Crime Survivors
Compassionate Friends

Compassionate Friends (www.compassionatefriends.org) for crime survivors began when a minister in England brought together two grieving mothers to share their ordeals and help each other heal. Here's a heart-wrenching glimpse of what they and similar such organizations deal with:

Crime survivors' anguish is most eloquently captured by Linda Walker in her statement to the U.S. District court in Fargo ND on 08 February 2007, at Alfonso Rodriguez Jr.'s sentencing hearing.

"Honorable Judge Ralph Erickson, I stand before you today because had my only daughter, Dru Katrina Sjodin, had the chance to do so, she would have spoken. I'm here for her and her family, my family, her brother, Sven, and his wife, Melinda, and their children, my grandchildren, Dru's nephews and niece: Caleb, Micah, Pierce and Priscilla. I'm here for her grandparents, Dru and Betty Sutfin, my parents.

I'm here to honor her and represent her and all crime survivors who either have been silenced or not been heard. I owe this to Dru, to my peers, and the citizens of North Dakota, and those that have stood in support of me. And I owe it, as well, to those that may never understand the horror of having to hear that my daughter has been abducted and the magnitude of hearing that she's been found brutally raped and murdered.

I've been told to talk from my heart. Well, my heart has been torn into a million little pieces. The words are difficult to find and express the loss that I have to live with. Nothing prepares you for searching for your daughter. What should you do? Stay home and hope the phone will ring, jumping to answer, praying that it will be Dru's voice on the line, sobbing uncontrollably into the night, terrified by the feeling of not being able to help her, not knowing what could possibly have kept my daughter from getting to her next job. An accident? No returned calls from her phone. The hopes dashed when I hear that her car has been found left in a parking lot.

Looking for answers, finding none that are making sense. Struggling to get through the first Thanksgiving without Dru. All things that I have been thankful for the years before seemed so trite in comparison to what I wanted to be thankful for in 2003: Dru brought home safely into my arms.

What do you do with those Christmas stockings with your daughter's names on them? That was a question Jan Jenkins wrote to me about her son Chris's stocking as well as Dru's. I haven't found the words to offer her an answer.

Having someone call you to tell you that an agent from the BCA will be coming to get your DNA sample; having to go to your daughter's apartment and packing up her personal belongings and storing them away in hopes of her safe return; hearing the words that your daughter's blood has been found in a Level 3 sex offender's car hitting you in the gut when you have felt there is nothing more that can shock you.

The minutes of the night of Nov. 22 have now turned into days and the days are turning into weeks and the weeks are turning into months. And on Feb. 17, 2004, the one that had all the answers has now said he doesn't want to tell us where she is.

Watching the TV coverage of men boring holes in the ice, search dogs with their noses to the ground, hundreds of caring strangers combing the cold and snow-covered fields of Minnesota and North Dakota.

Frantic by April, by mid-April, to find your daughter before the spring thaw so that her body isn't washed away down a river.

Getting the phone call on April 17 from Sheriff Walt Keller just minutes after we had started our search that day that we need to return to the command center, a five-minute ride that seemed to last five hours without a word spoken; then to hear the words that your daughter has been found in a ravine close to where we all were.

Going back into Grand Forks to pack up my suitcases to drive the three-and-a-half hours back home, having to drive by the yellow taped off area where my daughter had been marched down by her abductor five months earlier.

Now back at home to have to arrange the funeral for my daughter. What music do you play for a young woman who had so much life in front of her? Picking out a cemetery plot, writing out a check to buy this piece of land. Choosing one that is next to a mother. What kind of casket do you buy? Where do you have the service for a young woman that has touched so many lives? What flowers do you choose for your daughter? Am I picking the right flowers? Shouldn't this be her wedding I'm planning?

Asking if I could at least have a lock of my daughter's hair, being told by the funeral director he isn't able to do that for crime survivors of a murdered victim. I never got to see her. The savage way in which she was murdered and how animals feed from carcasses left in fields, not to mention what the procedure of an autopsy would do; it would be way too much of a viewing for your only daughter.

Painfully seeing your own daughter's face stuck beside the criminal that viciously murdered her plastered on TV stations, in the newsstands, as if they were a couple.

The painstaking task to be patient for the trial and then the trauma of having to revisit Dru's last hours on earth, once a vibrant, loving, caring daughter, sister, friend, to become a terrified, bound, captured, half-naked young lady who had just hours before beamed with a zest for life.

Hearing your 3-year-old niece, "Dru's dead, isn't she, Auntie?" Choking back my tears to answer her. How will I ever be able to tell Caleb, Micah, Pierce and baby Priscilla of their Auntie Dru, their father's only sibling? They have so much life in front of them, and for us to one day have to explain of such evil that entered her world that cold November afternoon.

Going shopping without your daughter and watching and listening to other mothers and their daughters sharing in the laughter, choosing the outfits together for that special date. Attending bridal, baby showers, weddings, birthdays and all other special celebrations of Dru's best friends and family without having her be a part of it all.

Watching your loving and caring mother, Dru's grandmother, lose 26 pounds in less than five months; seeing your once-strong father, who saw a lot in his career as a military officer, who has served proudly for this great nation. He served on the front lines as a top gun in World War II, a fighter pilot in the Korean Conflict, and a helicopter pilot in Vietnam, watching him be brought to tears with the mere mention of his first granddaughter's name.

She will be sorely missed by all that knew her and all that knew the beautiful soul that was inside her; the caring young woman who reached out with open arms to help so many others, and the lives of those she met on her shortened road of life. And a mother that will forever mourn the loss of a truly gifted, talented and beautiful young woman.

All the words that I read to you today seem so small when you have your daughter, sister, auntie, grandchild, friend, stripped from your life.

The crime that was committed is intolerable, to say the least, and must not be accepted in a country that is free and civilized. Dru was living by the law, and now the law is giving her the only piece of justice left for her. Thank you, your honor."

~~~

Many people want to help you. There are hundreds of support groups worldwide for crime survivors. They’re experts at coping with grief – and recovering.

Some are located in the US and some in the UK. But it doesn’t matter where you’re located. They’ll be happy to help you from the other side of the globe – and also refer you to a group near you for face-to-face counseling. They’re very willing to help you.


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