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10 years later: Dru Sjodin case forever changed lives

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Ten years after her daughter was kidnapped and killed, the mother of Dru Sjodin is talking about the journey she has taken through the grief to become a nationally recognized activist.

“I don’t try to dwell on the horror of how Dru was taken,” Linda Walker told the Grand Forks Herald. “I try to deal more in what I can do to help change even a small part of what’s happening.”

Sjodin, a 23-year-old University of North Dakota student, was kidnapped from a Grand Forks mall on Nov. 22, 2003. Her body was discovered the following April in a ravine near Crookston, Minnesota. The case drew national attention.

Alfonso Rodriguez, a high-risk sex offender who had been living in Crookston, was convicted of Sjodin's murder. He shared details about the night of the crime in interviews from death row over the summer. Federal prosecutors released those transcripts last week.

Walker has become a vocal advocate for victims, and for stricter laws for sex offenders. Walker promoted a national sex offender public registry and website that was part of federal legislation dubbed "Dru's Law."

For her daughter, Walker often spends time doing things she says she doesn't really enjoy, including public speaking, lobbying, attending court hearings and talking to reporters, the Herald reports.

In another story, the Herald talks to others who are forever touched by the case, including juror Bertha Pickell, who had cried in 2006 as she read what was a painful verdict for her to render – that Rodriguez should be put to death. “I was glad I did that,” she told the newspaper. “And I know Linda (Walker) has done a lot to help that cause that she has. And I hope that has a big impact on what happens after that. At the time I was (on the jury) my daughter was still pretty young and I always thought of her when I did that.”

The Herald also talks to Mike Hedlund, then a Grand Forks police sergeant who served as a spokesman at the center of a media storm generated by the case. “I’ve got three daughters, so I thought, as a father, if I was there in these people’s place, what would I want these investigators to do?” he told the newspaper. “I would want them to be on every show that goes out, so maybe that one person might see who might help my daughter out.”

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