- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 24, 2004

BISMARCK, N.D. - Parole officer Brian Weigel is looking for contraband from the moment he enters the sex offender’s apartment.

He kicks aside a blanket on the floor and spies a video game rated for mature players — complete with buxom computer-generated women on the cover. And despite protests from the man who lives here, the video game is coming with Mr. Weigel.

In the year since college student Dru Sjodin was abducted from a North Dakota parking lot and killed — a convicted sex offender has been charged — the state has worked to make its sex-offender laws among the strictest in the nation.

Parole officers have to determine whether an offender is sticking to restrictions that often include a ban on sexual material in the home.

“There’s a real threat,” said Mr. Weigel, one of five sex-offender specialists in the state’s parole and probation division. “If these guys reoffend, there’s going to be another real victim out there.”

Mr. Weigel’s unit is new, part of the state’s heightened enforcement since Miss Sjodin’s abduction on Nov. 22, 2003. The 22-year-old University of North Dakota student’s body was found last spring in a ravine in Minnesota.

The man charged with Miss Sjodin’s death, Alfonso Rodriguez Jr., is a convicted sex offender who had been released from prison just six months before she disappeared. He has pleaded not guilty to a federal charge of kidnapping resulting in death. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

The long search for Miss Sjodin drew national attention. Her body wasn’t found until after the snow melted.

The case was particularly troubling here and in neighboring Minnesota, where Rodriguez lived, because the convicted rapist had been released even though he had been classified as a Level 3 offender, meaning he had the highest risk of committing another sex crime. Both states have since moved to crack down on sex offenders.

Last week, the U.S. Senate endorsed a bill called “Dru’s Law,” which would set up a national public database of sex offenders and require strict monitoring of high-risk sex offenders for a year after their release from prison.

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