‘I will always have that part hoping that she’s still alive’: Family still seeks answers 40 years after Barbara Cotton goes missing

Local News

This week marks 40 years since a 15-year-old girl from Williston went missing just blocks away from her home.

While there were many questions regarding her disappearance, no real answers were given.

The mystery still lies on the table decades later, but now, more efforts are being put toward her case in hopes to bring closure to both the family and friends.

“We were a poor family. There was four of us living in a two-bedroom house. Me and my sister shared a room, my brother Kent had his own room and my mom slept in the living room,” Kathy Nulph said.

Despite being poor, Nulph recalls her family’s life to be like most — loving and caring, with the typical arguments here and there. But what happened on April 11, 1981, Nulph says she never expected.

“I don’t know what time Barb left that day, I do not remember, all I remember is waking up the next morning and she wasn’t home,” she said.

Barbara Cotton, Nulph’s sister, was missing with no trace or sound as to where she went.

“I don’t ever remember of any search parties being brought together or organized or my mom ever speaking of them,” Nulph said.

Nulph says all she remembers is that officials at the time deemed Barbara a runaway.

“She wouldn’t have done that. She wouldn’t have done that to me. She wouldn’t have done it to Kent,” she said. “And as the days and weeks went on, I just had a strange feeling she was never coming home.”

40 years later, and she still hasn’t. But the search for answers still continues.

Williston Police Detective Danielle Hendricks has been following the case over the last year.

“We’re bringing new life into this case and really we just want to bring this case to the forefront of everybody in this community,” Hendricks said. “Any potential new leads that we can have, that we’ve already started to receive, can do nothing but benefit this investigation.”

Hendricks says so far they have three suspects who may have had something to do with Barbara’s disappearance, but they’re all deceased.

She says keeping up with the case hasn’t been easy, to say the least.

“Talking with some of the investigators that have worked it in the past, they share the same frustrations, but that’s where I think the benefit we have if there is a benefit, is the platforms we have to utilize,” she said.

One of those platforms Hendricks is referring to is the Dakota Spotlight, a podcast that has helped resurface Barbara’s story.

“I didn’t go into this thinking, ‘Hey, maybe we could actually solve this.’ I went into it just wanting to tell what happened, kind of like a documentary-style thing,” Podcast host and producer James Wolner said.

But Wolner says since starting this series months ago, people have been sending tips and leads that he in return forwards to Hendricks and her team of detectives.

As for Nulph, her appreciation hasn’t run dry, as the fight to bring closure to Barbara’s case still lives on.

“I will always have that part hoping that she’s still alive, but getting closure is what my family really needs,” she said.

April 11, as a celebration and remembrance of Barbara Cotton’s life, Nulph is putting on an event at Spring Lake Park from 2 to 6 p.m. that all are welcome to come to.

The Williston Police Department asks that if you have or know any information regarding this case to contact them directly.

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