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Years after North Dakota woman Shelly Julson went missing, dogged detective work revealed new clues

In this episode of Dakota Spotlight, retired Bismarck Police Detective Bill Connor speaks frankly about the details of the case, still sharp in his memory, and his encounters with those connected to Michele "Shelly" Julson as he re-investigated the case from 2005 to 2010.

Portrait of Bismarck police officer Bill Connor in standard blue uniform with dark tie.  Bill has a greying mustache and smiles into the camera.
Bismarck Police Officer Bill Connor investigated Shelly Julson's missing person cold case from 2005 to 2010.
Contributed / Bismarck Police Department
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Bill Connor is now retired. But the former detective at the Bismarck Police Department has plenty to say about the Shelly Julson case. For five years he re-investigated the missing person cold case, interviewing many of the people in the 26-year-old woman's life when she disappeared in 1994, and debunking a big mistake.

Listen to Episode 4 — Stones Unturned

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In the newly released episode of the Dakota Spotlight podcast, Connor speaks frankly about the details of the case, still sharp in his memory, and his encounters with those connected to Michele "Shelly" Julson as he investigated the case from 2005 to 2010.

Previous police work had relied on a single witness who claimed to have seen Julson after she disappeared. Connor chased down that claim.

Connor also checked out a man named Rick Snell, a man with a troubled relationship history and a unique connection to the Burnt Creek Club and the Elbow Room, two places where he might have met Julson.

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The detective also looked more into the alibi for Kevin Woodworth, Julson's former boyfriend and father of her son, Jaden. He also tracked down and spoke with Tony Hulm, who had his own set of connections to Julson and mysteriously left Bismark shortly after she disappeared.

Connor's re-investigation provided new details about the people in Julson's orbit. But it also indicated there was more to learn about several of those connected to the young woman.

About Dakota Spotlight, Season Seven: 'Call Me Shelly — The Mysterious Disappearance of Michele Julson'

In this season of Dakota Spotlight, creator, host and Regional Emmy Award-winner James Wolner looks into the cold case of 26-year-old Michele "Shelly" Julson, who vanished from Bismarck, North Dakota on Aug. 2, 1994. Granted exclusive, unprecedented access by police to the cold-case file, Wolner presents a play-by-play review of the initial investigation and further examines the strange events surrounding Shelly's life and her disappearance.

With the aid of new interviews with Shelly’s friends, family and retired police investigators, Wolner dives into the shadows of Shelly’s world at the time — Bismarck’s bar and gambling scene — and tracks the movements of several persons of interest. All in an attempt to answer the biggest questions of the case: What happened to Shelly? Where is she now?

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People in this episode

(In alphabetical order)

  • Officer Robbie Carvell: Bismarck Police Department officer and patrolman, who responded to the Julson missing person report 
  • Bill Connor: Bismarck Police Department investigator
  • Walter Czerwinski: Retired Burlington Northern employee
  • Larry Helfenstein: Shelly's friend
  • Robin Mostad: Shelly’s co-worker at The Elbow Room
  • Tony Hulm: Shelly's latest on-again/off-again boyfriend, and a bartender at Burnt Creek Club
  • Wes Julson: Shelly's father
  • Linda Julson: Shelly’s mother
  • Michele "Shelly" Julson: a 26-year-old blackjack dealer and mother of 3-year-old Jaden, who went missing on Aug. 2, 1994
  • Amy Sansburn: Claimed she partied with Shelly at WE Fest.
  • Rick Snell: Did not return to work at Great Lines after Aug. 2, 1994 

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  • Julie Thompson: investigator with the Bismarck Police Department
  • Dennis Walls: Bismarck Police Department sergeant who was the initial and main investigator on the Julson case
  • Jaden Woodworth: Shelly's son, 3 years old when she went missing
  • Kevin Woodworth: Shelly's former boyfriend and Jaden's father
  • Richard Woodworth: Jaden's paternal grandfather and the last person to acknowledge having seen her when she dropped Jaden at 104 American Ave.
  • Jenny Yantzer: Barmaid at Burnt Creek Club. Michele speculated that Jenny was responsible for hangup phone calls and damage to her car.  Jenny has denied any involvement. 

People in previous episodes

  • Chris Aziz: Bartender at the Elbow Room. Witnessed Shelly with two men Sunday night.
  • James Becker: Shelly's friend
  • Russ Bryant: Investigator for Burlington Northern Railroad
  • Kim Borner: Shelly's friend
  • Clifford Emmert: Bismarck Police Department investigator
  • Jack Erhardt: Kevin Woodworth's foreman at Miller Insulation
  • Bonnie Munsch: Shelly's friend and coworker, worked with Shelly at the Burnt Creek Club the night before Shelly vanished. Bonnie felt Shelly did not seem her usual self that night.
  • Tarileen Olson: Blackjack dealer at Fort Abraham Lincoln Foundation
  • Mike Quinn: Agent at North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation
  • Tammy Sumner: Shelly’s babysitter
  • Don Schaffer: Bismarck police officer and patron at Burnt Creek Club. Shelly told friends Schaffer had been harassing her at work.
  • Troy Schaner: Bismarck police officer who helped North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation's aerial search for Shelly's car
  • Nick Sevart: Bismarck Police officer
  • Carol Thomas: Assistant manager at The Fleck House hotel near The Elbow Room bar
More from Dakota Spotlight
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Jaden Woodworth describes his memories of his mother, and tells how police claims drove a wedge between him and his father -- and how Dakota Spotlight's debunking of those claims might help reconnect them.

Jeremy Fugleberg is editor of The Vault, Forum Communications Co.'s home for Midwest history, mysteries, crime and culture. He is also a member of the company's Editorial Advisory Board.
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