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CRIME AND COURTS: FBI group honors North Dakota men for roles in Sjodin case

Three North Dakota men involved in the investigation of Dru Sjodin's kidnapping and murder were honored by an association of FBI agents during a convention this week in Arizona.

Three North Dakota men involved in the investigation of Dru Sjodin's kidnapping and murder were honored by an association of FBI agents during a convention this week in Arizona.

North Dakota's U.S. Attorney Drew Wrigley, Grand Forks Police Lt. Jim Remer and FBI Senior Resident Agent in Grand Forks, Chris Boeckers, were presented with awards Sunday for excellence for distinguished and exemplary service in the Sjodin case by the FBI Agents Association. The three men attended the awards ceremony and received plaques, Remer said Wednesday. The convention, held every two years, ended Tuesday, said Glenn Kelly, executive director of the association.

The case

Sjodin was a 23-year-old UND student when she disappeared Nov. 22, 2003, from Columbia Mall in Grand Forks. Within four days, Alfonso Rodriguez Jr., a convicted and registered sex offender in Crookston, was tabbed as the main suspect and arrested days later. Despite massive volunteer searches, Sjodin's body was not found until April 17, 2004, near Crookston.

Last year, Rodriguez was convicted by a federal jury in Fargo, which also determined he should be sentenced to death. U.S. District Judge Ralph Erickson sentenced him to death early this year, and Rodriguez awaits his appeals on death row in federal prison in Terre Haute, Ind.

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The honoreesWrigley, who has been the top federal prosecutor in the state since 2001, led the prosecution of Rodriguez, making most of the final arguments in the complicated three-phase federal death penalty case, the first in North Dakota history.

A 17-year veteran of the Grand Forks Police Department, Remer was the point man heading up a far-flung investigation run out of the department that included dozens of law enforcement agencies and more than 200 law enforcement officers. It was by far the biggest case the department had ever had, officers say. Remer and Boeckers also served as case agents for the prosecution during the trial, sitting just behind the prosecutor's table. Both also testified at the trial.

Boeckers has been an FBI special agent since 1998 and is the senior resident agent in Grand Forks. He was on the Sjodin case from the start because it immediately was handled as a possible kidnapping, and he was part of the search of Rodriguez's home and his arrest.

The FBI Agents Association is a nongovernmental professional association representing about 12,000 current and former agents. The association holdsabout 75 percent of all active FBI agents, according to Kelly. It meets every two years.

Milestone eventThis is only the second time the association has recognized a federal prosecutor, and the first time it also involved one from North Dakota.

Thirty years ago, Assistant U.S. Attorney Lynn Crooks prosecuted Leonard Peltier in a Fargo federal courtroom. Peltier was convicted of murdering two FBI agents, Ron Williams and Jack Coler, in June 1975 during the American Indian Movement siege on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in western South Dakota. He remains in federal prison. Crooks, who still lives in Fargo, was given the same award by the 26-year-old FBI Agents Association as was given to Wrigley, Remer and Boeckers.

In remarks Sunday during the convention in Scottsdale, Ariz., Agents Association President Frederick Bragg said Boeckers, Wrigley and Remer "formed the nucleus of a dedicated team that spent approximately three years pursuing the investigation and prosecution of the high-profile case," according to a news release from Kelly. "Their tireless efforts and skill are a model for others and their efforts brought justice and a measure of closure to this horrific crime."

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