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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Press Conference On Finding Dru Sjodin's Body

Aired April 17, 2004 - 18:09   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


LIN: OK, Paula, we've got some developments here stateside. So we're going to break away from Jerusalem. Thank you very much, Paula Hancocks. We are going to go to Crookston, Minnesota, where we're going to hear from the sheriff of Polk County in this investigation of Dru Sjodin.
SHERIFF MARK LETEXIER, POLK COUNTY, MN: Now, when we ask for help, help comes. And thank you very much. I'm very humble to see all of you here, and thank you very much for coming.

With that being said, what I would like to do is to read the press release. It says: "Polk County Sheriff's Office, media release, Saturday, April 17, 2004.

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. On behalf of the Polk County Sheriff's Office and the many other law enforcement agencies in both Minnesota and North Dakota that have participated in the search for Dru Sjodin, we would like to extend our sympathy to Dru's family and friends. We would also like to extend our great appreciation to the hundreds of volunteers that have assisted in various ways since the searching began for Dru.

Shortly after 10:00 a.m. today, a retired Polk County sheriff's deputy and a Crookston police reservist discovered the body of a female believed to be that of Dru Sjodin. Located in a ditch northwest of Crookston, Minnesota.

All indications are consistent with the person found was Dru Sjodin. Formal identification will be made by the medical examiner. Dru's family was notified upon the discovery and were present at the Crookston High School here today since operations were based.

The area where the body was found has been isolated and secured. Agents and forensic scientists from the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension responded to the site at my request, and are presently processing the crime scene along with Polk County Sheriff's Office deputies. Once the processing is completed, the body will be transported to the Ramsey County medical examiner's office in St. Paul, where positive identification will be made in an autopsy will be performed.

Our investigation will continue, and media releases will be made when any new developments occur.

We request that the Sjodin family be given their privacy. Please be respectful to them. It has been very emotional, and today is a very emotional day, and they have asked that, please, give them time to process, give them the respect that they deserve. And in sometime, I am sure that they will come and they will be approached by you.

They have also expressed their sincere thanks, and that's why I'm saying sincere thanks for all of the volunteers who are here now and for those that I'm addressing, if you're watching and you're hearing this, thank you very much for helping us so that today we could bring Dru home. Thank you.

TIM MOTHERWAY, CHIEF OF POLICE, CROOKSTON, MN POLICE DEPARTMENT: I'm Tim Motherway, I'm the chief of police of the Crookston Police Department. I helped coordinate the land searches which occurred today and started around 10:00 a.m. this morning here in Crookston.

I would like to thank all the volunteers who assisted with today's search. There were 133 volunteers that registered here at the Crookston High School and participated in foot searches on the western edge of Crookston, and going west of Crookston. I would like to thank all the agencies that participated today. The Polk County Sheriff's Office, the Crookston Police Department, the Polk County sheriff's posse, the Marshall County sheriff's posse, the Crookston police reserve, the Crookston Fire Department, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the Minnesota State Patrol, the Kittson County Sheriff's Office and the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office, the Salvation Army, the Harley Owners Group of Grand Forks, and above all, the Sjodin family and friends. This combined for a total of about 280 volunteers, which were out assisting with this search today.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From the very beginning, this criminal investigation has been directed by the Grand Forks County, North Dakota Sheriff's Office and the Polk County Sheriff's Office in the state of Minnesota. The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension has been pleased to assist both of those agencies in this criminal investigation, providing investigative assistance and forensic science, crime processing and criminal forensic analysis, expertise to this investigation.

Thank you.

TOM HEFFELFINGER, U.S. ATTORNEY FOR MINNESOTA: My name is Tom Heffelfinger, I am the United States attorney for the state of Minnesota. Federal law enforcement officials and prosecutors in the state of Minnesota and in North Dakota worked collaboratively with each other and with state and local law enforcement officers and prosecutors in North Dakota and Minnesota, since the day of Dru Sjodin's kidnapping.

The role of the federal government in the prosecution of this matter is an issue that will be decided at a future time, and there will be no comment on that today. Now is the time for us rather to let law enforcement and the medical examiners do their work, and for us to extend our prayers and our sympathies to the family of Dru Sjodin.

Thank you very much.

DREW WRIGLEY, U.S. ATTORNEY FOR NORTH DAKOTA: Good afternoon. My name is Drew Wrigley, and I'm the United States attorney for the district of North Dakota. Echoing what Tom has pointed out, my colleague and friend from across the river, from the very earliest in this case, federal and state, local authorities have worked together I think in the best possible spirit of cooperation, and I want to share that -- as I said earlier to Dru's father, Alan, that the law enforcement personnel involved with this case I don't think would be bothered if I said on their behalf that we drew and draw tremendous inspiration from their ongoing efforts, their obvious strength and willingness to persevere.

I see Chris Lang here today. Countless times we have turned our TV sets to this case, and seen his strength, his tireless resolve to come to what everyone hoped would be a different conclusion. But Tom and I, on behalf of the Department of Justice, want you to know that our thoughts and prayers are with you. As Tom said, we can anticipate what the questions might be today about federal involvement in this matter, but we're going to defer those to another day, when they will be more appropriate.

Today, our thoughts and our prayers and our best wishes are with Dru and with her family. And so we would ask that, again, we're not going to comment on those matters and we just ask to skip that at this point.

But Tom, I'll let you slip in here.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Sjodin and I just chatted a little bit. He wants to have a seat and make a statement.

ALAN SJODIN, DRU'S FATHER: Well, I wanted to thank everyone in law enforcement for putting such a tremendous effort forward. You know, it has been five months of real insanity for us as a family. And friends (UNINTELLIGIBLE), everyone has really suffered with us, and their efforts to, you know, continue working with us has been just astounding. And I want to thank everyone in law enforcement, and then I can go on to the -- to all of the people that have had prayer chains, sent us thank-yous and condolences, and, you know, volunteered so much of their time to keep our spirits up and our shoulders back. All the volunteers in Grand Forks, Crookston, I want to thank everyone again for coming out.

And on behalf of my family and my darling daughter Dru, we just want to thank everyone. And we would like to have some time. And we will -- we definitely will be involved with press and we will do some interviews, but we want some time to think about the next stage of our lives. Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We'll entertain a few questions if there are any.

QUESTION: What time exactly?

LETEXIER: I'm sorry?

QUESTION: What time this morning? LETEXIER: It was sometime after 10:00 this morning.

QUESTION: A few minutes?

LETEXIER: Yeah, sometime after 10:00.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have a seat here, Mark.

QUESTION: Can you describe the area? I was told it was like a ravine, a deep ditch. Can you talk about that a little bit?

LETEXIER: You know, I guess what I would like to say, that if there is anything dealing with the case, the area, you know, we are baby-stepping right now with this investigation. And I would not like to jeopardize any part of that. So I'm going to defer and not comment to that.

But thank you for asking.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE).

LETEXIER: I would just as soon not right now. I'd like to visit with them and talk with them and -- before we would release it to the public.

QUESTION: Can you say if that...

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE).

LETEXIER: I'm going to defer right back, the same thing. Anything dealing with the investigations, please, don't ask me because I'm not going to -- I just won't speak to that.

QUESTION: I'm not sure if this is going to direct it just at that. But can you say if the area that she was found today, was that an area that you were looking at rather closely today, or it just happened to be where she was found?

LETEXIER: It was one of our areas of concern that we did plan on searching, yes.

QUESTION: Has Alfonso Rodriguez or his attorney been informed that (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

LETEXIER: I'm sorry, Jill?

QUESTION: I'm wondering if Alfonso Rodriguez or his attorney have been informed that Dru's body has been found.

LETEXIER: I think if they're watching TV and listening to the radio, that they will probably know very soon. But we as law enforcement have not made any contact with them and we probably will not.

QUESTION: Have discussions started yet about additional charges?

LETEXIER: Again, I can't speak to that.

LIN: All right, we have been listening to a news conference here held by the Polk County Sheriff's Department, one of the primary law enforcement agencies involved in the search for Dru Sjodin. Her body was found earlier today. A sad day for the family.

We just heard from Dru's father, who was asking the media to please give the family some space and time to digest this news. That they will be giving interviews, but for the moment, obviously, the family needs some time to themselves.

We are going to be talking, though, with people who are very close to this story about the investigation and the reaction and the communities there. So stay with CNN.

Also, we're going to be talking about the policy of the U.S. military, whether it is leave no man behind, but there are obviously some tough obstacles in the attempt to free an American hostage from his captors in Iraq.

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Chris Lawrence in Batavia, Ohio, where family and friends have blanketed this town with yellow ribbons hoping that a captured soldier comes home.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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