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Suspect in student's disappearance waives extradition

Search for missing student expands

Alfonso Rodriguez Jr. was arrested Monday on a kidnapping charge.
Alfonso Rodriguez Jr. was arrested Monday on a kidnapping charge.

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The man charged with kidnapping a North Dakota college student appears in court. CNN's Mike Brooks reports
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CNN's Larry King talks with Allan Sjodin, father of missing Dru.
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Dru Sjodin
North Dakota

CROOKSTON, Minnesota (CNN) -- Alfonso Rodriguez Jr., the man arrested in the disappearance of Dru Sjodin, waived extradition Wednesday allowing him to be moved to Grand Forks, North Dakota, where a search for the 22--year-old student continues.

Hundreds of volunteers joined authorities Wednesday in the search for Sjodin, who has not been seen since November 22.

Rodriguez, a 50-year-old convicted rapist, was released from prison last spring after serving nearly 23 years for raping two women and attempting to rape a third. He could be moved to Grand Forks as early as Wednesday.

He was arrested Monday night at his home in Crookston, about 25 miles southeast of Grand Forks.

Wednesday's hearing lasted less than five minutes. Rodriguez, wearing handcuffs, agreed to waive extradition -- a process that could have taken weeks -- and be moved to Grand Forks.

As he was being taken out of the courtroom, an unidentified woman ran up to Rodriguez, screaming at him in Spanish, telling him to inform authorities "where the body is" for the sake of his mother.

Members of Sjodin's family told CNN they believe she is still alive.

State's Attorney Peter Welte said investigators have evidence placing Rodriguez in a Grand Forks shopping center parking lot at the time Sjodin was last seen, after she finished work at a Victoria's Secret store in that complex. Her 1994 red Oldsmobile Cutlass was found in the parking lot.

Friends contacted police after she failed to show up at a second job that night and after an alarming phone call with her boyfriend. In that call, friends say, her last words were "No, no, no, OK, OK, OK."

Authorities released a picture of Rodriguez's car, a maroon 2002 Mercury Sable, and encouraged anyone who saw it around the time of her disappearance to contact them.

Authorities have not said whether Rodriguez gave any significant statements to police after his arrest.

After Rodriguez finished serving his 23-year sentence in the spring, a civil commitment procedure was conducted to see whether he, as a convicted sex offender, should be kept in treatment. He was determined not to be a threat, and was released.

David Suftin, Sjodin's uncle, said the family believes she is alive. "Everybody's pulling together. The family is strong," he said Wednesday. "We all have one goal in mind, and that's bringing Dru back home. ... We think that she's going to be with us very soon."

On Tuesday, Grand Forks Chief John Packett said Wednesday would be a very important day in the search for Sjodin.

Hundreds have joined the search for Dru Sjodin, who disappeared November 22.
Hundreds have joined the search for Dru Sjodin, who disappeared November 22.

"We estimate up to 1,500 citizens will be bused to Grand Forks from as far away as the Twin Cities in Minnesota and Fargo to assist in the search," Packett said. "I think that's unprecedented in a situation like this and it certainly shows the community interest in this case," he said.

Her family has appealed to the public to keep searching and told the missing woman not to give up hope.

"Honey, we are still looking for you. We know you're there. Our strength is drawn from you," said Sjodin's father, Allan Sjodin.

"What we want is everyone to continue doing what they're doing, just like these folks are saying. Check shelter belts, buildings, check everything. We want information. We have the strength. We will continue. Honey, we are going to find you."

"We are a strong family, and we know she is out there," said her brother, Sven Sjodin. "She is a strong girl. I know we are just right around the corner from you, Dru. If you're watching TV right now, you have a bunch things to say, and we'll see you in a while. We love you."

Authorities say anyone with information about the case should call (701) 780-8213.


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