Ten years ago today, President George W. Bush signed the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, a federal statute aimed at protecting children from violence and sex crimes. The act established the Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Website, which gives the public access to sex offender registries from all 50 states through a single search.
My colleagues and I regularly use the Dru Sjodin website when researching subjects of our investigations. However, it was only recently that I learned the history behind its name.
A Brutal Murder
On November 22, 2003, Dru Sjodin, a 22-year-old University of North Dakota student, was leaving her job at a Grand Forks, North Dakota mall when a man named Alfonso Rodriguez Jr. kidnapped, raped and murdered her. Rodriguez was a repeat sex offender who had been released from prison just six months before, and was living in Crookston, Minnesota, near the North Dakota state border. Jurors sentenced Rodriguez to death, which he is still appealing.
Sjodin’s mother told CNN in 2011 that if the national sex offender website were around in 2003, her daughter may still be alive. The federal government created a national sex offender registry with 21 participating states in July 2005, and renamed it the following year in honor of Sjodin as a part of the Adam Walsh Act. Now citizens can query sex offenders by name or location through a single website that links registries from all 50 states, U.S. territories, the District of Columbia and participating Indian tribes. Offenders also face a felony charge if they don’t update where they’re living.
Sex Offender Data Critical to Due Diligence Investigations
Having access to a complete and accurate national sex offender registry is critical to many of our investigations. Company officials or high net worth individuals often hire us to identify red flags related to a person they’re thinking of appointing as a company executive or hiring as a part of their personal staff. It’s important that they know if the people they’re entrusting to play leading roles in their companies or households pose a safety risk.
On multiple occasions, I’ve discovered someone I was researching was a registered sex offender in a state other than where I thought he or she was living—a fact I may have missed if I only had searched individual state registries.
This database has also aided investigations beyond screening for potential safety issues. In one case, I was trying to locate a person for an interview whom I thought lived in Nevada. However, I searched the Dru Sjodin site and found that the individual was a registered sex offender in nearby Idaho. The registry also included the person’s current home address.
While this resource makes Sjodin’s death no less tragic, it has provided a valuable public service to investigators and communities as a whole.