B.C. cold case breakthrough stirs memories
Deceased U.S. convict Bobby Jack Fowler linked to 3 deaths in Highway of Tears investigation
The news that a deceased American convict could be behind several cold case homicides in B.C. has stirred many old memories for those who knew the missing women and the man who may have killed them.
On Tuesday, the RCMP said DNA from deceased U.S. convict Bobby Jack Fowler was found on the body of Colleen MacMillen, who was found dead near 100 Mile House in 1974.
But police also said Fowler, who died in prison in the U.S. in 2006, is also a strong suspect in the deaths of at least two other young women, Gale Weys and Pamela Darlington, both killed in 1973.
"The manner in which they were murdered is remarkably similar and that's based not just on the experience of the homicide investigators, but our behavioural scientists as well," RCMP Insp. Gary Shinkaruk said at a Kamloops news conference Wednesday.
Police say they're on the verge of conclusively linking Fowler to the young women's deaths, but they do not have DNA evidence from the killings and are relying on the public to fill the gaps in their investigation.
"We think the answer is in this community, we think the answer is in Clearwater, we think the answer is in Lac La Hache and 100 Mile House," said Staff Sgt. Wayne Clary.
In October 1973, Gale Weys was hitchhiking from Clearwater to Kamloops to visit her parents. Her remains were found the following spring on this logging road. Almost 40 years later, the Weys family is still tortured by their loss, and begging the public for help.
"For our family and other families who are going through the loss of a loved one, there's still that uncertainty of not knowing for sure," said Weys' sister, Dianne Weddell.
In November 1973, Pamela Darlington was last seen at a bar in downtown Kamloops. The next day her body was found in a nearby park, face down in the South Thompson River.
Fowler, who was a transient roofer who worked across the U.S. and in parts of Canada, including Prince George, B.C., worked at the now-closed Happy's Roofing in 1974, say police.
Former company owner Renata Heintzman said Fowler's mug shot only looked vaguely familiar to her, but she was shocked she may have crossed paths with a suspected serial killer.
"It's kind of frightening, you know, how close," she said.
She said the roofing company often hired seasonal employees who usually packed up when the snow began to fall, never to be seen again.
Kamloops man remembers finding body
Investigators said Tuesday Fowler remains a "strong suspect" in the deaths of Gale Weys and Pamela Darlington, both killed in the Kamloops area in 1973.
That news brought relief to Frank Almond, of Kamloops, who discovered Darlington's body on his family's riverside property when he was just 17.
He still has a clear memory of that day.
"The dog kinda ran up to something and it looked like a body, so I kinda got a little nervous," said Almond.
He said he went back home and got his father and together they went to get a better look.
"He came back, he was kinda white as a ghost and he said, 'Yup that's a body.' So we went back and called the police."
Investigators say the last time 19-year-old Pamela Darlington was seen alive was the previous evening at a bar.
Almond says he's relieved to hear, nearly 40 years later, there's been a break in the case.
"It's quite a long time ago. You forget about it, but still you wonder, 'Geez I wonder if they've ever caught the guy that killed all these girls,' you know?"
Meanwhile family members of missing and murdered women in northern B.C. are hoping the Fowler development will bring answers for them.
Missing family remembered
Four members of Marlene Jack's family vanished in August 1989. Her sister Doreen, Doreen's husband Ronald and the couple's two children were offered work at a camp from a stranger in a pub.
The family packed up some belongings and the two boys, and were never seen again.
Now Marlene Jack feels Fowler may have been responsible.
"We now have a name, we now have a face, to go with everything. If we circulate that ... I think these murders will be solved quicker," she said.
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With files from the CBC's Brady Strachan, Marissa Nelson, Leia Hutchings and Robert Zimmerman