“48 Hours” explores the mysteries and murders along the Highway of Tears (from CBS – Page 5)
Just two months ago — 38 years after Colleen MacMillen disappeared — the Royal Canadian Mounted Police announced a stunning break:
“The break has to do with the 1974 disappearance and murder of 16-year-old Colleen MacMillen,” RCMP inspector Gary Shinkaruk told reporters.
Using new, enhanced DNA technology, the Highway of Tears task force matched male DNA recovered from Colleen’s clothing to Bobby Jack Fowler — a Texas native who worked as roofer in Prince George.
“I couldn’t comprehend what was going on here — they found the guy!” said Kevin MacMillen.
“I couldn’t wait to phone everybody. We had all been waiting 38 years,” said Shawn MacMillen.
Finally, one of the cold cases along the Highway of Tears is at last solved.
“It’s gratification,” said Sgt. Wayne Clary.
“In the States, we call this a ‘CSI moment.’ You’ve just had your Canadian ‘CSI moment’ with this case, haven’t you?” Peter Van Sant asked.
“Ours took longer, but we’ve had it,” Sgt. Clary said. “And it just reaffirms to us why we do our jobs.”
The task force strongly believes Bobby Jack Fowler killed these young women as well: Gail Weys and Pamela Darlington, both 19 years old and missing since 1973. And Fowler may be responsible for six other Highway of Tears murders.
“A violent man — sexual assaults, kidnapping, firearms — in and out of jail,” Clary said. “He’s clearly a monster.”
Fowler was married twice and has four children, but his work life was nomadic. He’d drive from motel to motel, picking up women in bars and girls hitchhiking along the highway.
“He believed that … the majority … the vast majority of women that he met in those places not only desired to be sexually assaulted, but desired to be violently sexually assaulted,” said Shinkaruk.
Fowler lived in 11 states, from Texas to Oregon. Newport, Ore., investigator Ron Benson is looking into his past and thinks he may have left another Highway of Tears in the United States.
“We have a similar situation, where two girls left Beverly Beach State Park in the middle of the night and probably came out on the highway.
We know Bobby Jack Fowler was in Oregon, off and on, for decades. When these girls bodies were found five months later out in the woods, they were found in a condition similar to the cases in British Columbia,” said Benson.
Benson believes Fowler may have committed as many as seven murders in Oregon. But it was one notorious case involving a woman at a motel in 1995 that finally led to the end of Fowler’s rampage.
“Bobby Jack Fowler tried to kill her here,” Benson said standing outside the motel. “He tried to tie her up and to escape him she jumped naked out of a second story window with a rope tied around her leg.”
The woman agreed to speak with “48 Hours” on the phone:
“He was just weird, he just got weird and then he put the rope around my foot,” the woman said of her night with Fowler. “He was like … He told me that he was gonna put me in the ocean … I just was trying to scream and he just covered my mouth.”
But, somehow, she did manage to get to the window and jump out alive.
“No one deserves this. If people are out there you don’t know who they are. I’m just glad that I got away…” she said.
“When the first officer arrived, he was packing … putting his belongings in the car,” said Benson.
Fowler was arrested and convicted of kidnapping and assaulting her.
“If he’d had 15 more seconds, he would of driven away into obscurity and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police would not have the opportunity to make that DNA connection,” said Benson.
The MacMillens now know who killed their sister, but will never get the satisfaction of seeing him pay for her murder. Fowler died in prison in 2006.
“I’m just, I’m glad it’s kind of over for us,” said Shawn.
But it is not over for the family of Maddy Scott. She disappeared long after Fowler died.
So far the RCMP has indentified two alleged serial killers, but that does little for the families of Tamara Chipman, Ramona Wilson, Lana Derrick, Monica Ignas and more. They are still waiting for closure. Hoping that the haunted beauty of this highway will one day reveal all its secrets.
“It’s one of the most beautiful, most spectacular roads you’ll travel,” said investigative reporter Bob Friel said. “… so you can be there on the most beautiful day of the entire year, and suddenly you see one of these [hitchhiking warning] signs. And you feel this foreboding on the road … it’s a place that definitely has a personality, and a lotta times, that’s dark.”
Cody Legebokoff, accused of murdering Loren Leslie and three other women, is expected to stand trial in September 2013.
Investigators believe Bobby Jack Fowler may have killed as many as 20 people across the United States and Canada.
Highway of Tears case tips: 800-222-8477
Bobby Jack Fowler case tips: 877-543-4822
Madison “Maddy” Scott case tips: 250-567-2222 | 800.222.TIPS
In the U.S.:
Bobby Jack Fowler Case Tips (U.S.): 541-265-0271