Family of Montana Man Recalls Frustrating Search

The case of missing University of North Dakota (search) student Dru Sjodin (search) brings back memories of frustration for the parents of a Montana man who disappeared in North Dakota last year.

Like Dru Sjodin, Russell Turcotte (search) disappeared after making a call from Grand Forks. The 19-year-old from Wolf Point, Mont., was last seen in July 2002. He called his mother from Grand Forks, and she promised to wire him money so he could finish his hitchhiking trip home by bus.

Turcotte's body was found in a tree grove along U.S. 2 northwest of Devils Lake the following November.

His parents remember that it took months to persuad Turcotte's mother, Linda Flynn. "It's so frustrating when you feel something has happened to your child and you look first to law enforcement.

"I'm glad that (Dru Sjodin's) mother didn't have to go through that," Flynn said. "I start shaking when I think about it."

A farmer hauling cattle found Russell Turcotte's body on Nov. 2, 2002, in a tree row near U.S. Highway 2, near Devils Lake, about 60 miles west of Grand Forks.

Bill Turcotte, Russell's father, said that when he heard of the Nov. 22 disappearance of Dru Sjodin, "it was like someone kicked me in the stomach.

"It brought back all of the feelings from when Russell was missing. We are feeling bad for Dru's parents and voice our support for them and add our prayers for them," said Bill Turcotte, who lives in Chinook, Mont.

"When they reported Dru missing, law enforcement was right on it. That was great for the family," Turcotte said. "It never happened for my son. They didn't respond at all. It bothers me that we never got that courtesy and response."

Grand Forks Police Chief John Packett said that if police had known the same type of information in the Turcotte case that they know in the Sjodin case, the response would have been similar.

"Anyone around the country who has lost a child, and has been watching this, would ask, 'Why wasn't this done for my child?" Grand Forks Police Lt. Byron Sieber said.

The Sjodin case has some unusual elements, he said.

"She was young, female and attractive, and she was shopping at a mall we all use. This could happen to any of us," Sieber said.

The abrupt interruption of Sjodin's cell phone call with her boyfriend adds frightening drama to the case, Sieber said, and the cell phone was tracked to a relatively small area between Crookston, Minn., and Grand Forks.

Russell Turcotte's vagabond lifestyle made it more difficult to be certain that he was missing or harmed, and not just traveling, authorities said.

"They just acted like this was a little hippie kid who wandered off, and we told them that isn't the case," Turcotte said.

He also said the fact that his son was an American Indian, an enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa in North Dakota, affected the search. Linda Flynn is an enrolled member of the Assiniboine Sioux tribe in Wolf Point.

"Now, you have a blond-haired, blue-eyed white girl. Where is the justice? Where is the equality? It doesn't seem to be there," Bill Turcotte said.

Russell's parents emphasize that they think the Sjodin family deserves all the support they receive.

"We hope maybe we taught them something, the fact that they didn't get right out and look for Russell, and then later found out maybe they should have. I hope they did learn something from what they didn't do for my son Russell," Bill Turcotte said.

The Turcotte family continues to wait for their son's killer to be found.

"We will do all that we can to make sure that happens, somewhere, in some fashion," Flynn said. "We just won't give up. It's been a fight from the beginning, because he was worth it. He was our son."