Crime, Law and Justice

Feds drop pursuit of death penalty for Alfonso Rodriguez Jr.

Convicted in 2003 death of a college student

The search for Dru Sjodin
A massive search took place in northwestern Minnesota in late 2003 for missing University of North Dakota student, Dru Sjodin. Convicted sex offender Alfonso Rodriguez was eventually convicted of abducting and killing Sjodin. That case led to proposals for tougher sex offender legislation on the state and national levels.
Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

The U.S. Attorney for North Dakota announced Tuesday the federal government will not pursue the death penalty for convicted killer Alfonso Rodriguez Jr.

Rodriguez was convicted in 2006 for the 2003 abduction and murder of college student Dru Sjodin.

Alfonso Rodriguez Jr.
Alfonso Rodriguez Jr.
MPR file photo

Sjodin was from Pequot Lakes, Minn., but attended the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks, ND, where she was abducted from a mall parking lot.

Her body was found near Crookston, Minn., after a lengthy search.

Rodriguez was sentenced to death in 2007.

Rodriguez was a registered sex offender and his arrest in the Sjodin case prompted debate and changes in Minnesota sex offender laws.

But federal judge Ralph Erickson threw out the death sentence in 2021 saying Ramsey County Medical Examiner Michael McGee's testimony in the case was “unreliable, misleading and inaccurate.”

He also said defense attorneys in the case did not adequately explore mental health issues as a defense, including evidence of severe post-traumatic stress disorder.

Erickson ordered a new sentencing phase of the trial.

U.S. Attorney for North Dakota Mac Schneider said U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland directed him to withdraw the notice of intent to seek a death penalty in the case.

“The directive to withdraw the death notice has changed how the United States Attorney’s Office will proceed with this case. What will not change is that Mr. Rodriguez will draw his last breath in a federal prison,” said Schneider.