Jury Decides Dru Sjodin's Killer Eligible for Death Penalty

A federal jury decided Thursday that the sex offender convicted of kidnapping college student Dru Sjodin, killing her and leaving her body in Minnesota ravine is eligible for the death penalty.

The jury now must decide whether Alfonso Rodriguez Jr. should be sentenced to death for the murder. That phase of the trial is scheduled to begin Monday afternoon.

The same jury of seven women and five men found Rodriguez, 53, guilty last week of a federal charge of kidnapping resulting in death.

Sjodin, 22, of Pequot Lake, Minn., was a University of North Dakota student when she was abducted from the parking lot of a Grand Forks shopping mall on Nov. 22, 2003. Her body was found the following April in a ravine near Crookston, Minn., the town where Rodriguez lived. Prosecutors said Sjodin was beaten, raped and stabbed.

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Jurors were asked to answer eight questions in deciding whether Rodriguez was eligible for the death penalty, including whether he planned to kill Sjodin and whether he caused serious bodily injury to two women he assaulted in 1974.

U.S. Attorney Drew Wrigley told the jury Rodriguez showed an escalating pattern of violence and "shockingly evil" acts. Rodriguez "terrorized Dru Sjodin in her last hours," he said.

Rodriguez's attorney, Richard Ney, said Sjodin's death was horrible but did not meet the legal requirements of eligibility for the death penalty.

North Dakota does not have the death penalty but it is allowed in federal cases.

The last state-sanctioned execution in North Dakota was a hanging in 1905, said state Supreme Court Justice Dale Sandstrom, who researched and wrote about the subject. Two others were sentenced to hang but neither did, and the last man sentenced to death by hanging was spared in 1915, Sandstrom said.