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.

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

Rohan arul-Pragasam, Chilliwack School District’s interim superintendent, has been appointed superintendent of schools effective June 15, 2021. (Chilliwack School District)
Interim position becomes permanent for Rohan Arul-pragasam at Chilliwack School District

Arul-pragasam said he was ‘humbled to continue as a steward’ in new role as superintendent of schools

PlanCultus was adopted in 2017 as a guiding document for Cultus Lake Park. (Cultus Lake Park Board)
More affordable housing options could be coming to Cultus Lake Park

Online survey opened on June 14 to gauge opinion on plaza redevelopment eyed for Village Centre

The Abbotsford International Airshow is back for 2021 with the ‘SkyDrive’ concept.
Abbotsford International Airshow returns for 2021 with ‘SkyDrive’

New format features a drive-in movie type experience, show set for Aug. 6 to 8

A young couple walks through the Othello Tunnels just outside of Hope. (Jessica Peters/Black Press)
Hope’s Othello Tunnels fully open to the public

Geological testing proved the area safe enough to open for the first time in more than a year

Raeya Evie Duncan was the 100th baby born at Chilliwack General Hospital for the month of May. She is seen here with her parents Alysha Williams and Andrew Duncan on June 12, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Baby boom in Chilliwack as record number of infants born at CGH in May

‘COVID babies are coming out,’ says dad of 100th baby born at Chilliwack General Hospital last month

Maxwell Johnson is seen in Bella Bella, B.C., in an undated photo. The Indigenous man from British Columbia has filed complaints with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal and the Canadian Human Rights Commission after he and his granddaughter were handcuffed when they tried to open a bank account. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Heiltsuk Nation, Damien Gillis, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
VIDEO: Chiefs join human rights case of Indigenous man handcuffed by police in B.C. bank

Maxwell Johnson said he wants change, not just words, from Vancouver police

Tk’emlups te Secwepemc Chief Rosanne Casimir stands outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School after speaking to reporters, in Kamloops, B.C., on Friday, June 4, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Kamloops chief says more unmarked graves will be found across Canada

Chief Rosanne Casimir told a virtual news conference the nation expects to release a report at the end of June

A woman wears a vaccinated sticker after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. ranks among highest in world in COVID-19 first-dose shots: health officials

More than 76% of eligible people have received their 1st shot

A screenshot of the First Peoples Cultural Councils First Peoples’ Map. (First Peoples Cultural Council)
Online resource blends B.C.-Alberta’s Indigenous languages, art and culture

Advisor says initiative supports the urgent need to preserve Indigenous languages

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

An artists conception of the new terminal building at the Pitt Meadows Regional Airport.
Air travel taking off in B.C., but lack of traffic controllers a sky-high concern

There will be demand for more air traffic controllers: Miller

Canadian Armed Forces experts are on their way to North Vancouver after a local homeowner expressed worry about a military artifact he recently purchased. (Twitter DNV Fire and Rescue)
Military called in to deal with antique ‘shell’ at North Vancouver home

‘The person somehow purchased a bombshell innocently believing it was an out-of-commission military artifact’

Amy Kobelt and Tony Cruz have set their wedding date for February, hoping that more COVID-19 restrictions will have lifted. (The Macleans)
B.C. couples ‘gambling’ on whether COVID rules will let them dance at their wedding

Amy Kobelt and Tony Cruz pushed back their wedding in hopes of being able to celebrate it without the constraints of COVID-19

A plane is silhouetted as it takes off from Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C., May 13, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Report calls for airlines to refund passengers for flights halted due to COVID-19

Conclusion: federal help should be on the condition airlines immediately refund Canadian travellers

Most Read