FISHER, Minn. - Genuine, bright, spreading from ear to ear it's a smile that is burned into the memories of area residents.

It's Dru Sjodin's smile, flashing in every image of a photo tribute to the young woman whose life and death changed the entire region and, some hope, will change the entire nation, with the introduction and discussion of Dru's Law. The measure potentially could create a national sex offender public database.

WDAY logo
listen live
watch live
Newsletter signup for email alerts

Sjodin's smile shone in a series of photos, as part of a presentation by her mother, Linda Walker, and boyfriend, Chris Lang, at which they encouraged youths to be mindful of their surroundings and to be open about witnessed abuse as a way to prevent abuse and protect themselves from harm.

Students in grades 7 to 12, from schools in Fisher, and Climax, Minn., attended the presentation. Community members, armed with a deep respect for Walker's courage and strength, also attended the event.

"When something like this happens, and it's so close to home, it's personal. We have daughters, granddaughters," said Arlene Schipper, from Crookston. "Linda Walker is very strong. That is what drew me here today, the strength of those two; I admire them."

Sjodin has been described as everyone's daughter, sister, friend. From the day she was abducted from the parking lot of the Columbia Mall in Grand Forks, to the day her body was found in a ravine on the outskirts of Crookston, and even now people in the community have followed her story.

Alfonso Rodriguez Jr., 51, a convicted sex offender from Crookston, is being held in connection with Sjodin's abduction and death.

"How she left us, how she was taken, is a dark subject," Walker said.

Walker and Lang answered several prepared audience questions and listened and responded to comments from the audience.

"It's hard to talk, but harder not to," Lang said.

Amy Trudeau, the school's prevention specialist, said that one reason for inviting Walker and Lang to speak was so that students, some of whom spent time digging through snow on hands and knees looking for any sign or clue to Sjodin's disappearance, could talk about their experiences.

"I knew Fisher and Climax had been deeply involved with the search," Trudeau said. "I think this helps, to bring back memories, and talk about them (the students) had a lot of questions today."

The music stopped for heartbeats during the presentation, which showed a streaming photo display with Sjodin as a child, pictured with family and friends, growing into a young woman as the articles pertaining to her disappearance became a focal point. But the images of Sjodin's life continued after a message that read "it's far too easy to remember how you died."

The video presentation ended with Sjodin's voice message and the ding of a bell.

"A bell indicates that someone has died has been murdered by violence," Walker said.

Walker also talked about a self-defense class at UND taught by Kay Mendick, where, in a three-day course, women can learn how to protect themselves.

Walker said that, ultimately, she would like to encourage schools to look at the course or similar courses to make them available for students.

As a parting gift for the Fisher school, Walker presented a copy of Gavin De Becker's "The Gift of Fear: And Other Survival Signals that Protect Us from Violence," a book that shows readers how to spot even subtle signs of danger before it's too late.

"I gave this book to Dru inside, I wrote 'as you travel, may you always be aware,'" Walker said.

Walker and Lang encouraged community members and students to check out, a Web site that discusses Dru's Law.

"We hope that through her voice we can continue on," Walker said.