Missing UND student: Rodriguez had three-hour window
By Steven P. Wagner
The Forum - 12/12/2003
Three hours separate the disappearance of Dru Sjodin from a Grand Forks shopping mall and the time her accused abductor reportedly arrived at his Crookston, Minn., according to Polk County Court papers released Thursday.
The missing 22-year-old University of North Dakota student was last seen leaving the Columbia Mall about 5 p.m. Nov. 22 after purchasing a purse at Marshall Field’s. Her accused kidnapper, 50-year-old Alfonso Rodriguez Jr., was placed at his Crookston home by his mother about 8:15 p.m., court papers say.
Dolores Rodriguez provided police with receipts showing her son had been shopping in Grand Forks earlier in the day, within blocks of the mall.
The search warrant records released Thursday provide the most detailed timeline to date of Rodriguez’s activities and investigators’ attempts to find Sjodin in the days following her disappearance.
Polk County Sheriff Dan Hill said authorities are struggling to determine what happened in those three hours.
“You don’t know the distance he traveled from the time of the abduction,’’ Hill said Thursday. “It’s so hard to determine. You don’t know what direction he traveled.’’
Investigators launched an investigation into Rodriguez, a twice-convicted rapist, after reviewing store surveillance videotapes and receiving tips from two men who said he was in Grand Forks that day.
On Nov. 26 they also interviewed Rodriguez, who placed himself at the mall near the time of Sjodin’s disappearance.
On Nov. 27 and Tuesday, Minnesota authorities searched Rodriguez’s Adams Street home, a utility shed on the property and his 2002 Mercury Sable. According to the records released Thursday, they confiscated several notable items including two strands of light-colored hair, blood matching Sjodin’s DNA profile, knives, latex gloves and clear speaker wire.
The records show Rodriguez cooperated with an initial search of his car Nov. 26. But later that evening, he refused a second search and stopped talking to investigators 18 minutes after being read his Miranda warning and signing a Miranda waiver.
He said he wanted a lawyer after police asked to do a full search of the interior of his automobile, according to the court papers. Nine hours later, police raided his home, seeking evidence linking him to Sjodin’s disappearance. At that time, they photographed Rodriguez’s body for signs of bruises or cuts.
During the Nov. 26 interview, investigators confronted him about his alibi -- that he was watching “Once Upon a Time in Mexico” at a theater near the mall. He told authorities the movie began between 4:30 and 4:40 p.m. and let out about between 7 and 7:30 p.m.
When investigators told him the movie was not playing in Grand Forks then, Rodriguez couldn’t explain the discrepancy, court records say.
Law enforcement and National Guard members from North Dakota and Minnesota will continue looking today for Sjodin, a Pequot Lakes, Minn., native, after earlier air, land and river-diving searches failed to lead authorities to her.
Thousands of civilian volunteers have turned up for three searches in hopes of finding Sjodin after authorities retraced the route Rodriguez told them he took home from Grand Forks nearly three weeks ago.