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Woman's Disappearance Baffles North Dakotans

Officials believe college student may have been abducted, but so far they have no suspects.

November 28, 2003|From Associated Press

GRAND FORKS, N.D. — In a small state that boasts one of the lowest crime rates in the country, Dru Sjodin's disappearance is as baffling as it is troubling.

Officials believe the 22-year-old University of North Dakota senior may have been abducted while she was talking to her boyfriend on her cellphone.

Even though they have received more than 580 calls to a tip line since she disappeared Saturday, police say they have no suspects and have not talked with anyone who has any credible information.

Grand Forks, a city of about 49,000 people, is a place where folks tend to know their neighbors and where the low crime rate is mentioned along with the cold weather.

"You think something like that wouldn't happen in a town like this," said Andy Juris, 24, who works at the airport in Grand Forks.

"It kind of hits close to home, especially in this town, where somebody probably knew somebody who knew her."

While most university students went home for Thanksgiving, about 30 of Sjodin's friends stayed to search for her.

"We're going to be up here as long as it takes, until we find something," said Hans Tweed. "We haven't slept barely and haven't done anything but worry about her."

Authorities remain optimistic that Sjodin is alive, holding up the example of Elizabeth Smart. Smart, who turned 16 this month, was abducted at knifepoint from her Utah home on June 5, 2002. She was found, and her alleged kidnappers arrested, nine months later.

"The way we do investigations, we do it on a positive note," said police Lt. Dennis Eggebraaten. "We're not doing it on a negative note. It's going to be as if she is alive. Period."

The FBI is assisting in the search but has referred calls for comment to local authorities.

Sjodin had finished her shift at the Victoria's Secret store at a local mall and had gone shopping at another mall store.

Her boyfriend, Chris Lang, told authorities that he was talking with Sjodin on the cellphone when the conversation abruptly ended. Eggebraaten said Lang reported that Sjodin said "something to the effect of 'Oh my God,' or 'Oh no' " before the line went dead.

That was about 5 p.m., said Sjodin's mother, Linda Walker. Lang later got another call that was only static and the sound of number keys being pressed.

Officers said Lang phoned Sjodin's roommate, Meg Murphy, who called police after Sjodin failed to show up for her second job at a nightclub later that night.

Sjodin's car was found in the mall parking lot. Eggebraaten said a package she apparently had bought at the mall was inside. "There was no sign of a struggle that we could determine," he said.

The search has been centered on Fisher, Minn., about 10 miles east of Grand Forks, where the Saturday night call was traced to her cellphone. It has been widened to the area of Crookston, Minn., about 25 miles southeast of Grand Forks, because the cellphone signal could have carried that far, officials said.

Police were investigating calls to Sjodin at the Victoria's Secret store. They said she had gotten at least one call from a man she did not know, who asked for her by name.

Victoria's Secret officials are keeping a low profile "out of respect for the family and to assist with authorities," said Anthony Hebron, a company spokesman.

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