Michele Mae Julson

Julson, circa 1994; Julson's Ford Thunderbird; Donald Schaffer, circa 1996

  • Missing Since 08/02/1994
  • Missing From Bismarck, North Dakota
  • Classification Endangered Missing
  • Sex Female
  • Race White
  • Date of Birth 03/18/1968 (56)
  • Age 26 years old
  • Height and Weight 5'6, 155 pounds
  • Clothing/Jewelry Description A dark-colored shirt and blue jeans.
  • Associated Vehicle(s) Light blue 1987 Ford Thunderbird with the North Dakota license plate number DAH 159 (accounted for), Black four-by-four Chevrolet
  • Distinguishing Characteristics Caucasian female. Brown hair, blue eyes. Julson had a Norplant birth control device inserted into her body at the time of her disappearance. She has a small tattoo on her left shoulder of a heart with a drop of blood. Her nickname is Shelly and some accounts spell her first name "Michelle." She may dye her hair blonde or auburn.

Details of Disappearance

Julson was last seen when she dropped her three-year-old son off at the child's paternal grandfather's residence in the 100 block of American Avenue Bismarck, North Dakota at 12:30 p.m. August 2, 1994. She stated she was going to get gas, run errands, pick up her paycheck, and possibly play bingo.

She promised to return in a few hours, but Julson never picked up her paycheck. Her son's grandfather stated she would usually call if she was going to be late picking up her son, and he became concerned after 4:00 p.m. that day, when she hadn't come back or called. He kept trying to call her residence until midnight, but never got an answer. Julson has never been heard from again.

She was reportedly seen by a friend at WeFest, an outdoor country music festival in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota, on August 5; she was allegedly in the company of a man named "Tom" who drove a black four-by-four Chevrolet. Police closed her missing persons file as a result of the sighting, but then reopened it after she did not get in touch with her family. Now investigators do not believe she was ever at WeFest.

At the time of her disappearance, Julson lived in a trailer in the 700 block of West Sweet Avenue in Bismarck. When police went to her residence, the front door was locked, the back windows were open and the televison was on.

She had been working as a blackjack dealer at the Burnt Creek Club and was dating a bartender there. Julson told her loved ones that some of the patrons of the bar were harassing her. More than once, she thought someone had followed her home from work, and her car had been vandalized. She had requested a work transfer to a different location to get away from the people bothering her.

One of the people who was allegedly harassing Julson was Donald Schaffer, a lieutenant with the Bismarck Police Department. In 1996 he was fired from the police department after he was arrested for felony terrorizing and misdemeanor assault in connection with a July 12 incident with his ex-girlfriend. In an application for a restraining order, the woman claimed Schaffer had thrown her down the stairs twice, punched her in the face and threatened her life. Some of the threats were made in the presence of deputy sheriffs.

Schaffer was never questioned or investigated about the alleged harassment of Julson or about her later disappearance. A photo of him is posted with this case summary.

Her light blue 1987 Ford Thunderbird with the North Dakota license plate number DAH 159 was found at a Bismark Comfort Inn six days after her disappearance; a photo of the vehicle is posted with this case summary. Authorities stated they cannot be certain, but they do not believe it was there on August 2. It was turned over to her family without being processed.

The inside of the car appeared to be clean, except for a half-eaten sandwich left on the front seat. Julson's father later told police he found some scoria rock near the vehicle's intake manifold. There is little, if any, scoria rock in the Bismarck area.

Julson is described as a dedicated mother who was close to her family and would not have abandoned her son. She is a graduate of Center High School, moved to Bismarck about a year after graduation, and held several jobs before taking the position at the casino. She had no plans to leave the Bismarck area and investigators do not believe she left of her own free will. Foul play is suspected in her case.

Investigating Agency

  • Bismarck Police Department 701-223-1212

Updated 9 times since October 12, 2004. Last updated November 2, 2022; details of disappearance updated.