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Stephen J. Lee, Forum News Service, Published November 13 2013

Prosecutors: From death row, Rodriguez discusses murder of Sjodin

FARGO - Federal prosecutors in Fargo Wednesday released new documents arguing Alfonso Rodriguez was mentally competent when he killed Dru Sjodin 10 years ago in the government’s reply to Rodriguez’ last stage appeal of his death sentence.

The documents contain new details and in some respects, a new blow-by-blow account by Rodriguez from death row of how he killed Sjodin, who was a University of North Dakota student when the convicted sex offender from Crookston abducted her from the parking lot of Columbia Mall Nov. 22, 2003.

In a 416-page motion filed in U.S. court in Fargo today, Assistant U.S. Attorney Keith Reisenauer says two medical experts who interviewed Rodriguez in June concluded he is not mentally retarded, wasn’t insane when he killed Sjodin and, by his own account, didn’t kill her by accident as he has maintained for the past two years in his appeal.

The new documents also have Rodriguez giving chilling new details about how he chose Sjodin as a victim in Columbia Mall and how he killed her.

Rodriguez, 60, convicted in 2006 of the kidnapping leading to the death of Sjodin and sentenced in early 2007 by U.S. District Judge Ralph Erickson to death, has been on federal death row in Terre Haute, Ind., since, the only person sentenced to death in North Dakota in a century.

Sjodin was 23 when Rodriguez abducted her at knifepoint and took her into Minnesota. Despite several searches involving thousands of volunteers, Sjodin’s body wasn’t found until April 17, 2004, in a ravine a mile west of Crookston.

Rodriguez’s appeals have been denied, all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. But under what is considered a death row prisoner’s last appeal, Rodriguez, with a new set of four attorneys — one in Philadelphia, one in Chicago and two in the Twin Cities — is making a habeus corpus appeal, claiming he’s being wrongfully held.