Dru's Mom Says Daughter's Return 'Close at Hand'

The mother of missing college student Dru Sjodin (searchsaid the family has not given up hope of finding her alive and is "outraged" by a sheriff's statement that her daughter is probably dead.

Grand Forks County Sheriff Dan Hill (searchsaid Tuesday that the investigation is more of a recovery mission than a rescue effort after DNA tests showed Sjodin's blood was in the car of a man suspected in her kidnapping.

Hill did not speak to the family directly, and they maintain faith that she is alive, Sjodin's brother Sven told a morning television program Wednesday.

Sjodin's mother, Linda Walker, said the family was "outraged" by Hill's assessment. "We firmly believe Dru's return is close at hand," she said Tuesday from her home in Pequot Lakes, Minn.

Sjodin was last heard from Nov. 22, when she called her boyfriend on a cell phone from the parking lot of a Grand Forks mall where she worked at a Victoria's Secret.

Searches of rivers, ditches and snow-covered fields in two states, sometimes employing hundreds of volunteers, have turned up few clues to the 22-year-old's whereabouts -- though Hill revealed that one of her shoes was found near the Red Lake River after she disappeared.

Alfonso Rodriguez Jr. (search), a 50-year-old with a history of violent sexual assaults, has been charged with Sjodin's kidnapping and is jailed on $5 million bond. He has said through his attorney that he is innocent.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Hill said a small amount of blood was found in Rodriguez's car and tested against DNA from Sjodin's toothbrush. Hill said the trunk of Rodriguez's car had been extensively cleaned before his arrest.

Sven Sjodin said the amount of blood found was not conclusive.

"You know, splatters of blood inside a car does not say to me that someone is not alive. You know, I can cut my finger and probably put more blood than what may have been inside that car," he said.

Hill said Wednesday that he understood Sjodin's family was upset by his statement.

"But after this much time, I think that we have to be realistic and know that we are probably searching for a body and not Dru herself," he said.

The DNA match would be the most significant break yet in authorities' attempts to tie Rodriguez, a convicted rapist, to Sjodin's disappearance.

An affidavit unsealed Tuesday said that searchers found Sjodin's shoe under a bridge on the west edge of Crookston, Minn., where Rodriguez lives. Divers have searched the river thoroughly, and don't believe the body is there, Hill said.

The affidavit also revealed Rodriguez's account of his whereabouts at the time Sjodin disappeared. According to the affidavit, Rodriguez told police he had been at the mall watching a movie, "Once Upon a Time in Mexico" at about 7 p.m. that night. Police said the movie wasn't being shown at any theater near the mall that day.

Hill also confirmed other information reported in the case, including that a knife found in Rodriguez's trunk matched a sheath found near Sjodin's car.

Authorities first interviewed Rodriguez on Nov. 26, four days after Sjodin disappeared, according to the affidavit. It said investigators got Rodriguez's permission to search his car, and discovered a knife.

Forensic examiners inspected the car, the affidavit said, and discovered blood in several spots, including the inside of the rear passenger-side window and on the back seat.

Hill, the Grand Forks County sheriff, said Rodriguez sat down and fell asleep during a search of his house.

"If I had police walking around in my house I wouldn't be snoozing," Hill said.

Rodriguez has a history of attempted kidnapping of women, and used a weapon in at least one assault. Rodriguez was released from a Minnesota prison in May after serving 23 years for an attempted abduction in 1979.