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The 1968 murder of a UW-Madison student inspires a true crime podcast | Entertainment

On May 26, 1968, the body of Christine Rothschild, a freshman at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, was found dead outside Sterling Hall. “CO-ED STABED 14 TIMES” read the headline on the front page of the next day’s Capital Times, atop a story written by a young reporter named Dave Zweifel.

Police investigated for decades but never arrested a suspect. Because 1968 was a tumultuous year with anti-war protests on campus and high-profile assassinations, Rothschild’s assassination was largely overshadowed in the public consciousness.

Not everyone forgot. Rothschild’s classmate Linda Schulko organized a 40th anniversary memorial service in 2008 and has worked tirelessly to find her friend’s killer. Now, a new true crime podcast, “You Killed Chris: A Friend’s Fight For Justice,” delves back into the unsolved case.

Using archival audio and media reporting (including articles from the Capital Times) and contemporary interviews, ‘You Killed Chris’ brings together the details of the case and the historical context of the crime, following Schulko’s half-century crusade for justice .

“Her memory, her notes and her research, it’s just amazing,” says podcast host and creator James Wolner. “To me, that’s really a big part of what this story is about: friendship. And what one person can do whatever he or she sets his mind to.”

James Wolner

James Wolner, host of “You Killed Chris,” captures audio outside the apartment building that was formerly Ann Emery Hall, the dormitory where Christina Rothschild lived.

Far away from Fargo

“You Killed Chris” dropped for its fourth episode on Wednesday, June 5 and is available on most podcast apps, including iTunes and Overcast. It’s technically the tenth season of a true crime podcast series created by Wolner called “Dakota Spotlight.” As the title suggests, previous seasons of the podcast looked at true crime cases in North Dakota, Wolner’s home base.

Wolner started podcasting via a circuitous route. He earned a degree in English Literature with a minor in photojournalism, but spent much of his career in web and database development. He was always interested in audio storytelling, and podcasting brought together his journalism training and his digital experience.

In 2016, after Donald Trump was elected president, Wolner became frustrated when he heard rural North Dakotans were pushing conspiracy theories using “alternative facts.” One evening, while sitting on a stool at a bar, the person next to him started talking about an infamous, unsolved murder, theorizing that the Boston mafia was behind the murder.

It gave Wolner an idea for what would become the first season of “Dakota Spotlight.”

You killed Chris

The artwork for ‘You Killed Chris’, a true crime podcast with a new episode every week.

“I had to kind of shelter myself from watching the news,” Wolner said. I thought, ‘I’m going to focus on this one case, this one thing, and get to the bottom of it.’ Ironically, it turned out to be much more interesting than I thought. It wasn’t the Boston mafia. But there was more to it.”

Fortunately or unfortunately, there was no shortage of interesting murder cases that could provide fodder for additional seasons of “Dakota Spotlight.” Wolner started thinking about expanding the podcast to other states in the Upper Midwest when Mari Zoerb Hansen reached out.

Hansen lives in Madison and is a fourth-generation UW-Madison graduate — her father was attending college when Rothschild was murdered. She had found “Dakota Spotlight” and was enjoying Wolner’s thorough, compelling style of audio storytelling. He asked her if there were any stories in Madison that would work for the podcast, and she started looking around for ideas. Over coffee with retired Dane County Sheriff Dave Mahoney, she heard about Rothschild, and she and Wolner agreed it would be a good topic for season 10, especially since Schulko was still alive and willing to be interviewed.

“We talked to her for three hours, and I think we could have talked to her for another three hours,” Wolner said. “She was great.”

Mari Zoerb Hansen

Madison resident Mari Zoerb Hansen provided research and other assistance for “You Killed Chris.” She is shown on the steps outside Sterling Hall, where Christina Rothschild’s body was found.

Directions on campus

Hansen volunteered her services as an investigator and assistant in Madison, and the two worked remotely back and forth between Wisconsin and North Dakota to put the pieces of the story together, from conducting interviews and collecting news clippings and police reports to finding police audio clips. University of Wisconsin Archives.

In particular, “You Killed Chris” looks at a university hospital surgeon who was questioned by police as a potential suspect and fired, but has since become the focus of Schulko’s investigation.

In April, Wolner came to Madison to visit locations relevant to the story with Hansen, including Sterling Hall and the Langdon Street apartment building that was once Ann Emery Hall, the dormitory where Rothschild lived.

“Luckily a painter let us in (of Emery Hall),” Wolner said. “We walked down the hallway, the same hallway where she was last seen alive. It didn’t give me goosebumps, but it did feel surreal. And on the steps of Sterling Hall, I just felt sad when I was there. I felt the bleak truth of what happened to her at that location.

Fifty-six years later, Wolner and Hansen say they hope “You Killed Chris” will keep Rothschild’s memory alive, and perhaps spur more information about her murder.

“She was murdered at a time when there was so much going on that I think her case is just being swept under the rug,” Hansen said. “So we want more people to know who she was and that this happened to her.”

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