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Convicted killer Alfonso Rodriguez Jr. heading back to court

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GRAND FORKS -- The man convicted of kidnapping, raping and killing UND student Dru Sjodin is headed back to federal court on Tuesday.

Alfonso Rodriguez Jr. has been on death row since 2003.

He abducted Sjodin from the Columbia Mall parking lot in Grand Forks.

The hearing is set to focus on how Sjodin actually died.

The case against Rodriguez was built around the Ramsey County medical examiner's claims Sjodin was raped and died from two slash wounds to her neck.

The Grand Forks County States Attorney on the case at the time says the hearing is part of an appeals strategy to get Rodriguez a lesser penalty.

"For example the exact specific cause of death, or how the death happened or whether it was done with a certain depravity, if they can poke a hole there, maybe that will allow the system to pull back from the death penalty." says attorney Peter Welte.

Rodriguez is the only person to have been sentenced to the death penalty in the state of North Dakota.