The year 2004 was one of resolution and tearful goodbyes for the families of Dru Sjodin and Erika Dalquist.
In life, the young women never met; but in death, the two will be forever linked.
The two young women grew up 20 miles away from each other, Dalquist in Pillager and Sjodin in Pequot Lakes. Dalquist was 21 when she disappeared on Oct. 30, 2002, from downtown Brainerd. Sjodin was 22 when she disappeared Nov. 22, 2003, after leaving the Columbia Mall in Grand Forks, N.D., where she worked.
Family and friends of Erika Dalquist released dozens of balloons as they said goodbye to the 21-year-old Pillager woman during a memorial service June 4. Brainerd Dispatch/File photoSTEVE KOHLS
Both young women were subjects of massive searches by law enforcement, family, friends and strangers. On April 17, the body of Sjodin was found near Crookston. More than 1,500 people attended her funeral in Nisswa one week later.
Sjodin's family and friends, who understood the pain the Dalquist family felt for not knowing where their daughter was, began helping in the search for Erika after Dru had been found. Sjodin's father, Allan Sjodin, was on the scene shortly after Dalquist's remains were found on property owned by murder suspect William Myears' grandparents east of Brainerd.
After an 18-month search, "Sunny" was coming home, too.
In less than 30 days, private investigator Bob Heales noted, two "beautiful young women" had been returned to their families.
Dalquist's funeral was June 4. She was buried Oct. 25 in a private ceremony at the Randall City Cemetery, nearly two years after she disappeared.
The discovery of Dalquist's remains led to a nationwide manhunt for her suspected killer, William Myears, who had left Brainerd to join a circus. An hour after he was profiled on the television show "America's Most Wanted," Myears was arrested in the Detroit suburb of Birmingham, Mich., a day after Dalquist's funeral. Myears was arrested at the carnival he had been working at, which was across the street from the Birmingham Police Department.
Family and friends of Erika Dalquist released dozens of balloons as they said goodbye to the 21-year-old Pillager woman during a memorial service June 4. Brainerd Dispatch/File photo
Myears was extradited to Minnesota to face second-degree murder charges in Dalquist's death. He is being treated at a Minnesota Department of Corrections facility for an undisclosed illness.
Sjodin's murder suspect, Alfonzo Rodriguez Jr., is charged in federal court with kidnapping resulting in Sjodin's death. He has pleaded not guilty. Federal prosecutors have announced they will seek the death penalty. The Sjodin family announced in November that they plan to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the state of Minnesota for releasing the convicted rapist because they believe he should have been civilly committed as a sexual predator.
On Sept. 17, a large crowd gathered in the heart of Pequot Lakes to dedicate Dru's Garden, a flower garden planted in the city's trailside park in her honor. The garden contains many pink flowers -- Dru's favorite color.
JODIE TWEED can be reached at email@example.com or 855-5858.
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