Death sentence for student's slaying - East Valley Tribune: Nation / World

Death sentence for student's slaying

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Posted: Friday, September 22, 2006 11:46 pm | Updated: 4:03 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

FARGO, N.D. - A jury in North Dakota's first death penalty case in nearly a century decided Friday a convicted sex offender should be executed for kidnapping and killing a college student after she left a shopping mall.

Alfonso Rodriguez Jr., 53, of Crookston, Minn., looked straight ahead and showed no emotion as the sentence was announced in the slaying of Dru Sjodin.

"We hope the need does not arise for another 100 years," U.S. Attorney Drew Wrigley said.

The federal jury reached its decision after more than a day and a half of deliberations. The same jury convicted Rodriguez on Aug. 30 of kidnapping resulting in Sjodin's death.

North Dakota's last execution was in 1905, and the last person sentenced to death was spared in 1915. The state no longer has the death penalty, but it is allowed in federal cases. Rodriguez was charged under federal law because Sjodin was taken across state lines.

Rodriguez's mother and sister cried as the sentence was announced, as did a number of jurors.

"I know it wasn't an easy decision for the jurors," said Sjodin's mother, Linda Walker, her voice shaking. "But Dru's voice was heard today."

Sjodin, 22, disappeared from a Grand Forks shopping mall parking lot 2003. Her body was found nearly five months later in a Minnesota ravine. Authorities said the University of North Dakota student had been beaten, raped and stabbed.

National Guardsman, students and other volunteers searched for her for months. The slaying also led to tougher sex offender laws in the two states.

Ney asked the jury for mercy after calling psychologists and Rodriguez's family to talk about his childhood of poverty, abuse and exposure to farm chemicals.

Rodriguez had gotten out of prison about six months before the killing.

Defense attorney Richard Ney said he will ask for a new trial. "Life is worthy of being saved, no matter who it is," Ney said.

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