CBSN

Dru's Body Found

Dru Sjodin and Alfonso Rodriguez Jr.
AP
The body of Dru Sjodin, the University of North Dakota student who disappeared last November, has been found, the sheriff said Saturday.

Polk County Sheriff Mark LeTexier sobbed as he told volunteers, "Dru is home." He told The Associated Press that authorities had found Sjodin's body.

Volunteers had joined the search for the 22-year-old Pequot Lakes native on Saturday. A group at Crookston High School broke into applause after LeTexier's announcement.

Sjodin relatives, including her father, Allan, gathered at the school on Saturday. Her boyfriend, Chris Lang arrived in tears and shared a long embrace with his uncle.

"It just kind of feels numb," Lang said. "I woke up this morning, and I just knew for sure it was going to happen today. Trust me, that's a bittersweet feeling."

Sjodin disappeared Nov. 22 from a Grand Forks shopping mall and was last heard from while talking on a cell phone to Lang. Authorities have presumed she was dead.

Convicted sex offender Alfonso Rodriguez Jr., 51, has pleaded not guilty to kidnapping her. He was arrested in December and is jailed in Grand Forks, North Dakota, on $5 million bail.

At a court hearing last month in Grand Forks, investigators testified that blood matching Sjodin's DNA was found in Rodriguez's car. Police said they also found a knife in the car that matches a sheath discovered near Sjodin's car.

Bob Heales, a private investigator who has coordinated search efforts for the Sjodin family, said grieving friends and relatives felt relieved that Sjodin had been found.

"Dru's coming home and that's what we've wanted from the beginning," he said. "We never wanted to go through life without knowing where she was."

Volunteer search parties including Sjodin's relatives looked for her throughout the winter but found nothing. They had been near the spot where the body was recovered "probably a dozen times," but the area was covered with snow, Heales said.

"We were there. It just kind of depended on what kind of snowdrifts were there. The drifts were 5 feet high," Lang said.

LeTexier's announcement of an end to the search came shortly after noon on Saturday.

"Thank you all for your time and everything you did," he told searchers. "I'm glad that you are here to help us."

One volunteer, Gene Bakke from Bemidji, said he was relieved to hear that Sjodin was found.

"It's good that the family can finally have some closure. I have a daughter at UND, so we have been following the situation," he said.