“48 Hours” explores the mysteries and murders along the Highway of Tears (from CBS – Page 4)
Cody Legebokoff was under arrest, but that did not solve the Maddy Scott disappearance. He’d been in custody months before Maddy had gone missing. And his arrest also brought little peace to the families of the women killed along the Highway of Tears — the cases that Sgt. Wayne Clary is determined to solve.
More than 750 boxes filled with thousands of documents — every report since the first murder in 1969 — are stored at RCMP headquarters.
“Is the guy we’re looking for in these boxes?”Sgt. Clary wondered.
Sergeant Clary took over the special unit assigned to the Highway of Tears cases less than a year ago.
“There will be transcribed statements in here. There will be forensic reports, lab reports, witness interviews,” he explained.
More than 60,000 people have been interviewed.
“How many persons of interest have their been in this investigation,” Peter Van Sant asked.
“The last I looked about 1,400,” said Clary. “We’ve uncovered men who drive vans with the door handles removed from the inside, duct tape, plastic restraints, trap doors … it’s incredible to me how many men are capable of doing this.”
The seemingly endless wilderness where these attacks have occurred is staggering. To show the challenges his people face, Clary took “48 Hours” into the air to fly the nearly 500 miles of the Highway of Tears — from the interior all the way to the sea.
“Right now we’re just flying over Prince George which is the hub of the north. And it’s the start of our investigation into our missing and murdered women,” Clary explained from high above.
“It’s been said that the Highway of Tears is a perfect hunting ground. It’s a perfect killing ground for someone because they can hide their victims,” noted Van Sant.
“And I would add to what you just said, a perfect dumping ground,” said Clary.
The landscape is beautiful, but it’s a terrible beauty considering the context.
“As one is looking out it’s just hard to imagine what the victims have suffered down there over the years,” Clary lamented.
Some victims have been found alongside this lonely highway; others discovered by hikers.
The sad aerial journey ends on the west coast, just 25 miles from the Alaskan border. It was time to come back to earth and drive the Highway of Tears.
Who were the women murdered along this road?
“We’re gonna visit where Alberta Williams was left, she was killed,” said Clary.
Alberta Williams, 26, of Prince Rupert was the tenth Highway of Tears victim. It was 1989. Williams had just come out of a bar with a group of friends. Her sister, Claudia, was there.
“I turn my head ,” she told Van Sant. “And when I turned my back again… I looked and I’m like, ‘Oh my God. This is crazy.’ How could so many people disappear in such a short time.”
“Where did she go?”
“I have no idea,” Williams replied.
Alberta’s body was found 30 days later.
“Peter, we found Alberta Williams body approximately 50 feet from where we’re standing,” Clary explained.
“These are the old railroad ties you’ve been talking about?” Van Sant commented.
“Yeah… there was a couple of people looking for these old ties and about 50 feet from straight ahead of me, they stumbled across a body and that was the body of Alberta Williams,” said Clary.
Wherever “48 Hours” went, the faces from the past began to appear.
“We’re in the town of Smithers along Highway 16 and we have two girls we’re investigating,” said Clary.
Delphine Nikal, 15, disappeared while hitchhiking in 1990. Lana Derrick was a 19-year-old college student back in 1995.
“And very close to here – 19 years earlier – we recovered the body of Monica Ignas,” said Clary.
Monica Ignas was just 14.
“She went missing Dec. 14, 1974,” he told Van Sant. “If we’re all quiet, we can hear cars going down Highway 16 right now. It’s that close.”
“I can hear them in the distance.”
“Yep, we’re less than a mile, probably a mile and a half from the highway,” said Clary.
Monica Ignas isn’t the youngest victim; that would be 12-year-old Monica Jack, who disappeared in 1978 while riding her bike. The highway has become so notorious, warning signs are everywhere.
“We’re now in Smithers, British Columbia, and were driving off of Highway 16 which is just over this ridge. We’ve driven about a mile down this dirt road and again, we’re in total isolation. Wayne, what happened here?” Van Sant asked.
“Well, in April of 1995, there was a couple gentlemen moose hunting and they were perhaps 20, 25 feet off into the bush here and they discovered the remains of Ramona Wilson,” he explained. “Ramona Wilson’s a girl who went missing from Smithers in 1994.”
No one remembers Ramona Wilson more than her mother, Matilda.
“Her picture is right here. It’s been 18 years and it’s getting quite old,” Wilson said looking at a faded photo of her daughter at a make-shift memorial near where Ramona was found. “Last year I was here for her birthday. It was February 15th. And June 11th, the day she was murdered.”
Matilda Wilson took “48 Hours” into the woods to the spot where her daughter’s body was found.
“Look how long, how far he carried her,” she told Van Sant as they walked through the brush. “There is a bunch of trees all around like that. And they put her under the tree right there.”
We continued our journey, eventually meeting up with fisherman Tom Chipman.
“It’s pretty painful. It dredges up memories every time I see a picture,” he told Van Sant.
Chipman’s daughter, 22-year-old Tamara, disappeared seven years ago from Prince Rupert while hitchhiking. She left behind a 3-year-old son.
“The worst part is … her body was never retrieved and not knowing what happened to her and where she ended up,” said Chipman, who spent weeks searching the endless logging roads. “There was nothing ever found or her.”
“She just disappeared?” Van Sant asked.
“Yeah, she just vanished.”
Vanished. Just like Colleen MacMillen, a sweet 16-year-old redhead who, back in 1974, asked her little brother, Shawn, to be a standup brother.
“She just said, ‘Don’t tell mom I’m hitchhiking’ and she walked away,” he told Van Sant. “She didn’t arrive, just didn’t get there.
Her body was found a month later, not 30 miles from the family home.
“It’s a lifelong disaster is what it is,” said Colleen’s brother, Kevin. “It was sad the day it happened and we’re sad today and we’ll be sad till the day we die.”
But then, just a month ago, came a dramatic development.
“We’ve had a major break in the case and surprisingly, it’s an American,” said Clary.