Death penalty no longer on the table for convicted killer of ND college student

Published: Mar. 14, 2023 at 11:09 AM CDT
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FARGO, N.D. (KFYR) - The United States Attorney’s Office is no longer seeking the death penalty for Alfonso Rodriguez Jr., the man convicted in the 2003 slaying of a North Dakota college student.

For roughly two decades Rodriguez has been on death row in a federal prison. He was convicted of killing Dru Sjodin, a Minnesota woman enrolled at University of North Dakota after she was abducted from a Grand Forks mall parking lot.

U.S. Attorney Mac Schneider announced the decision to withdraw the death penalty in the case saying the directive has “changed how the United States Attorney’s Office will proceed with this case,” but “what will not change is that Mr. Rodriguez will draw his last breath in federal prison.”

He said the department wishes the family of the victim the greatest measure of peace possible.

Rodriguez was originally sentenced to death after a jury found him guilty of the crime in 2007. The judge reversed his decision on the grounds that his defense attorneys were ineffective by not challenging the medical examiner’s report, leading to a second sentencing.

The North Dakota Attorney General’s Office said Rodriguez will remain in prison for life, “but the gates of death row will be opened, returning him to the general prison population where he will be allowed to construct a social existence and life for himself within the confines he found so comfortable across the decades he was previously imprisoned. This result is a grave affront to justice and to the hearts and souls of all who loved and cared for Dru Sjodin.”