After almost 40 years at least one of the Highways of Tears murders has been solved.
Colleen Macmillen was 16 years old in 1973 when she made plans to hitch-hike from her home in Lac la Hache to the home of a friend. No one saw her alive again after she left her home. Instead her body was found about 46 km south of where she was last seen.
Decades later, in 2006, as forensic science became a more precise tool, evidence collected at the scene was sent to a lab. There the DNA of an unknown male was discovered, however no match for that male was found in the data base. In 2012 samples of the DNA were sent to Interpol.
They got a hit.
In May of 2012 CODIS matched the DNA to an American, Bobby Jack Fowler.
Fowler, who died of natural causes in an American prison in May of 2006 at the age of 66, had an extensive violent criminal history including attempted murder, sexual assault, arson, kidnapping and attempted sexual assault.
“Since we got the hit investigators have been pursuing Fowler’s movements over his lifetime,” Inspector Gary Shinkaruk with E-PANA, said.
They spoke to family members, associates and former cell mates among others to determine with certainty where Fowler travelled and when.
A transient, it has been determined that Fowler lived in Prince George in 1974. He worked for Happy’s Roofing, which is now out of business, its records destroyed in a flood.
Police are asking for the public’s help in filling in the blanks of Fowler’s life. They say he stayed in and lived in hotels, liked old cars and drove them till they quit, and frequented bars.
“We believe there are people out there who employed Fowler and socialized with him. We want the public’s help,” he said adding Fowler worked as a roofer and labourer.
Police believe there are other victims of Fowler, people he may have assaulted who survived.
Fowler is suspected in at least two more of the 18 Highway of Tears murders or disappearances E-PANA was created to investigate.
The two women are Gale Weys, who went missing Oct. 19 1973 and whose body was found six months later, and Pamela Darlington who was murdered Nov. 6, 1973.
Though Fowler has been eliminated as a suspect in eight of the files, he remains someone to look at in the other cases.
At the same time, Oregon suspects Fowler of at least four murders and are conducting an investigation as well.
The public is being asked to share any bit of information they have on Fowler, no matter how insignificant it might seem.
People can call the E-PANA tip hotline at 1-877-543-4822 or their local CrimeStoppers.