“Missing from the Mall”: ’20/20′ Reports on Dru Sjodin Abduction January 12 2024

ABC’s ’20/20′ episode, “Missing from the Mall,” premiering on January 12 2024 at 9:00PM/8:00PM Central, delves into the harrowing case of Dru Katrina Sjodin, anchored by “Nightline” co-host Juju Chang.

Sjodin, a University of North Dakota student, met a tragic fate following her abduction from the Columbia Mall parking lot in Grand Forks, North Dakota, on November 22, 2003.

The two-hour episode, featuring a series of exclusive interviews and detailed analysis, marks a significant exploration of one of the most heart-wrenching abduction cases in recent history.

The Disappearance & Investigation

Dru Katrina Sjodin, born on September 26, 1981, was a 22-year-old college student and Gamma Phi Beta sorority member. Her life took a perilous turn after completing her shift at Victoria’s Secret in the Columbia Mall at 4:00 p.m. on November 22, 2003. While speaking to her boyfriend, Chris Lang, on her cell phone, the call abruptly ended after Dru uttered “Okay, okay.” This moment marked the beginning of a mysterious and alarming sequence of events.

Approximately three hours post the ominous phone call, Lang received another call from Sjodin’s phone, marked by static and button sounds, originating near Fisher, Minnesota. These developments, coupled with Sjodin’s failure to report for her shift at El Roco nightclub, raised serious concerns.

On December 1, 2003, authorities identified a suspect: 50-year-old Alfonso Rodriguez Jr., a registered level-3 sex offender with a history of substance abuse and criminal offenses, including rape and kidnapping. Rodriguez, born to migrant farm workers, had served a 23-year prison term for his crimes.

Crucial Evidence & Discovery

Rodriguez’s link to the case solidified when police discovered incriminating evidence. Despite his claim of watching a movie at the Columbia Mall Cinema 4, no such movie was screened in the area. Receipts from nearby stores, including a knife purchase at Menards, and the discovery of a bloodied knife and a woman’s shoe in his car, further implicated Rodriguez. A tool kit knife in his car matched the kind used in the assault.

On April 17, 2004, the search for Sjodin concluded with the discovery of her body near Crookston, Minnesota, where Rodriguez lived. Sjodin was found in a ravine, partially clothed, with hands tied and evident signs of a brutal attack, including beating, stabbing, and sexual assault.

Legal Proceedings

Rodriguez’s trial became a federal matter under the Federal Kidnapping Act due to the crime’s interstate nature. Convicted in federal court on August 30, 2006, for kidnapping resulting in death, Rodriguez faced the death penalty, a first in North Dakota in a century. However, in 2021, this sentence was overturned due to procedural issues, leading to a life sentence without parole in 2023.

Legacy and Impact

Dru Sjodin’s tragic case spurred significant legal and social changes. “Dru’s Law” led to the creation of the Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Registry in 2006. A scholarship in her name and memorial gardens in Pequot Lakes, Minnesota, and the University of North Dakota campus honor her memory and legacy.

20/20: Missing from the Mall Episode

The “20/20” episode offers unprecedented insights through interviews with key figures:

  • Allan Sjodin, Dru’s father, providing a heartfelt perspective.
  • Deputy Chief Bill Macki and former detective Orie Oksendhal, shedding light on the investigative process.
  • Sven Sjodin, Dru’s brother, discussing the family’s relentless search efforts.
  • Britni Schmalz, a sorority sister of Dru, and Jean Ann Bienek, her former manager, offering personal recollections.
  • Shirley Iverson, a survivor of an attack by Rodriguez, sharing her harrowing experience.
  • FBI Agent Chris Boeckers and journalist Maria Awes, providing expert analysis.
  • Drew Wrigley, North Dakota attorney general, who was instrumental in the legal proceedings.

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Ryan Gill

Ryan is a passionate follower of true crime television programs, reporting on and providing in-depth investigations on mysteries in the criminal world.

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1 Response

  1. Avatar photo Phoebe says:

    The woman interviewing Dru’s dad needs to be ashamed of herself. How absolutely heartless of her to ask him to imagine his daughter suffering and afraid in her last moments. He burst into tears. She should not be allowed to interview anyone, her lack of empathy and common sense is abhorrent.

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