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Kidnap Suspect: I'll Stay In Jail

The man charged in the kidnapping of a North Dakota college student was ordered held on $5 million bail Thursday after his lawyer said he wanted to stay behind bars for his own safety.

As Alfonso Rodriguez Jr., 50, appeared in court, law officers in two states are continuing the search for 22-year-old Dru Sjodin, missing since she left work at a Victoria's Secret at a Grand Forks mall on Nov. 22.

Police have received over 1,200 tips from the public and are hoping that some of the publicity might turn up a valuable lead. While much information about the case is being closely guarded by police, detectives did choose to distribute a photo of a 2002 Mercury sable they say is connected to Rodriquez.

Rodriguez, a convicted rapist who had been classified as the most dangerous type of sex offender, appeared at his bail hearing with a brown parka over orange jail clothes. He spoke briefly to acknowledge that he understood the charges against him, but was not asked to enter a plea.

Police have said they believe Rodriguez was in the mall parking lot the night Sjodin disappeared, but they have declined to talk about any possible evidence linking him to the disappearance.

Asked if authorities might cut a deal with Rodriguez in exchange for information on where Sjodin is, prosecutor Rick Brown Dru told reporters: "I don't see that as a possibility, no. No."

Brown did however indicate that the lines of communication are open to Rodriguez' attorney.

"His defense attorney has just been appointed, so it's going to take him some time to get through the information he has and talk to his client. And hopefully, up to this point we've had a good working relationship with that attorney. We'll have to meet with him and see where we're going from there," said Brown.

Police Sgt. Mike Hedlund told the Star Tribune of Minneapolis on Thursday that authorities have videotapes placing Rodriguez in the mall's parking lot around the time Sjodin disappeared.

The Grand Forks Herald has reported that on the day Sjodin disappeared, Rodriguez didn't show up at his construction job. Several days later when investigators visited the job site, Rodriguez's boss, Mark Bodunov, said Rodriguez told him police were checking his car.

Hedlund said he couldn't comment on Bodunov's account.

Brown said he asked for the $5 million bail because Rodriguez does not have deep ties to the community and because there is a strong chance he could commit more crimes.

"We feel that this case represents a very classic case of danger," he said.

Defense attorney David Dusek said Rodriguez "agreed that for his safety he should remain in custody."

Dusek said he had advised his client to stop talking with police until the lawyer could speak with him further. Dusek said he was appointed just two hours before the hearing.

Rodriguez was released from prison in May after serving a 23-year sentence for an attempted kidnapping and assault of a woman in 1980. He also pleaded guilty to rape in the past.

"We have a person here who has been convicted of a very violent serious offense, spent numerous years in prison because of it. He is a repeat offender, level three sex offender," said Brown. "We feel we have a substantial likelihood of conviction should this go to trial, that he is a danger in the community."

Rodriguez's release and subsequent arrest have sparked anger in Minnesota and North Dakota.

Rodriguez had been considered for civil commitment, but a psychologist and review board decided against recommending him for the program, which could have kept him in custody indefinitely.

About 1,700 volunteers on foot and all-terrain vehicles searched miles of roadsides, building and snowy fields Wednesday around Grand Forks and Crookston, Minn., the town 30 miles away where Rodriguez lived.

The judge on Thursday set a preliminary hearing for Rodriguez for Feb. 4, and arraignment for Feb. 6.

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