Dru Sjodin's mother fights for stiffer sex offender laws

PEQUOT LAKES, Minn. - At 22 years old, Dru Sjodin could not have known how much the words of one of her favorite verses would mean to those who lost her.

"A man has made at least a start on discovering the meaning of human life when he plants shade trees under which he knows full well he will never sit" -- D. Elton Trueblood, a Quaker theologian.

She also could not have known that as she bought a purse at a Grand Forks shopping mall 10 years ago that a man was watching her, prepared to take her life.

"How many young women do that on a day-to-day basis?" said Dru's mother, Linda Walker. "To think that you're not even safe to do that. I think that propelled the story."

That's also what propelled Linda after Dru's death, vowing she would honor her daughter's memory.

Just last month, she went back to Grand Forks, speaking to students about violence prevention. Dru had volunteered at the same event just weeks before she vanished, appearing on the front page of her college newspaper. Linda says knowing Dru wanted to help is one reason she has carried on that wish.

"I kind of just jumped into it," Walker said. "I didn't even think about it. Things just started coming to me and I just couldn't say no."

In 2006, Linda helped pass a federal law creating The Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Website, which lists registered sex offenders and their addresses nationwide.

Now, she works with a national nonprofit called RAD Kids, joining other advocates like Elizabeth Smart, teaching children to protect themselves.

And as lawmakers again debate punishments for the state's most violent sex offenders, Linda Walker has a question for all Minnesotans.

"Is this OK with all of you, to allow these people to live among us?" Linda asks. "To me it's not. It's not OK with me. I can't believe it would be for anybody."

That's why Linda wants an end to plea bargains and second chances for sex offenders. Alphonso Rodriguez Jr. was a Level 3 sex offender released from prison just six months before abducting Dru. Linda says he and those like him should not be free to reoffend.

She says that will be her lifelong fight -- the tree she plants.

"As long as I have a voice I'll try to give a voice, not just to Dru, but to all victims," Linda said. "I think she'd be pretty proud."

Linda says she believes every child should know how to be aware of danger and how to fight back, which is why she's working with the RAD Kids program.


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