Hebron podcaster puts North Dakota crime cases in the spotlight

Published: Mar. 18, 2021 at 6:23 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - A Hebron man with an interest in crime and murder mysteries has turned his passion into a full-time job.

The Dakota Spotlight podcast focuses on North Dakota murders, missing people and cold cases.

James Wolner began his fascination with crime when John F. Kennedy was assassinated. He was intrigued and began doing his own research into the murder, which sparked an interest to begin investigating cases in North Dakota, thus creating the Dakota Spotlight podcast.

In his small home office, James Wolner is telling big stories.

“I want to sort of crawl into the skin of some of the people who I’m interviewing or people who we’re there at the time and understand what it was like to be there at the time,” said Wolner.

He’s investigated the death of Victor Newberry in Glen Ullin, Angila Wilder of Minot, and most recently the 1981 cold case of Barbara Cotton who went missing in Willison.

“That’s gratifying, when you’re like ‘wow! This story actually meant something to someone,’” said Wolner.

Now in season five of the podcast, Wolner has closed the file on many cases, but has also closed a chapter in the lives of families who have been looking for answers.

“He brought, information, closure, all that sort of thing to an end, and now he’s become a big part of the family,” said Mike Wald, a guest on Wolner’s podcast.

Mike Wald was 9-years-old when his grandparents we’re murdered in Zeeland in 1976.

“One thing I told James was that, ‘I want to learn as much about the story as he wanted to find out about the story,’” said Wald.

“With this podcast, I feel like I’ve been all in,” said Wald.

In recent months Wolner quit his full-time job to focus on the podcast, and Dakota Spotlight’s following has grown.

“I don’t even know how much longer I’ll be doing post casting. I don’t know if I’ll be doing it for five more years, or ten more years, but untimely I would like to reach a bigger audience,” said Wolner.

As photos and clips are laid on their track, James Wolner’s voice will soon tell the next mystery that lies within our state.

Wolner is currently planning a trip to Norway to meet with a family who has ties to a North Dakota murder.

You can find the Dakota Spotlight podcast on most streaming platforms.

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