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The fate of an accused in a murder case to be decided

The U.S. Attorney Drew Wrigley told the jurors that Dru Sjodin, 22, struggled for her life and she left “unmistakable” proof indicating that Alfonso Rodriguez Jr. was the man responsible for her death.//

Rodriguez, 53, a convicted sex offender from Crookston, Minnesota, has pleaded not guilty to a charge of abduction resulting in the death of Sjodin, a student of the University of North Dakota. According to prosecutors, death penalty will be obtained if Rodriguez is found guilty.

The case was given on Tuesday, soon after 4p.m., local time, to the federal jury comprising 7 women and 5 men. After almost an hour, the case was suspended without reaching a judgment. The jury members were told to select a leader and set their own schedule for discussions.

On Nov. 22, 2003, Sjodin was kidnapped from the parking lot of a Grand Forks shopping mall. In April 2004, her body was found in a ravine close to Crookston.

According to Wrigley, the blood found in Rodriguez's car matched Sjodin's DNA, and it was found in a mist pattern, pointing Sjodin fought her attacker and was beaten. "Ladies and gentlemen, Dru Sjodin battled him every step of the way, and she left us unmistakable messages," Wrigley said. "She's right here," he said, pointing Sjodin's clothing introduced as evidence in court. "She's right here with all of us today. You can feel her strength."

Rodriguez's blanket’s fibres found on Sjodin’s clothing and her clothing’s fibres in Rodriguez’s car were convincing evidence, according to Wrigley. Rodriguez lied about his whereabouts on the day Sjodin vanished, he added.

"His stories sprung leak after leak after leak," Wrigley said.

George Sensabaugh Jr. was the only witness called by Rodriguez’s lawyers. Sensabaugh Jr. is a forensic science professor from California. According to him tests for sexual assault were not reliable.

Sensabaugh said he knew hardly any details about the case and bas ed his testimony on information from the autopsy and lab work, when questioned by Assistant U.S. Attorney Keith Reisenauer.

U.S. District Judge Ralph Erickson was asked to acquit Rodriguez, by the defence lawyer Robert Hoy. According to him, prosecutors did not prove Sjodin was alive when she was abducted from the Grand Forks parking lot. The judge denied the motion.

The state in which Sjodin's car was found, with the driver's door locked, a shopping bag in the back seat, the passenger door unlocked and her wallet in the front seat, point to the possibility that "the victim was transported against her will within the lot itself”, said Erickson.

52 witnesses in the case were called by the prosecutors.

Dr. Michael McGee was interviewed in the third week of testimony. According to him, Sjodin was stabbed in the neck at the ravine where her body was found. However, he accepted that he could not identify the exact cause of her death.

McGee, the Ramsey County, Minnesota, medical examiner, also said he found proof that indicated that Sjodin was sexually assaulted. McGee told the jurors on Monday that the assault could have happened up to 36 hours before her death or after her death.

Prosecutors are expected to argue that McGee’s findings and other proof along with the language of the federal law that does not need the victim to be alive when crossing a state line, confirms a guilty verdict.


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