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Mayville man who killed himself during standoff was suspected of having child porn, warrant says

The North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation alleged Steven Volla had images and videos that depicted child sex abuse. One depicted an infant being sexually abused, a search warrant said.

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Authorities dealt with a standoff at a farmstead just south of Mayville, North Dakota, on Jan. 18, 2023.
Matt Henson / WDAY News
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Editor's note: If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts or a mental health crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988.

MAYVILLE, N.D. — A Mayville man who took his own life during a police standoff last week was under investigation on suspicion of possessing child porn, according to a search warrant.

The warrant filed Wednesday, Jan. 25, in Traill County District Court said the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation was seeking evidence at the home of Steven Wesley Volla.

The 59-year-old who was known for his classic car collection died Jan. 18 inside a shop at his farmstead, the Traill County Sheriff’s Office said.

The standoff unfolded about 8 miles south of Mayville, or about 60 miles northwest of Fargo.

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Steven Volla of Mayville, North Dakota, discusses his car collection during a "Rides with Jay Thomas" episode in 2019.
WDAY

The BCI, Department of Homeland Security and sheriff's office tried to serve the warrant starting at 1:45 p.m. Jan. 18, according to court documents. After several hours, Grand Forks SWAT members, a bomb squad and crisis negotiator were called to help with the situation.

The negotiator spoke with Volla for about an hour and a half trying to get him to surrender. Volla told authorities he had access to a gun, but he didn't threaten to harm himself, according to news reports.

Volla was pronounced dead shortly before 7 p.m. Jan. 18. The search was terminated about 1 a.m. Jan. 19, the warrant said.

The Bureau of Criminal Investigation started investigating the case on Nov. 2 after receiving a report from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children that three child porn files had been uploaded to a phone connected to Volla, according to the search warrant. Those images depicted children as young as 4 years old being sexually abused, the warrant said.

A deeper search revealed Volla’s phone had 23 videos and images of suspected child porn, the warrant said. One video showed an adult sexually abusing an infant, the warrant said.

Law enforcement also looked into other phones connected to Volla and found nine more images of suspected child sex abuse, according to the warrant.

The warrant noted several electronics were taken from Volla's home on Jan. 18. They included iPhones, iPads, USB drives, flash drives, camera cards and a laptop.

Volla did not have a criminal record in North Dakota or Minnesota.

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His wife, Tammy Volla, declined to comment for this story.

In a statement sent to WDAY on Jan. 19, Volla's family called him a loving husband, amazing father and caring friend.

"He was everybody’s rock," the statement said. "He would do anything he could in his power to help anyone in need. He cares immensely for his family, friends, neighbors, and community. He loved many, and many loved him. Steve should be remembered for the heart that beat within him. Never skipped a beat when he was helping anyone do anything and everything."

April Baumgarten joined The Forum in February 2019 as an investigative reporter. She grew up on a ranch 10 miles southeast of Belfield, N.D., where her family raises Hereford cattle. She double majored in communications and history/political science at the University of Jamestown, N.D.
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