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Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2016

Criminal was freed only to strike again

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

The public is riveted to the case of the missing college student in North Dakota but the real story will likely unfold in the weeks ahead. Dru Sjodin, a pretty 22-year-old North Dakota student was apparently abducted from a shopping mall parking lot on Nov. 22. After over 1,500 volunteers spent over a week combing the countryside searching for Sjodin, officials now have scaled back the search effort. The outlook is grim.

Police have arrested a 50-year-old suspect from nearby with a lengthy record of kidnapping and sexual assaults. Alfonso x Jr. is being held on $5 million bond as the prime suspect. And unfortunately on Monday, the case took a tragic turn. Blood samples taken from the suspect's car matched the missing college student. And a knife was uncovered.

What truly bothers me about this case is why Rodriguez was free in the first place. He was released from prison in May after serving 23 years for an attempted abduction in 1979. That case is frightening similar to the one police are now investigating.

Rodriguez by all accounts should not have been released from prison. He has been convicted of similar crimes even prior to the 1979 case. He had used a weapon in some of those assaults. And he was registered as a predatory offender, the classification for those believed to be at the highest risk of committing another sex crime.

So why was Alfonso Rodriguez roaming the streets? That's a question that will be asked time and time again in the coming months.

In an ironic twist, even members of the Rodriguez family questioned authorities when he was released from prison. They told authorities they "knew" he would commit other crimes and, even though his prison term was completed, they wondered why authorities were unable to keep him behind bars. Those thoughts will surely come back to haunt authorities and the system that allowed this career criminal to remain free.

We must devise a system in this country - though it may be difficult - to recognize the worst of the worst. If virtually everyone believed that Rodriguez would return to his past criminal activities, why did someone, somewhere not intervene? I've heard the term "menace to society" all of my life without truly knowing what it means. Alfonso Rodriguez is that definition.

We can continue to pray that this case will end happily. But the odds decrease with every passing hour. Our only hope is to learn a lesson from this tragedy and implement policies that might prevent a similar episode in the future.

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