Friends of Sjodin who were working at the Oasis restaurant Sunday tried to focus on Sjodin’s life rather than her death.
“She was just a doll,” said waitress Erica Doolittle, 22. “She would take you under her wing, no matter what, no matter who you were friends with or what you did. She was always there for you.”
On the University of North Dakota campus in Grand Forks, several hundred mourners left candles on the lawn in front of Sjodin’s sorority after gathering for a memorial Sunday night. Lillian Elsinga, the school’s dean of students, spoke to the crowd and read a poem by Sjodin’s grandmother.
“Now she has been initiated by God’s angels and accepted her new job with her big blue eyes watching over us ’til we meet again someday,” said Dani Mark, one of Sjodin’s Gamma Phi Beta sorority sisters.
“It has been a long, long five months,” Erinn O’Keefe Hakstol, an adviser at the sorority, said earlier Sunday. “I can’t say this is a happy ending, but now we can really celebrate Dru’s life.”
After the service, the sorority sisters led a candlelight procession from Memorial Union to the Gamma Phi house, where they placed candles on the front step. A pink banner that read, “Dru, in angels’ arms you stay” hung over a window in front of the house.