RCMP Insp. Gary Shinkaruk and Dep. Comm. Craig Callens speak at announcement a dead U.S. man is believed to have been a serial killer responsible for some of B.C.'s Highway of Tears murders.

Dead U.S. murderer likely serial killer in some Tears cases

Police seek more information on Fowler after DNA proves he killed B.C. teen

A dead U.S. inmate with a history of raping women has been named by RCMP as the murderer of one of the 18 young women in B.C.’s long-running Highway of Tears probe and is strongly suspected as a serial killer in more of those cases.

Bobby Jack Fowler died in an Oregon prison in 2006 but his DNA was matched this year to evidence from the killing of 16-year-old Colleen MacMillen while she was hitchhiking near Lac La Hache in 1974.

Police say Fowler worked as a roofer in Prince George and prowled B.C.’s interior highways picking up young female hitchhikers.

Brother Shawn MacMillen said his family is “stunned” by the discovery and grateful to investigators for the knowledge Fowler can never hurt anyone else, even though he was not punished for any B.C. murders.

“Colleen was a lovely, sweet, innocent 16-year-old kid, and there are still not words in the world to express how terribly she was wronged,” he said.

“For those remaining families whose daughters and sisters were also victims, we hope this means they may yet have their own answers.

RCMP Insp. Gary Shinkaruk said investigators on the Project E-Pana team “strongly suspect” Fowler also killed Gale Weys near Clearwater in 1973 and Pamela Darlington the same year in Kamloops.

He said Fowler has been ruled out as a suspect in eight of the 18 cases of missing or murdered women along B.C. highways 16, 97 and 5.

Police say a single serial killer cannot be responsible in all 18 cases, but are open to the possibility one or more serial killers murdered some women, while others were one-off murders.

RCMP now have what they call an incomplete timeline of Fowler’s movements in B.C. and want public help in identifying where else he might have been in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.

Anyone who knew him during those years – people who socialized with him, worked with him or traveled with him – are urged to call 1-877-543-4822.

RCMP Dep. Comm. Craig Callens said Interpol’s successful link this spring of 40-year-old DNA to Fowler was the oldest such match in its history.

An earlier 2007 test had turned up an unknown male profile but officers, wanting to take advantage of improved technology, obtained a better sample that Interpol was this time able to match.

Police have been under fire for years over their handling of the missing women investigations but Callens rejected suggestions the case could have been cracked sooner, adding Fowler was only found because of investigators’ persistence in re-testing samples.

“For the RCMP, there is no such thing as a cold case,” Callens said.

“We remain committed to seeking justice for the victims and getting answers for the families.”

Fowler died of natural causes at age 66 while serving a 10-year term for a violent attack.

He had a history of violent crime in the U.S. – but not Canada – and police said he believed women who frequented bars wanted to be violently raped.

Fowler could be “charming and disarming” but suddenly turn violent, Shinkaruk added.

In B.C., Fowler is believed to have been transient, taking odd jobs, driving old cars and living in cheap hotel or rental rooms.

He picked up hitchhikers, was an alcoholic and user of speed and meth, and was prone to violence.

Police also went to three U.S. states trying to pump former cellmates for more information.

Oregon authorities suspect Fowler in unsolved murders of female teenagers there.

Shinkaruk said RCMP have three or four other strong suspects in the B.C. murders or disappearances after eliminating more than 80 per cent of the 1,400 persons of interest they’ve examined.

Police have taken more than 750 DNA samples of B.C. men as part of the investigation.

Shinkaruk said northern B.C. does not have an unusual number of such murders despite the high profile around the Highway of Tears, a name families and advocates tagged to Highway 16 West to push police for more action.

One of the loudest critics of the probe, Gladys Radek, said blaming a dead serial killer strikes her as a bit too convenient for police.

“I believe there are still 17 other perpetrators out there,” she said, arguing more should have been done years ago.

“For the sake of the other families, I hope they do link them together and those three families get closure,” added Radek.

Her dead niece Tamara Chipman was killed outside Prince Rupert in 2005, but not by Fowler.

“He was in jail in Oregon at the time Tamara disappeared.”

 

View more photos of Bobby Jack Fowler

Just Posted

The Disaster Before Christmas: Mission Hospice Society needs public’s help

Leaking pipes and a sewer back up leaves non-profit group with a huge bill it can’t afford to pay

Mission waterfront a priority for council

Mayor: ‘We still see our waterfront as a phenomenal opportunity for the entire community’

Silverdale planning is just beginning

Public meeting shows initial steps; next up will be examining infrastructure

Eight-foot-deep sinkhole appears in dike near Abbotsford/Mission wastewater plant

Crews hope to repair hole by February, but cost not yet known

Casino move, expansion approved by Mission council

Council votes 6-1 in favour of proposal, Chances still need final approval from the BCLC

REPLAY: B.C’s best video this week

In case you missed it, here’s a look at the replay-worth highlights from this week across the province

Microscopic parasite found in Prince Rupert water affecting thousands

More than 12,000 residents affected by the boil water advisory issued Dec. 14

Trudeau lashes out at Conservatives over migration “misinformation”

Warning against the “dangers of populism,” Trudeau says using immigration as a wedge political issue puts Canada’s future at risk.

B.C. hockey coach creates ‘gear library’ to remove cost barrier of sport

Todd Hickling gathered donations and used gear to remove the cost barrier for kids to play hockey.

VIDEO: Giants fall to Royals 4-2 in Victoria Saturday night

Second loss in as many days for G-Men, who are back home in Langley today to take on the Cougars.

Canada’s ambassador meets with second detainee in China

Global Affairs says John McCallum, Canada’s ambassador to China, met with Spavor Sunday

‘They’re coming:’ Flying cars may appear in urban skies by 2023

Air taxis will number 15,000 and become a global market worth $32 billion by 2035

B.C. VIEWS: Andrew Wilkinson on taxes, ICBC and union changes

Opposition leader sees unpredictable year ahead in 2019

5 tips for self-care, mental wellness this holiday season

Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions urging British Columbians to prioritize self care through festive season

Most Read