ND BARBARA LOUISE COTTON: Missing from Williston, ND - 11 April 1981 - Age 15

Barbara Louise Cotton disappeared from Williston, North Dakota on April 11th 1981. She has never been seen or heard from again.

Most information available states that she was last seen leaving a local restaurant. However, law enforcement had reports that she was seen at a party later that evening with one of the friends she was with at the restaurant.

According to her mother, Barb was with a new boyfriend named Stacey Werder at the restaurant. No one else remembers anything about Barb having a boyfriend. Stacey was from California and hitchhiked everywhere as he didn't drive. According to his sisters he was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and subsequently discharged from the Navy in 1980. He committed suicide in jail in Malta, Montana 3 months after Barb disappeared.

Despite leaving her paycheck from work behind and all of the money in her savings account, Barb was considered a runaway by law enforcement in the days following her disappearance.

Barbara Louise Cotton

Date of Birth:
November 10, 1965

Age at time of disappearance: 15

Race: Caucasian / Native American

Gender: Female

Height: 5’2″

Weight: 100 lbs (45 kg)

Hair: brown, wavy, shoulder-length

Eyes: hazel-brown

Distinguishing Features:

Curvature of spine/scoliosis as it has been described as a pronounced “S” curve that resulted in a sway or slight limp when she walked.

Left ear noticeably lower than right ear.

Pierced ears

Mole on upper right side of chest
Mole on right side of neck.

Dentals: Available
Barb did have metal fillings in a number of molars, despite her teeth being listed as “in excellent condition” on flyers.
(verified with law enforcement 9/8/21)

Spinal X-rays available
(verified with law enforcement 9/8/21)

Fingerprints: Unknown

DNA: MtDNA entered into CODIS

Clothing & Personal Items:

Light tan summer jacket, “Wrangler” brand blue jeans, blue pullover blouse and rust-colored suede loafers.
Jewelry: Unknown
Additional Personal Items: Unknown
(details on Barb's clothing was compiled from articles published around the time of her disappearance)

Investigating agency:
Detective Dery
Williston Police Department
(701) 577-1212
Agency Case Number: NDM10088

If you aren't comfortable contacting law enforcement directly please email:
Anything sent to this address will be kept confidential.


The Doe Network

The Charley Project


Find Barb Cotton

Investigators with Williston Police Department

Some information and details are directly from news articles, family and friends

MEDIA - BARBARA LOUISE COTTON: Missing from Williston, ND since 11 April 1981 - Age 15


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CLS/genealogy enthusiast
People like you are heroes for the missing. You have my great respect. Let us know if there’s anything we can do to help.
Thank you. A fresh set of eyes on the information is always great to have if anyone is interested in sharing their thoughts. I can be reached at the findbarbcotton gmail address for any questions/thoughts/ideas.
I've written her story out (to the best of my ability) on the webpage. And I've made some flyers. The more awareness the better.


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Staff member

Williston billboard seeks to find girl missing for 40 years​

August 2021

A few weeks ago, something new popped up on U.S. Highway 2 heading north through Williston -- a billboard asking for help with the case of Barbara Cotton, a teenage girl who went missing 40 years ago.

Lisa Jo Schiele was the driving force behind the billboard. Schiele was married to the son of Cotton’s older sister and over the years heard about the 15-year-old girl who disappeared on April 11, 1981. Cotton's mother called police the next day to report her missing, but no sign of her has been found.

Earlier this year, a podcast about Cotton’s disappearance brought new attention to the case. Schiele met James Wolner, the man behind the Dakota Spotlight podcast, and helped with research.

She wanted to do more, though.

“I really tend to believe that somebody out there must know something, and I really wanted that reminder there," she told the Williston Herald. "You know, kind of stir up those memories with whoever that might be.”

The billboard asks whether people remember Cotton and shows a photo of her. It also has an imperative for anyone who knows something -- “It’s time for you to speak up,” along with the web address findbarbcotton.com.



Staff member

Eerie coincidence or Barbara Cotton's abductor? 'Dakota Spotlight' search reveals potential tie to serial killer. Listen to episode 18​

In April of 1981, 15-year-old Barbara Louise Cotton vanished from Williston, North Dakota, never to be seen or heard from again. Since January of 2021, the Dakota Spotlight podcast has investigated the case with Season 5, "A Better Search for Barbara."

One person of interest in Cotton's disappearance was 21-year-old Stacey Demarr Werder, reported to have been with Barbara on the night she vanished. Three months after Barbara Cotton disappeared, Werder took his own life in a Montana jail cell after being arrested for disorderly conduct.

As part of his investigation this year, podcast producer James Wolner petitioned Phillips County, Montana, to review the coroner's inquest of Werder's death. Wolner attained the inquest transcript last week.

Included in the inquest file are details about Werder's arrest on the night that he died. Werder was arrested for disorderly conduct at a movie theater on July 15, 1981, in Malta, Montana. The inquest transcript also reveals that Werder was in the company of a man named C.E. Sullivan, also known as Red Sullivan. Sullivan was not arrested with Werder.

The transcripts also reveal that, at the time of the inquest in November of 1981, Sullivan had left the area and could no longer be located by law enforcement.

In Dakota Spotlight's latest episode The Inquest, listeners are asked to help locate C.E. Sullivan with the hopes of learning what he may recall about Werder's potential involvement in Cotton's disappearance. As a result of that query, Dakota Spotlight received information from a listener about a suspected serial killer operating as early as 1979 named C.G. Sullivan. (It might be noted that the middle initials, E and G, are similar phonetically, which could lead to an error in the inquest transcript.)



Staff member

'I saw Barb' -- Sighting of missing girl fell on deaf ears​

In the spring of 1981, Jeri Martinez-Kueffler was about to finish the 7th grade when she had an unforgettable experience.

It's something she's been talking about for 41 years. While volunteering at the hospital in Williston, North Dakota, she caught site of Barbara Louise Cotton, the 15-year-old girl who had been reported missing.

"And she turned and looked at me and I kind of did that double take like, 'That's Barb Cotton — that's that missing girl,'" Martinez-Kueffler told Dakota Spotlight, an investigative true crime podcast from Forum Communications.

The sighting is the subject of the latest update of Dakota Spotlight's fifth season: A Better Search for Barbara Cotton. Cotton vanished from Williston in 1981 and has been missing ever since.

In this episode of season 5 of Dakota Spotlight, Martinez-Kueffler shares the gripping story of her sighting and the subsequent frustration and anger she experienced when she attempted to share the information with local law enforcement.

"I was dismissed and told to basically go home and not tell anybody," Martinez-Kueffler says.

To listen to the latest update on the Barbara Cotton case, subscribe to Dakota Spotlight podcast on any podcast app. Dakota Spotlight recently completed Season 6: Vanishing Act — The Untold Story of Kristin Diede and Bob Anderson

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