Serial killer Bobby Fowler probably not the main Highway of Tears murderer, profiler says

Expert in geographic profiling says time and place match for southern B.C. killings, but not northern ones


Former Vancouver police geographic profiler Kim Rossmo believes a serial killer is responsible for many of the deaths along Highway 16 in the past two decades, but he does not believe Bobby Jack Fowler is the suspect.

Police investigating the deaths and disappearances of 18 young women from three B.C. highways announced this week that Fowler, who died in a U.S. prison in 2006, killed one victim in 1974 and is a “strong suspect” in the deaths of two others from 1973, all of them near Kamloops.

Police say Fowler has not been eliminated as a suspect for seven other victims on their list, whose deaths span 40 years and many hundreds of kilometres.

Rossmo, who was among the first to predict a serial killer was preying on women from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, said it is reasonable that Fowler could be responsible for the three deaths in the 1970s, which all happened close to Kamloops. Bit, in his opinion, it doesn’t make sense that Fowler would have also killed nine young women who vanished along Highway 16 in Northern B.C. between 1989 and 2006.

“It is extremely unlikely, almost to the point of impossibility, given the time frame and when he was arrested,” Rossmo said in a phone interview from Texas State University, where he is a criminal justice professor.

Rossmo, who has a PhD and created the geographic profiling unit at the Vancouver police department, said timing and proximity are key when determining whether one suspect is responsible for multiple crimes.

It made sense, for example, to conclude there was a serial killer preying on sex-trade workers in the Downtown Eastside because they were disappearing from the same neighbourhood over a set period of time, from 1995 to 2001.

Rossmo analyzed the 18 highway cases being investigated by an RCMP team dubbed Project E-Pana for The Vancouver Sun.

The first nine victims on the list, including the women Fowler has been linked to, disappeared from widely separated places in the province between 1969 and 1983.

The last nine women, however, all vanished between 1989 to 2006 along Highway 16 between Prince Rupert and Prince George, a lonely stretch of road dubbed the Highway of Tears.

Rossmo believes a serial killer is responsible for some or all of those cases.

However, he argues it cannot be Fowler, who was arrested in Oregon for a serious crime in 1995 and therefore was likely in jail when the last four women on the list were killed. He is also a suspect in the deaths of four women in Oregon from 1992 to 1995.

“He almost is not in the picture in Canada during the Highway of Tears cases,” Rossmo said.

E-Pana investigators say they also don’t believe one person murdered all 18 victims on their list, but are open to the possibility that a serial killer was responsible for some of the cases.

They have asked for tips from the public about Fowler’s movements before his incarceration in the 1990s, arguing he was a drifter who moved frequently in the United States and at least once, in 1974, to Prince George.

Police have DNA evidence linking Fowler to Colleen MacMillen, whose body was found near 100 Mile House, but no DNA yet to conclusively tie him to Gale Weys and Pamela Darlington, whose bodies were found near Kamloops.

Connie Menton’s niece Leah Germaine was murdered in 1994 in Prince George, and is among the cluster of cases that Rossmo believes could be related. Menton believes her niece’s death is related to another 1994 victim, Roxanne Thiara, but isn’t convinced they are linked to the other cases or to Fowler.

“The police are not gong to convince me that [Fowler] had anything to do with Leah,” Menton said in an interview. “I hope it is true for Colleen and there is closure for that family.”

Brenda Wilson, whose sister Ramona’s body was found in 1995 outside Smithers along Hwy. 16, said in a brief email to The Sun that she understands E-Pana is continuing to investigate Fowler “and Ramona’s case is not eliminated as of yet.”

Mavis Erickson, a former Highway of Tears coordinator in Prince George who worked with many of the families, said she is happy the MacMillens have some answers.

“For the rest of the Highway of Tears, I think it raises hope. I don’t know if that is good ... You still have the other 17 families without any resolution,” Erickson said.

“It’s time for the public to really keep the pressure up on the RCMP that it’s not over. There’s still work to do.”




Missing Women Tip Line: 1-877-687-3377

Updated: August 21, 2016