Blocks away from Joel Lovelien slaying, a stranger in yellow staggers home

In this Dakota Spotlight episode, the podcast tracks the movements and actions of Travis Stay and others. What was going on with him and his friends that weekend night just before Halloween?

Travis stay is shown with a black eye, in a photo illustration where he is backed by a cemetery at dusk
Grand Forks police took a photo of Travis Stay's bruised face as evidence. It is shown here backed by a photo of cemetery by which he walked home the night of Joel Lovelien's death, Oct. 28, 2007.
(Photos from Grand Forks Police Department records request and James Wolner, Forum News Service // Photo illustration by Troy Becker, The Forum)

GRAND FORKS — Steven Raasakka was walking home that night, after a quiet night hanging out, watching hockey with a friend. It was the early morning hours of Oct. 28, 2007.

Then he saw the man.

He was leaning against a back fence in an alley. Odd, Raasakka noted. Then the man started to follow him. Raasakka noticed he was staggering, like a drunk person.

Raasakka arrived at his garage and looked behind him — there was the man still, staggering toward him, pulling up a sleeve of his yellow sweatshirt. The stranger lunged forward, taking a wild swing at Raasakka, but missed as Raasakka dodged, and he fell to the ground.

Raasakka ran inside. He grabbed a baseball bat, called his friend and went out to look for his assailant — the man in yellow. The hunt had begun. Who was this guy, and why had he tried to attack Raasakka?


Listen to Episode 3 — Travis Stay, the Man in Yellow

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In this episode of Dakota Spotlight, the podcast tracks the movements and actions of the man in yellow, Travis Stay. What was going on with him and his friends that weekend night just before Halloween?

Relying on statements made to police, including by Travis Stay, and comparing and cross-referencing them, Dakota Spotlight will attempt to map out who was where that night, and why — all in an attempt to reconstruct the fateful evening that Joel Lovelien was killed outside the Broken Drum bar in Grand Forks.

About Dakota Spotlight, Season 8 — Unresolved: The Murder of Joel Lovelien

Joel Lovelien was beaten to death outside the Broken Drum bar in Grand Forks in the early morning hours of Oct. 28, 2007, amid a night of Halloween revelry. Nobody has ever been found guilty for his murder.

Suspicion immediately fell on a variety of costumed partiers that night, including some dressed as a lion, the joker and a hunter. Local police and prosecutors thought they had their man, the one dressed as a lion that night: Travis Stay. But Stay was found not guilty in December 2008 in a high-profile trial -- a sensational result that has made the case a staple of true crime shows, including the Dateline TV program.

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Welcome to Dakota Spotlight's eighth season: "Unresolved: The Murder of Joel Lovelien." With unprecedented access to case files and evidence, prosecutors, police, witnesses and family members, Dakota Spotlight creator and host James Wolner will use his unique investigation and reporting style to pursue the case's central questions: Who killed Joel Lovelien? Why was Travis Stay found not guilty? And why does so much suspicion linger around others in this case?


People in this episode

  • Paul Balstad: A taxi driver in Grand Forks the night Lovelien was killed, he drove Travis Stay home and noticed he was dazed, had blood on him and looked like he had been in a fight.
  • Bryce Larson: Dressed as a cowboy. Interviewed by Grand Forks investigators the night Joel died.
  • Erika Lovelien: Joel Lovelien's older sister.
  • Joel Lovelien: 38-years-old, a technical systems analyst for Altru Hospital. Joel went to the Broken Drum bar with his fiancée Heather Eastling, then later went outside to take the phone call. He was found beaten to death in the bar's parking lot.
  • Eli McVey: Travis Stay's childhood friend. Accompanied Travis on the party bus. Has no recollection of being at the Broken Drum Bar but paid for a drink there with a debit card. Was awake when Travis arrived at home covered in blood.
  • Steven Raasakka: Was walking home in the alley between 10th Ave North and 11th Ave North at approximately 12:20 am, Sunday Oct 28, 2007 when he encountered a seemingly intoxicated Travis Stay. Stay took a swing at Raasakka but missed and then fell to the ground. 
  • Cora Lee Taylor: Travis Stay's roommate. Partied with Travis and others on the party bus. Spoke with Travis the next morning about his injuries and condition. 
  • Travis Stay: A reveler at the Broken Drum bar that night who was driven home with blood on his lion costume. He was later charged with Lovelien's murder and found not guilty in December 2008.
  • James Wavra: Dressed as a Hunter. Involved in a short fight with Travis Stay. Interviewed by Grand Forks investigators the night Joel died.

    People in previous episode

  • Jon Deziel: Dressed as a clown. Interviewed by Grand Forks investigators the night Joel died.
  • Heather Eastling: Joel Lovelien's fiancée.
  • Mike Ferguson: Grand Forks Police sergeant.
  • Heather Holter: Party bus passenger and Jon Deziel's girlfriend.
  • Jennifer Holter: Party bus passenger and sister to Heather Holter.
  • William Macki: Grand Forks Police sergeant.
  • Keith Swartz: Discovered Lovelien in the parking lot of the Broken Drum bar.

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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