“It just aches to hear something like this”: Private investigator speaks out on tossed sentence for man convicted in Dru Sjodin case

Published: Sep. 7, 2021 at 10:36 PM CDT
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FARGO, N.D. (Valley News Live) - Convicted sex offender Alphonso Rodriguez no longer faces the death penalty for the slaying of 22-year-old Dru Sjodin after a federal judge tossed the sentencing on Friday.

“Extremely disappointed. I just paused and had the whole situation flash in my mind. This happened 18 years ago.”

In 2003, the University of North Dakota student had gone missing.

Bob Heales, a former private investigator, helped organize searches for Dru at the time of her disappearance.

“I saw the news story. Immediately I knew I had to get up there and do whatever I could, even if it was being another set of eyes,” he said.

Dru’s remains were found several months later. She had been kidnapped and murdered.

Rodriguez had been sentenced to death for killing the college student.

In a turn of events, Federal judge Ralph Erickson threw out the sentence, citing misleading testimony from the medical examiner and limitations on mental health violated Rodriguez’s constitutional rights.

Judge Erickson is now ordering a new sentencing phase.

Heales says he believes the decision now sets precedence for other cases similar to this one.

“This case is an extreme example of why we have the death penalty. If you aren’t going to use it on cases like this, where are you going to use it? This was such a heinous crime unlike anybody could imagine,” he said.

Heales also says hearing the news of the sentencing being overturned is very difficult for him, especially on a case that still tugs at his heart.

“In my 37-year career, this is one that sticks out in my mind as something I’ll absolutely never forget,” he said. “What he did was just one of the most horrific things anyone could ever imagine. This should have been over a long time ago.”

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