Highway of Tears
Highway of Tears
Span of crimes
|Location(s)||Prince George, British Columbia|
Prince Rupert, British Columbia
The Highway of Tears is a 725-kilometre (450 mi) corridor of Highway 16 between Prince George and Prince Rupert, British Columbia, Canada, which has been the location of many murders and disappearances beginning in 1970. The phrase was coined during a vigil held in Terrace, British Columbia in 1998, by Florence Naziel, who was thinking of the victims' families crying over their loved ones. There is a disproportionately high number of Indigenous women on the list of victims. Proposed explanations for the years-long endurance of the crimes and the limited progress in identifying culprits include poverty, drug abuse, widespread domestic violence, disconnection with traditional culture and disruption of the family unit through the foster care system and Canadian Indian residential school system. Poverty in particular leads to low rates of car ownership and mobility; thus, hitchhiking is often the only way for many to travel vast distances to see family or go to work, school, or seek medical treatment. Another factor leading to abductions and murders is that the area is largely isolated and remote, with soft soil in many areas and carnivorous scavengers to carry away human remains; these factors precipitate violent attacks, as perpetrators feel a sense of impunity, privacy, and the ability to easily carry out their crimes and hide evidence.
|B.C.‘s infamous Highway of Tears, CBC Archives, 2:32, 21 June 2006, reported by Miyoung Lee|
Accounts vary as to the exact number of victims. According to the RCMP Project E-Pana list the number of victims is fewer than 18. E-Pana includes a large proportion of victims that are not related to the Highway of Tears. Aboriginal organizations estimate that the number of missing and murdered women ranges above 40.
The following list contains, as comprehensively as possible, all women, within the Highway 16 corridor between Prince Rupert and Prince George, who went missing, were murdered or had an unknown cause of death. E-Pana cases are categorized.
|Traci Clifton||Missing||Prince Rupert||1970–1979||Exact date that Traci went missing is not yet public knowledge. It was reported at an inquiry for murdered and missing indigenous women as some time in the 1970s. She had an argument with her mother and left home and started walking highway 16 and was never seen again.|
|Helen Claire Frost||17||Missing||Prince George||1970 (October)||Left her home in downtown Prince George on the evening of 13 October 1970 and was never seen again. She was living with her sister, Sandy, at the time in an apartment on the 1600 block of Queensway. Helen worked a number of jobs around this time, including a bus person at the Prince George HBC cafeteria and for a painting company, painting gas stations between Prince George and Terrace. Sandy did not report her sister missing until 15 October, thinking at first she might have stayed at a friend's house. Police took a missing persons report, but Sandy said she got the impression that "nothing was done."|
|Jean Virginia "Ginny" Sampare||18||Missing||Gitsegukla||1971 (October)||Ginny Sampare went missing on 14 October 1971. Her cousin Alvin was the last person to see her near a bridge on Highway 16 in Gitsegukla. He left Ginny to bike home and get his jacket. As he pedaled back to meet her, he heard a pickup door slam. But when he reached the road, there was no pickup, and his cousin was gone. There was some speculation that Ginny ran away or committed suicide after her boyfriend disappeared, but her family disputes these theories. Her boyfriend's body was found drowned in the Skeena river after she disappeared.|
|Monica Ignas||14||Homicide||Thornhill||1974 (December)||She was believed to be going home from school when she was last seen at 11 pm on 13 December 1974 in Thornhill. She was walking home alone. Her body was found in a gravel pit or a densely forested area on 6 April 1975, east of Terrace, near Celgar Forest Service Road. Two witnesses reported seeing a car pulled over to the side of the road the night Ignas vanished. The pair saw a man and a passenger who looked like a girl inside the vehicle. Monica had been strangled.||E-Pana|
|Coreen Thomas||21||Homicide||Vanderhoof||1976 (July)||Pregnant and just days from giving birth, Thomas was struck and killed by Richard Redekop's truck as she was hitchhiking to her home on Saturday, 3 July 1976. Both mother and baby died (no attempt was made to save baby). Thomas was Indigenous and Redekop is white. Numerous witnesses reported seeing Redekop swerve to hit Thomas. Witnesses were under the age of 16 and were taken in to police custody where, after 3 hours of unsupervised interrogations, they were coerced by police to lie and say that Thomas was playing chicken with Redekop's truck (See Forensic developmental psychology and Child Susceptibility to suggestion). Coroner Eric Turner was satisfied that the death happened by accident, but he later retracted his testimony after it was made public that he was let off with a lesser charge after the drunken hit-and-run death of an Indigenous man which he was responsible for 10 years earlier. Eric Turner also presided over an inquest two years before in the death of Larry Thomas, who was killed by a vehicle operated by Redekop's younger brother Stanley Redekop on the same road where Coreen was killed. During a public formal inquiry, witnesses confirmed that Redekop's truck actually swerved to hit Thomas. Faye Helen Haugen, who was Redekop's companion at the time of Thomas's death, died within two years of Thomas's death.||Despite the inquiry, the Crown did not proceed with charges. In June 1977, Thomas's father proceeded with criminal negligence charges (which may be laid by private citizens) against Richard Redekop. The charges were dismissed due to insufficient evidence.|
|Mary Jane Hill||31||Homicide||Prince Rupert||1978 (March)||Mary Jane Hill was found nude along Highway 16, on 26 March 1978, 34 km (21 mi) from Prince Rupert. Cause of death was determined to be from bronchitis and bronchopneumonia as a result of manslaughter.|
|Jean Mary Kovacs||36||Homicide||Prince George||1981 (October)||Kovacs' nude body was found in a watery ditch, 40 km east of Prince George on 11 October 1981. Police said she died from a .22 caliber bullet wound to her head. Autopsy reports show she had 4 gunshot wounds to the head. Kovacs was last seen alive at about 1:30 AM on 10 October 1981, at the intersection of the Old Cariboo Highway and Highway 16 East. The first nations woman was found by a man gathering firewood near Purden Lake.||Serial killer Edward Dennis Isaac was charged with the murder of Kovacs in February 1988.|
|Roswitha Fuchsbichler||13||Homicide||Prince George||1981 (November)||Rosithwa was reported missing at 6:45 PM on 14 November 1981; she last talked to a friend at 2 AM that morning. Rosithwa's body was found in a wooded area north of Prince George at 9:25 AM on 21 November 1981. Edward Isaac had picked her up hitchhiking and claimed he killed her "to see what it felt like." Her body had been mangled and mutilated but she died from a single stab wound to the heart. Her body had been stripped naked, stabbed and slashed before being dumped.||Serial killer Edward Dennis Isaac was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced on 11 May 1987 to life in prison with no chance of parole for 15 years.|
|Nina Marie Joseph||15||Homicide||Prince George||1982 (August)||Nina Joseph's nude body was found on 16 August 1982 in Freeman Park with a cord from her Jacket around her neck. Her body had been stripped naked, stabbed and slashed before being dumped.||Serial killer Edward Dennis Isaac was convicted of manslaughter in connection to Nina Joseph's death on June 1986. He was arrested on 7 February 1986 in Fort St James May have remained unsolved if it wasn't for the testimony of Isaac's ex-girlfriend who helped him dispose of the body.|
|Doreen Jack||26||Missing||Prince George||1989 (August)||The Jack family left their home on Strathcona Avenue in Prince George, heading to a logging camp, where they had been offered jobs and daycare for the children. Ronald and Doreen Jack and their two children Russell, 9, and Ryan, 4, were last heard from during the early hours of 2 August 1989, when Ronald called his mother in the Burns Lake area.|
|Alberta Gail Williams||24||Homicide||Prince Rupert||1989 (August)||Alberta Williams went missing in the early morning hours of 26 August 1989. She was last seen at Popeye's, a since closed pub in downtown Prince Rupert. She was seen near closing time by her sister Claudia. Alberta said she was going to a house party. Claudia turned around and Alberta had gone. Alberta was last seen wearing a blue sweatshirt and black stretch pants with slip-on shoes. Alberta's naked body was found on 25 Sept. 1989, about 37 km (23 mi) east of Prince Rupert, BC, near the Tyee Overpass. She had been strangled and sexually assaulted. According to the field notes of RCMP officer, Gerry Kerr, on September 12th, shortly before Alberta's body was found, bloody clothes resembling the ones she wore the night that she went missing were found near the ferry terminal in Prince Rupert. Among the items, a blue sweater, slipper-type shoe, a jumpsuit, a pillow case, two pillow covers, a sock, a shoelace and a crumpled up piece of paper were found as well. The clothes appeared to be tossed in the bush. These clothes were seized but likely destroyed by the RCMP, as Gary said that RCMP indicated it wasn't related to Alberta Williams's disappearance. There is a strong possibility that the RCMP didn't take the evidence seriously because Williams body had not yet been found.. A 2006 article indicated that the family wanted Alberta to remain off the "RCMP Highway of Tears list". Alberta was placed on the RCMP's E-Pana list, possibly against the family's wishes.||E-Pana|
|Cecilia Anne Nikal||15||Missing||Smithers||1989 (October)||Cecilia Nikal was last seen in October 1989, a year before her cousin Delphine Nikal went missing. Reports of her last known location vary. She was last reported in Smithers, near Highway 16, but family reports she may have moved to Vancouver Island and RCMP reported her last in Vancouver, but can not confirm with family. Cecilia also had a cousin, Roberta Cecilia Nikal, who was murdered a few years after Delphine disappeared.|
|Marnie Blanchard||18||Homicide||Prince George||1989 (November)||Last seen at 2 am, 22 November 1989, leaving the Rock Pit Cabaret in Prince George. She was last seen entering a grey Toyota pickup truck with a white canopy outside the Rock Pit Cabaret. The driver had black shoulder length hair. The truck headed west on Second Avenue. Her remains were discovered by cross country skiers Wilf and Mae Peckham at about 3 pm on 11 December 1989, on an unmarked road west of Foothills Blvd. The remains had been disturbed by animals and were identified by dental and x-ray records.||30 year old serial killer Brian Peter Arp was arrested on 26 July 1990 in relation to Blanchard's murder and though evidence was obtained, they didn't conclusively prove Arp's guilt and Arp was released. He provided DNA evidence but DNA technology wasn't adequate to determine a match. He was re-arrested in murder of Marnie Blanchard after having been arrested for the murder of Therese Umphrey over two years later. He was convicted of both murders using improved DNA technology.|
|Kimberly Dumais||0||Homicide||Prince Rupert||1990 (February)||On 5 February 1990, at approximately 5:15 AM, Prince Rupert fire crews were called to a fire at 153 3rd Ave West, the Brooks Bank Building. When they arrived, the building was engulfed in flames. Four people died in the blaze, including infant Kimberly Dumais (granddaughter), Helga Rochon (grandmother), Sherri Rochon (daughter) and Pauline Rochon (daughter). At the time, Helga was hosting her daughters and granddaughter in her third floor apartment for an overnight visit. Law enforcement determined that the blaze was set deliberately, and that this was the second time in a few months that a blaze was set deliberately to this building. On 31 October 1989, at approximately 2:45 AM, the same building was set on fire where the cause of the fire was also determined to be deliberate. Years later, the family received a letter from an anonymous source claiming to be responsible for the arson. The RCMP is not ruling out that this was a targeted attack. There was a business on the ground floor of the apartment, The Linen Closet, owned by Gina Garon, which never re-opened.|
|Helga Rochon||45||Homicide||Prince Rupert||1990 (February)||Died in same blaze that claimed lives of Kimberly Dumais, Sherri Rochon and Pauline Rochon.|
|Sherri Rochon||26||Homicide||Prince Rupert||1990 (February)||Died in same blaze that claimed lives of Kimberly Dumais, Helga Rochon and Pauline Rochon.|
|Pauline Rochon||19||Homicide||Prince Rupert||1990 (February)||Died in same blaze that claimed lives of Kimberly Dumais, Helga Rochon and Sherri Rochon.|
|Delphine Anne Camelia Nikal||15||Missing||Smithers||1990 (June)||Delphine Nikal vanished on 13 June 1990. She was last seen hitchhiking along Highway 16 and King Street on her way home to Telkwa, BC  At approx. 10:00 pm, Delphine called her uncle to tell him that she was on her way home from Smithers. She was last seen by her two friends hitchhiking in the east bound lane of Highway 16. Delphine went missing about a year after her cousin Cicilia went missing. Delphine also had a cousin, Roberta Cicilia Nikal, who was murdered a few years after Delphine disappeared.||E-Pana|
|Donna Mae Charlie||22||Homicide||Prince George||1990
|In September 1990, Donna Charlie was reported missing. She came to Prince George from Fort Ware with her boyfriend Jerry Smaaslet. Both were using marijuana, magic mushrooms and drinking. Both checked into the Sportsman's Motel near the time of Charlie's death in early September. The motel owner, Richard Hunter, testified that on Saturday, the motel room was a shambles and there was blood on the walls. On April 17, 1991, the police located her headless body buried in a shallow grave in a vacant lot, near the Sportsman's Motel. Smaaslet testified that the body was buried some time after her death in a vacant lot across from the Ingledew playground. Smaaslet's cousin Sheryl Girroir and a younger male cousin helped bury the body. Charlie's head was never found, but Smaaslet testified that he buried it on Connaught Hill.||In May 1991, 30 year old Jerry Smaaslet of Fort Ware was charged with the murder. It was determined in trial that Smaaslet murdered Charlie in early September 1990, behind the Sportsman's Motel on Queensway. Smaaslet claimed that he found Charlie behind the motel and looking very blue colored. During the trial, two witnesses testified that Smaaslet told them he mutilated Charlie while she was still alive. Defense lawyer Larry Walker said "Smaaslet had a good upbringing and was a good candidate for rehabilitation". A jury convicted Smaaslet of second-degree murder but the conviction was overturned by the Court of Appeal and a new trial ordered. In May 1995, Smaaslet pled guilty to manslaughter and served an additional year to the 38 months served already. Smaalset was arrested again in 2001 for another incident involving a woman and a hotel room and was sentenced as a dangerous offender for an indefinite period.|
|Maureen Sullivan||Homicide||Prince George||1992 (January)||Maureen was shot in January 1992 by her husband Wayne Sullivan. Wayne was drunk and became enraged when Maureen refused to enter into a threesome with Maureen and her friend Sandi. Wayne shot Maureen in the head with his handgun in their Prince George home and assaulted Sandi soon after.||Wayne Sullivan was convicted of his wife's murder but later released on 19 March 1999, upon an appeal of "Not Criminally Responsible Because of a Mental Disorder" This appeal was defended by expert witness testimony which said that Wayne didn't know what he was doing while drunk. Wayne was restricted from consuming alcohol and was jailed in the summer of 1998 for failing to produce a blood sample. Wayne was given an absolute discharge because the Attorney General's Ministry failed to produce a report stating why the restrictions should stay.|
|Therese Umphrey||Homicide||Prince George||1993 (February)||Umphrey was last seen intoxicated outside of a convenience store in Prince George on 14 February 1993. Some men reported giving her a ride, but when she couldn't remember where she lived, they drove her back to the convenience store. Her nude, partially frozen body was found on a snowbank about 50 km southwest of Prince George at about 2:30 pm on 14 February 1993. The forensic pathologist who performed the autopsy reported that her death was caused by manual strangulation and then strangulation with a ligature similar to a shoelace found at the scene.||Serial killer Brian Peter Arp was arrested on 4 October 1993 and later convicted in the murder of Therese Umphrey and Marnie Blanchard. He applied for an appeal in 1998 and it was subsequently denied.|
|Ramona Lisa Wilson||16||Homicide||Smithers||1994
|She was hitchhiking from Smithers to attend a dance and stay with friends in Hazelton, BC on 1 June 1994. Ramona's remains were found April 1995 north of Yellich Road near the Smithers Airport. Several items were in a small organized pile a few feet away.||E-Pana|
|Roxanne Thiara||15||Homicide||Burns Lake||1994 (July)||She went missing in Prince George on the July long weekend in 1994. She had worked as a prostitute and told a friend she was going out with a customer. She walked around the corner of a building and was never heard from again. Her body was found 17 August 1994, in the bush along Highway 16, 6 km (3.7 mi) east of Burns Lake. She knew victim Alisha Germaine||E-Pana|
|Alisha 'Leah' Germaine||15||Homicide||Prince George||1994 (December)||She was found murdered on 9 December 1994, behind Haldi Road Elementary School off of Highway 16 W. outside of Prince George. Leah was stabbed to death. She knew victim Roxanne Thiara||E-Pana|
|Sheila Faye Kinequon||25||Homicide||Prince George||1995 (April)||Sheila's body was discovered on 5 April 1995, along with the body of her daughter Christine, in their McIntyre crescent apartment. They had been strangled. Sheila was a student at the College of New Caledonia. Sheila was the estranged common law wife of John Joseph Seymour.||The body of John Joseph Seymour, 26, was discovered the same day as the bodies of his estranged common law wife and daughter under the Alex Fraser bridge in Delta. His body was found 15 meters under the bridge on a dirt parking lot.|
|Christine Kinequon||3||Homicide||Prince George||1995 (April)||Strangled body found 5 April 1995 along with that of her mother Sheila in their Prince George apartment. Was the daughter of John Joseph Seymour.||The body of John Joseph Seymour, 26, was discovered the same day as the bodies of his estranged common law wife and daughter under the Alex Fraser bridge in Delta. His body was found 15 meters under the bridge on a dirt parking lot.|
|Lana Derrick||19||Missing||Thornhill||1995 (October)||She was last seen in October 1995 at a service station in Thornhill. One rumor said she got into the car with two unidentified men.||E-Pana|
|Hazel White||Homicide||Cluculz Lake||1996 (April)||On 29 April 1996, White was killed staying at Bonnie Mooney's house. Mooney's ex-husband, Roland Kruska, broke into the house, killing White and wounding Mooney's 12-year-old daughter with a sawed-off shotgun. Several weeks before the attack, on 11 March, Mooney went to Prince George RCMP to report that Kruska chased her in his vehicle after an argument. The officer, Constable Craig Andrichuk, took a statement from Mooney and advised her to get a lawyer. Her case was then closed and left un-investigated.||Kruska attempted to set fire to Mooney's house and killed himself with a shot to the head from his gun. Kruska was on probation at the time after serving 21 days in jail for choking Mooney and beating her with a cane. He had also been convicted of manslaughter in 1979, and of sexual assault in 1985.|
|Wendy Ann Twiss Ratte||47||Missing||Prince George||1997 (August)||Disappeared while shopping in downtown Prince George. Her vehicle was discovered at what is now Value Village after she was reported missing on 18 August 1997. The case idled for years, until husband Denis Ratte was charged with second-degree murder in 2008. Dennis was enticed to confess to undercover RCMP officers during a Mr. Big sting. During the operation, Dennis confessed to shooting his wife and dumping her naked body in a swamp.||Dennis Ratte was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of his wife, Wendy Ratte.|
|Linda Geraldine Le Franc||36||Homicide||Terrace||1998 (December)||Linda was stabbed by Christopher Maurice Alexander in her Terrace apartment on 9 December 1998. Alexander was 17 years old when he broke into Le Franc's home and stabbed her 83 times with a knife taken from the kitchen. Her seven-year-old daughter was in the house at the time. Le Franc and Alexander were known to each other and were neighbors at the time of the attack.||Christopher Maurice Alexander was arrested in late 1999 following an RCMP Mr. Big operation, during which he admitted to the killing. He received a life sentence in 2002 on a second-degree murder conviction. Alexander was granted day parole in April 2015.|
|Amanda Jean Simpson||4||Homicide||Prince George||1999 (October)||On 30 October 1999, Amanda was taken to Prince George Regional Hospital with massive head and abdominal injuries. She was brought to the hospital by her mother and stepfather, Terry Walton and Ronald Rory (Roy?) Polson. She died three days later in BC Children's Hospital. During a coroner's inquest into the case, three different medical experts testified that Amanda's injuries were not consistent with Ron Polson's version of events that Amanda fell. Dr. Margaret Colbourne of B.C. Children's Hospital, who examined the girl before she died, told the inquest that Amanda's head injuries were similar to those that would be suffered in a fall from a three-storey building. Dr Colbourne said: "This wasn't an accident. She was beaten to death." In the doctor's opinion, Amanda had been "battered, shaken, struck, punched, kicked, stomped, and perhaps thrown." The inquest ruled Amanda's cause of death as a homicide. Between 1991 and 1999 the B.C. Ministry of Social Services had received 22 child-protection complaints about Amanda's family. Only after Amanda's death was custody of her three sisters handed over to the ministry.||Despite the testimony of numerous witnesses, three of them expert witnesses, and a criminal inquiry ruling the death a homicide, charges were never laid in Amanda's death. Terry Walton did take the government to court for custody of her remaining children.|
|Monica McKay||18||Homicide||Prince Rupert||1999 (December)||McKay was last seen by friends before midnight 31 December 1999. She was reported missing two days later by family when she didn't return home. Her body was discovered on 8 January 2000, by a passerby. McKay's body was dumped beside a dumpster. Even though this case meets the criteria for E-Pana, RCMP reported that they had no reason to believe this was connected to the Highway of Tears cases. Const. Mike Herchuck of Prince George RCMP stated "When you get the volume of kids we have missing – especially those that are turning up dead, or sexually abused, or kidnapped and tortured, you can't help but want to connect the dots." No suspects have been charged to date.|
|Tracey Nadine Jack (Wolfe)||28||Homicide||Prince George||2000 (July)||Tracey was shot by her estranged husband on 5 July 2000 at a Harley Davidson dealership where she worked in Prince George. She was shot with a large caliber handgun. Witnesses reported seeing her chased by Wolfe, across the parking lot and into the dealership while he shot at her. One witness, who eventually wrestled the gun out of Wolfe's hand, reported that Wolfe stepped on Tracey's back and then shot her in the head before shooting her boyfriend in the stomach.||Gordon Darrell Wolfe was arrested soon after the incident and was sentenced for the maximum penalty of 25 years for first-degree murder, 15 years for attempted murder and 1 year for contempt of court. All sentences to be served concurrently.|
|Savannah Hall||3||Homicide||Prince George||2001 (January)||Was found gurgling and gasping by foster parents Patricia and Thomas Keene in their Prince George home. A leather harness, the sort normally used to teach toddlers to walk, would be fastened to her chest and shoulders. Straps would then be tied to her crib, to keep her in place.||A coroner's inquest was held which determined the cause of death was homicide. No charges were ever laid. However the Keenes were taken off the Ministry of Children and Family Development's "preferred homes" list for foster care. Thomas Keene subsequently attempted to sue the BC government for "loss of profits" due to the loss of income his family received from foster care after being removed from preferred homes list (BC Civil Court file 14097/03)|
|Ada Elaine Brown||39||Unknown||Prince George||2001 (April)||Body found on 9 April 2001 in a hotel room in Prince George. According to the CBC, the coroner's report lists the cause of death as a "subdural hemorrhage and complications of alcoholism". The family believes she was assaulted and killed by a man she knew.||No charges were ever laid.|
|Leah Marie Faulkner||21||Homicide||Prince George||2002 (February)||Faulkner, originally from Quesnel and looking for work in Prince George for a year, went missing from her Prince George home on 11 February 2002. Her body was found 6 March 2002 submerged under the ice of Beaverly Creek near West Lake after police received a phone call from a Surrey lawyer telling them the location of the body. The official cause of death was asphyxiation. According to evidence heard at a preliminary inquiry, Neudorf, Leah's boyfriend, choked Faulkner until she passed out. When she regained consciousness, she threw up and choked on her own vomit.||Tyler James Neudorf, 22, was arrested on 19 April 2002 in Kamloops, BC. He was charged with second-degree murder, but pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of manslaughter on 10 June 2003. He was sentenced 3 October 2003 to seven years plus time served. He was released 15 October 2009 |
|Nicole Hoar||24||Missing||Prince George||2002 (June)||Nicole Hoar was last seen hitchhiking to Smithers. Originally from Red Deer, Alberta, Nicole was last seen at a gas station at 5952 Gauthier Road, west of Prince George, on 21 June 2002 at approximately 14:50 talking to a 30-ish year old caucasian man in an orange car||Police investigated convicted murderer Leland Vincent Switzer and searched his Isle Pierre property but no further actions followed the investigation.||E-Pana|
|Kayla Rose McKay||13||Homicide||Prince Rupert||2004 (April)||McKay's body was found 15 April 2004, near the Prince Rupert harbor front on George Hills Way. Although RCMP stated that they are confident McKay did not die from murder or suicide, investigators said they were not ruling out the possibility of "criminal involvement" in her death.|
|Helena Jack||71||Homicide||Burns Lake||2004 (July)||Jack was murdered on 29 July 2004. Her badly beaten and burned remains were found in her burnt out garage next to her home in the 600 block of Highway 16. Evidence in the garage led to a local hotel room where evidence was found to convict Vincent Sam.||Vincent Sam was charged with murder on 4 September 2004. He was later convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment.|
|Barbara Ann Joseph||43||Homicide||Fort St. James||2004 (September)||Barbara Joseph was last seen on 4 September 2004. Her body was discovered on 5 September 2004. Joseph was last seen alive at 11 p.m. She was found in a house on Lower Road in Nak’azdli the next day. Her throat had been slashed.||Joseph's cousin Winchester Orlando Thomas was convicted of manslaughter, arrested November 2004, and sentenced to 12 years on October 30, 2006. In a press release, Sgt Steve Berney was quoted “The members of the North District Major Crime Unit and members of the Fort St. James and Tachie satellite detachments spent their own time to bring this to fruition.” It was revealed in court that both Joseph and Thomas had been at a party the night of her death when an argument had broken out between the two. Thomas ended up choking out Joseph, cutting her throat, sexually assaulting her and then cutting her abdomen from her right side to her naval. The official cause of death was asphyxiation from blood in the lungs.|
|Margaret Nooski||89||Missing||Fraser Lake||2004 (October)||Was last seen hitchhiking near Fraser Lake when she went missing on the afternoon of Saturday 2 October 2004. She was last seen near the Nautley Road turn-off on Highway 16. A helicopter searched for her on 5 October 2004. She was suffering from dementia and had difficulty walking. RCMP stated that they think she may have been trying to get to Prince George, or she may have headed into the bush in search of her traditional trapping territory.|
|Melanie Dawn Brown||31||Homicide||Prince George||2004 (December)||Found deceased in a Prince George basement suite on 8 December 2004. Cause of death was a gunshot wound|
|Mary Madeline George||Missing||Prince George||2005 (July)||Mary was reportedly walking to a clinic in Prince George when she was last seen on 24 July 2005 at 6pm.|
|Tamara Lynn Chipman||22||Missing||Prince Rupert||2005 (September)||Last seen in Prince Rupert, on 25 September 2005, while hitchhiking east on Highway 16 near the Industrial Park.||E-Pana|
|Candace Marie Kalmokoff||20||Homicide||Prince George||2006 (January)||Candace was strangled on the morning of 1 January 2006 by acquaintance Vernon Kyle Wilson from Kispiox. After leaving the Iron Horse Pub at approximately 12:15 p.m., Wilson, Kalmokoff and a friend returned to Kalmokoff's home in the 500 block of Winnipeg Street, both Wilson and Kalmokoff were intoxicated. After the friend left, Wilson entered Kalmokoff's bedroom. Wilson said that he and Kalmokoff, "had passionate, mutual French kiss," before Kalmokoff turned away. "At that point I was overwhelmed with rage. I grabbed her by the throat, threw her on the bed and started choking her. I hit her in the face," said Wilson. "After Candace stopped struggling, I didn’t know what to do." Wilson said he went outside, smoked some marijuana, then went back inside and raped her body before or after looking at violent pornography on the Internet. Later on New Year's Day, Wilson gathered up the bloody sheets and disposed of them in a dumpster. He purchased a plastic tote container and put Kalmokoff's body in it. He took her to the alley behind the 1500 block of 15th Avenue (Remax center) and attempted to burn her body. However, that did not work. After meeting his stepfather, Wilson led police to the body around 8 p.m. on New Year's Day. Wilson reported the details of the murder and attempted cover up to a forensic psychiatrist, Dr. Shabraham Lohrasbe. Candace was a nursing student at the College of New Caledonia.||Vernon Kyle Wilson, 19, was arrested the same day of the incident, charged with manslaughter and was later sentenced to life in prison on Friday, 31 August 2007, with no chance of parole for 13 years.|
|Aielah Katherina Saric-Auger||14||Homicide||Prince George||2006 (February)||The body of Aielah Saric-Auger, 14, was found February 10, 2006 shortly after she went missing on February 2, 2006. After going to the mall with her brother and sister, Aielah went to a friend's house for a sleepover. Overnight, she was spotted walking north, in the 2100 block of Quince Street. Video surveillance shows Aielah walking towards her home and passing the Save-On-Foods gas bar at 100-1600 15th avenue at around 1 a.m. It was reported that she was last seen getting into a black van. A motorist found Saric-Auger in a ditch near a turn off on Highway 16 near Tabor Mountain, nearly 20 km (12 mi) east of Prince George.||E-Pana|
|Stephanie Joy Donnelly||16||Homicide||Kitimat||2006 (November)||Stephanie was stabbed three times in the heart and had her throat slashed by her father, Blair Evan Donnelly, on the evening of 23 November 2006 between 9:30 pm and 10:00 pm. Blair's intended target was his wife, whom he believed a divine force was telling him to kill. The incident happened in the Donnelly's home.||Blair Evan Donnelly, 47 at the time of the incident, is a Kitimat electrician who once trained as a pastor and helped establish a church in Ontario, was found not guilty by reason of mental disorder in January 2008. In February 2009, he won the chance to have unsupervised community visits up to 28 days in length. While out on one of these visits in October 2009, he stabbed a friend – but this time was held criminally responsible for his actions. He is now back in the hospital and as of April 2011, the review board has ruled he may have escorted community visits again if the hospital director thinks it is appropriate.|
|Beverly Warbrick||Missing||Prince George||2007 (June)||Went missing from the 2100 block of Oak Street in Prince George in June 2007.|
|Bonnie Marie Joseph||32||Missing||Vanderhoof||2007 (September)||Bonnie, a mother of five, was last seen in Vanderhoof on the afternoon of 8 September 2007 by her cousin Joanne. Joseph was seen hitchhiking from Vanderhoof to Prince George, where she had a court date the next day. She was nearing the end of a series of court dates to get her children back from the government. She was close to getting her children back and never missed a single court date until 9 September. She was reported missing in December 2007 by her aunt Rose Joseph. Police say she led a high-risk lifestyle and was known to hitchhike alone between Fort St. James, Vanderhoof and Prince George; thus, Joseph's case matches all criteria for E-Pana investigation but was not chosen as part of the E-Pana list for unknown reasons. Her family considers her disappearance to be out of character. According to her cousin Vanessa Joseph, before Bonnie was reported missing and after she was last seen, her wallet and ID was found near a lake with an un-cashed cheque still in it. It was turned into the RCMP, who reported this discovery to Bonnie Joseph's sister Sharon a year later.|
|Brittany Giese||19||Homicide||Prince George||2008 (October)||On 7 October 2008 police were alerted by phone to a house on Webber Crescent in Prince George, where Brittany Giese and Garrett McComb were found dead.||It was reported in the Globe and Mail that the deaths were gang related|
|Jill Stacey Stuchenko||35||Homicide||Prince George||2009 (October)||Her body was found in October 2009 in a gravel pit on the outskirts of Prince George. She had died from multiple blows to the head. She was known to be engaged in sex work. She left behind five children.||Cody Legebokoff was arrested on 27 November 2010 and convicted of first-degree murder on 11 September 2014. On 11 September 2014, Canadian serial killer Cody Legebokoff was convicted of first-degree murder in the deaths of Loren Donn Leslie, Jill Stacey Stuchenko, Cynthia Frances Maas and Natasha Lynn Montgomery. In September 2016 the BC Court of Appeal confirmed the original conviction. Legebokoff was age 20 when he was arrested.|
|Emmalee Rose Mclean||16||Unknown||Prince Rupert||2010 (April)||McLean's body was found by a passerby on the afternoon of Saturday 10 April 2010. Her body was found partially submerged in the Prince Rupert harbour between Northwest Fuels barge and Ocean Royal fish plant. It was reported that McLean was with people the night before when she was last seen alive. It was also reported that "[t]he people she was with that night, ... were not people she could trust 100 per cent. Some she could trust, but not all of them.." An autopsy was performed, with preliminary findings indicating cause of death as drowning. Although the police have not called this a homicide, they have stated that they have not ruled out foul play.|
|Natasha Lynn Montgomery||23||Homicide||Prince George||2010 (August)||Montgomery was last heard from 26 August 2010 when she called her parents to "touch base." She was known to be engaged in sex work. Serial killer Cody Legebokoff was convicted of her murder, though Natasha's body has never been found. Natasha's DNA was discovered on Legebokoff's shorts, hoodie, throughout his apartment, and on his axe.||Cody Legebokoff was arrested on 27 November 2010 and convicted of first-degree murder on 11 September 2014. On 11 September 2014, Canadian serial killer Cody Legebokoff was convicted of first-degree murder in the deaths of Loren Donn Leslie, Jill Stacey Stuchenko, Cynthia Frances Maas and Natasha Lynn Montgomery. In September 2016 the BC Court of Appeal confirmed the original conviction. Legebokoff was age 20 when he was arrested.|
|Cynthia Frances Maas||35||Homicide||Prince George||2010 (September)||The remains of Cynthia Frances Maas were found in L.C. Gunn Park, near Prince George, on 9 Oct. at approximately 2 am. Maas was last seen 10 Sept. in the area of Juniper Street and 19 Avenue In Prince George. She was reported missing by family members and friends on 23 Sept. after she failed to check in with them. She had died from blunt force trauma and penetrating wounds to the chest. She was discovered by RCMP Cpl Kent MacNeil. She had defense wounds and her pants were rolled down to her ankles. She was known to be engaged in sex work. Her head was almost completely skeletonized and detached from her neck at time of discovery.||Cody Legebokoff was arrested on 27 November 2010 by RCMP officer Aaron Kehler. Legebokoff was convicted of first-degree murder on 11 September 2014. On 11 September 2014, Canadian serial killer Cody Legebokoff was convicted of first-degree murder in the deaths of Loren Donn Leslie, Jill Stacey Stuchenko, Cynthia Frances Maas and Natasha Lynn Montgomery. In September 2016 the BC Court of Appeal confirmed the original conviction. Legebokoff was age 20 when he was arrested.|
|Linda Fredin||56||Homicide||Prince George||2010 (November)||Linda Fredin was trapped in her wheelchair when her home was consumed by fire on 24 November 2010. She was transported to Vancouver General Hospital where she died three days later.||Police believe that the crime may have been linked to gang violence.|
|Loren Donn Leslie||15||Homicide||Vanderhoof||2010 (November)||Was an acquaintance of serial killer Cody Legebokoff, whom she met online. Her body was found in November 2010 on a remote logging road just off Highway 27 near Fort St James. Legebokoff was pulled over by police on 27 November 2010 and was in possession of Loren's belongings and covered in Loren's blood.||Cody Legebokoff was arrested on 27 November 2010 by RCMP officer Aaron Kehler. Legebokoff was convicted of first-degree murder on 11 September 2014. On 11 September 2014, Canadian serial killer Cody Legebokoff was convicted of first-degree murder in the deaths of Loren Donn Leslie, Jill Stacey Stuchenko, Cynthia Frances Maas and Natasha Lynn Montgomery. In September 2016 the BC Court of Appeal confirmed the original conviction. Legebokoff was age 20 when he was arrested.|
|Chassidy Charlie||17||Homicide||Burns Lake||2011 (January)||Burns Lake RCMP were called to an Uncha Mountain Road home at approximately 3:45 p.m. on 26 January. 2011 following the report of an unconscious girl at the home. The girl's mother, Geraldine Charlie, said "Her face was burnt, half of her hair was gone and her cell phone is missing," ||In May 2012, a 17-year-old Burns Lake male was charged with second-degree murder in connection with the death of Chassidy Charlie. The male "was known to Chassidy,"|
|Madison "Maddy" Geraldine Scott||20||Missing||Vanderhoof||2011
|Madison was last seen during the early morning hours of 28 May 2011 at Hogsback Lake, 25 km (16 mi) southeast of Vanderhoof. "Maddy" vanished after attending a party at Hogsback Lake with a friend Jordi Bolduc. According to her own testimony, Jordi left Maddy there because Jordi was drunk and injured, and Maddy, already settled in for the night, didn't want to leave her sleeping bag. Maddy last communicated with others at the party around 4 am and was never heard from again. The next morning Jordi went back to the campsite, but didn't see Maddy. Jordi reported that she saw that Maddy's tent door was open and the bedding was pushed to one side. Not thinking much of it, Jordi went to work. More than a day later, Madison's parents went to check on Madison and reported her missing to the police shortly after discovering her abandoned truck and flattened tent at the lake. Numerous items of value were found on, in and around the truck, which included unopened liquor, gasoline, motorbike equipment, camera and purse. An iPhone 5 with a blue case and a set of keys with a gothic themed lanyard are among some of the items known to be missing. Police said that there was no sign of a struggle and that foul play is suspected.|
|Maria Practicante Rego||47||Homicide||Kitimat||2011 (October)||On 9 October 2011, around 7 a.m., Kitimat RCMP were called to a residence in the area of Whitesail road for an alleged break and enter with assault, whereby officers found a man and woman, who had been assaulted and were in need of immediate medical help. The woman, Maria Rego, succumbed to her injuries and died four days later; the man, her husband, survived. A 19-year-old man was arrested nearby without incident.||Tyler Scott Eli was convicted to life imprisonment for second-degree murder on 25 March 2015.|
|Unnamed||Unknown||Telkwa||2011 (November)||In the early morning of 11 November 2011, police and medical first responders were called to a scene at a road in Telkwa, where a woman was found in the middle of a road. The woman had received life-threatening injuries and later died in hospital. Said RCMP spokesperson Dan Moskaluk, "Police are treating the death as possibly being criminal in nature and arrested an adult male who was found at the scene on police arrival." The man was taken into police custody Friday and released Saturday morning. Moskaluk said the woman and the man knew each other. No charges were laid at the time. The woman's body was flown to Vancouver for an autopsy. The results of the autopsy were not released to public.|
|April Rose Johnson||18||Homicide||Vanderhoof||2012 (December)||Johnson was shot on the afternoon of Thursday, 20 December 2012, by her recently engaged fiancé, Kayne Sabbe Penner. The two had paid an unplanned visit to the home of Penner's cousin, Richard Borne, in the mid-afternoon to celebrate their engagement, as well as Borne's birthday and the holiday season. Borne's girlfriend, Patricia Heichert, also lived in the home, a single-wide mobile home in the 6200 block of McLeod Road in Vanderhoof. Penner claimed that the .22 calibre rifle which shot Johnson "kind of just slipped, hit the counter and went off." A ballistics expert testified during Penner's trial that the rifle was not prone to discharging when dropped. Johnson arrived at the hospital, less than a 10-minute drive away, just before 4 p.m. Johnson was shot in the upper left abdomen, and because her health was declining rapidly, she was transferred by ambulance to University Hospital of Northern British Columbia, where she died shortly before 2 a.m. on 21 December. Penner's Facebook page indicated that he was seeing another woman within two months of the shooting.||In June 2015, Provincial Crown Counsel approved charges of manslaughter with a firearm and careless use of a firearm on 27-year-old Penner. The Crown also approved charges of careless storage of a firearm, careless use of a firearm and unauthorized possession of a firearm against 38-year-old Borne. The two were arrested shortly after charges were approved.|
|Tara Lee Ann Williams||40||Homicide||Vanderhoof||2013 (January)||On 13 January 2013, the body of Williams, along with Blaine Albert Barfoot, were found at a home in Vanderhoof, BC. Police suspected foul play and soon after asked public to come forward with any information if anyone had seen someone with recently acquired injuries to their hands or arms (defensive wounds).|
|Destiny Rae Tom||21||Homicide||Fraser Lake||2013 (March)||Was found dead On 23 March 2013 outside a home on the Nadleh Whut'en First Nation in northern B.C. She had been severely beaten. Destiny left behind one daughter.||Garrett Steven George was charged in February 2015 of second-degree murder in the case. George had a criminal record that includes convictions for assault, assault with a weapon and assault causing bodily harm in Burns Lake and Prince George.|
|Immaculate "Mackie" Mary Basil||26||Missing||Tachie||2013 (June)||Mother of a five-year-old son, "Mackie" had recently broke up with the father of the child, her common law husband. Her family described her as a "home body" who didn't have drug problems. The night she went missing, she was at a house party on Thursday 13 June 2013, a 20-minute walk away from her house in Tachie, she left at midnight. She was last seen after the house party, heading to a cabin in the Leo Creek area, north of Tachie. According to police reports from interviews with the men, Mackie was with two men, one her cousin Keith, and the other a man named Victor in a white truck, heading towards a cabin near Kuzche reserve. They had been drinking and were going to pickup tin. When the truck got stuck after an accident, she separated from the two and headed for the cabin alone. This is what was told to the police by Keith and Victor. Mackie would usually call her sisters every day at 10 am. Her sister, Chrystal became alarmed after a few days of not receiving a call. Mackie was reported missing to the RCMP Monday 17 June 2013 by Chrystal. The RCMP came to Fort St James to file a missing persons report on 18 June 2013. Mackie didn't bring an extra set of clothes or makeup, which she changed daily, and her family considers her disappearance to be out of character. The police had conducted a polygraph test of both Keith and Victor and reported that both were "cooperative." A police psychologist also conducted an interview of both men, and reported to the public there was nothing suspicious. Numerous witnesses reported seeing Victor in Tachie at 10 am, 14 June 2013, the day of Mackie's disappearance, "walking down the road, clothes wet up to his chest." Mackie went missing one hours drive away by vehicle from Fort St James, at a place called "16 kilometer." It is not known how Victor got back to Tachie so soon without a vehicle.|
|Anita Florence Thorne||49||Missing||Prince George||2014 (November)||Thorne was reported missing on the evening of Wednesday 19 November 2014, at 8:15 PM. She was last seen that morning, at SuperSave Gas at 950 Victoria Street, then at a nearby Tim Horton's. RCMP found her car midday of the 20th at the turn off to Willow River, 30 km away from where she was last seen. Her purse was inside the unlocked vehicle, and visible, with nothing apparently missing. She is believed to have her keys, cigarettes, lighter and cell phone (which had gone unanswered when called) in her possession. Anita was wearing a white hoodie with a black puffy vest, and with her brown hair up in a bun. She is Caucasian 157 cm (5'2") tall, weighing 66 kg (145 lbs), with brown eyes and brown shoulder length hair. Numerous people described her as someone who would "give the shirt off her back" to help someone in need.|
|Shirley Williams||77||Homicide||Granisle||2016 (April)||RCMP shot and killed Shirley and her son Jôvan Williams early on the afternoon of Thursday 21 April 2016. RCMP say they were called to a "neighbour dispute involving a handgun" at about 12:30 p.m. PT. Police say they arrived at 1:22 p.m., surrounded the home, and tried to make contact with the residents. They say one person exited the home and confronted officers, and shots were fired at 2:50 p.m. A second person then exited the home and also confronted police, and shots were fired again. RCMP say both people died after being attended to by paramedics, who were nearby.||A report released in 2018 by an independent civilian watchdog, the Independent Investigations Office, indicated that police used reasonable force to defend themselves. Indicating that the police responded to the threat of Mr Williams leveling a rifle and throwing a lit Molotov cocktail; in addition to the later threat of Mrs Williams levelling a shotgun at the officers. The IIO report added that both victims' bodies had firearms found beside them and there were the remains of a charred Molotov cocktail found nearby. No recommendations for charges were submitted to crown.|
|Roberta (Robin) Marie Sims||55||Homicide||Prince George||2017 (May)||Sims, 55, was last seen by numerous witnesses on Saturday 6 May 2017. She was seen near her home at 3015-3rd Ave. across from Central Fort George Traditional School. She may have also been seen the BX Pub at Fifth and Carney and the Spruceland CIBC bank around the time she went missing, RCMP said. Sims was reported missing on Sunday 14 May 2017. RCMP stated that they believe Sims' vehicle was used in her murder.|
|Frances Brown||53||Missing||Smithers||2017 (October)||Frances was last seen on Saturday 14 October 2017 while out mushroom picking north of Smithers, in the Kitseguecla Rd area. The RCMP suspended its wilderness search effort on 21 October 2017, about nightfall. Nineteen search and rescue crews from around the province were called in, alongside RCMP and local volunteers, to make up what was the largest search operation in the region in years. Evidence of a campfire was discovered early on in the search, but rain and snow hampered the effort. Frances was raised by a trapper and described by family as an experienced back country explorer who spent decades searching for mushrooms in difficult terrain. She was prepared with adequate clothing (rain gear, long johns, hiking boots) and had a lighter. She is deaf in one ear.|
|Just before 2 am on Thursday June 21, 2018, RCMP were called to the Yekooche reserve, west of Fort St James, attending a call about an injured woman. When they arrived, they found a dead woman. RCMP said the death was suspicious and never ruled out foul play.|
|Chantelle Catherine Simpson||34||Unknown||Terrace||2018
|Chantelle was last seen alive in Telkwa on Wednesday, 4 July 2018. Her abandoned car was located on 5 July by RCMP near a gravel pit on Gossen Creek Street in Terrace. A missing person's bulletin was released by the RCMP on 7 July 2018. Her body was spotted in the Skeena River by a CN conductor. Her body was recovered by Terrace Search and Rescue on 22 July 2018 and identified by tattoos. Exact cause of death is not yet public knowledge.|
|Jessica Patrick (Balczer)||18||Homicide||Smithers||2018 (September)||Patrick was last seen at the Smithers McDonald's or the Mountainview Motel, early 31 August 2018. Jessica was reported missing on 3 September and an RCMP news release was put out three days later on 6 September. News of her death was released on 16 September 2018, before police officially released identity of human remains found. RCMP officially released the identity of the remains found on 21 September 2018. According to RCMP, the body was found on Hudson Bay Mountain Road, at a large pull-out, about 15 metres down a steep bank on Saturday, 15 September 2018|
|Cynthia Martin||50||Missing||Hazelton||2018 (December)||Last seen 23 December 2018 at about 9:00 PM. Family and friends consider her disappearance to be out of character, though RCMP said there was nothing to indicate foul play. The vehicle she was last seen driving was found locked near the Hagwilget Bridge, near Hazelton. Members of Smither's-based Bulkley Valley Search and Rescue carried out an air search over the area on 25 December 2018, with helicopter assistance, but didn't find any trace of Martin.|
|Laureen Campbell Fabian||69||Missing||Houston||2019 (October)||Laureen went her home on foot for a walk around noon on October 28, 2019. She was missing from around the Buck Flats area, south of Houston. A search followed that involved SAR ground crews from other Smithers and Terrace, RCMP canine units, a plane and an RCMP helicopter. No trace was found and the search was called off on November 2, 2019. Described as a Caucasian woman 5 ft 4 in (163 cm), 143 lbs (65 kg), brown hair, brown eyes.RCMP have also requested dash cam footage from anyone who was in the Buck Flats area between 10 am and 6 pm that day. RCMP said that they don't believe foul play is suspected, indicating that they are considering the possibility she left town, but haven't publicly stated why they have come to this conclusion. RCMP file #2019-2391.|
|At 1:57 pm on March 9, 2020, RCMP were called to a home for a wellness check. Upon arrival, RCMP found home owner Joy Morris deceased and called in the North District Major Crimes Unit. At the time, it was believed by RCMP that all people involved were known to each other. RCMP file # 2020-600.||On April 10, 2020, 42-year-old Justin Johnston was arrested for second degree murder in the homicide of Morris. Johnston recently moved to the South Okanagan, where he was arrested.|
|On Sunday May 3, 2020, at 8:30 pm, RCMP pulled over a vehicle on Highway 16, near Landaluza road, west of Vanderhoof. Police noticed a dead woman in the back seat of the vehicle and arrested the other two occupants. RCMP believe that all three occupants, including the deceased, were known to each other. RCMP said the death is suspicious. Foul play was never publicly ruled out.|
|Crystal Haynes Chambers||34||Homicide||Prince George||2020
|Chambers' remains were found on the afternoon of Saturday August 1, 2020, 40 km east of Prince George, near Highway 16. The remains were retrieved with the assistance of Prince George search and rescue society. One website indicated that Chambers was at one point in a relationship with a man named Ray Lorraine, who was described as a serial cheater. RCMP file # 2020-27247|
Investigation and suspects
The first investigation by RCMP that tried to look at Highway of Tears as linked cases was opened in December 1998. However, the list of cases as it existed back then included three additional male victims - Larry Vu, Eric Charles Coss and Phillip Innes Fraser, which are not considered linked today.[by whom?]
To date, a number of people have been convicted in cases related to the Highway of Tears. Three serial killers are among those charged, Brian Peter Arp, Edward Dennis Isaac and Cody Legebokoff.
Although he was not implicated in of any Highway of Tears cases, Bobby Jack Fowler was strongly implicated in a number of cases related to E-Pana, but died in prison before charges could be laid. Fowler has never been charged in the deaths of any of the Highway of Tears victims. It is possible that Fowler was linked to the Highway of Tears cases because he worked for a now closed Prince George company called Happy's Roofing in 1974, which was the same year that Monica Ignas went missing in Terrace, BC. Former Vancouver police geographic profiler Kim Rossmo is on the record having said that in his opinion Fowler is not responsible for any of the crimes along Highway 16 between 1989 and 2006.
In 2009, police converged on a property in Isle Pierre, in rural Prince George, to search for the remains of Nicole Hoar, a young tree planter who went missing on Highway 16 on 21 June 2002. The property was once owned by Leland Vincent Switzer, who served a prison sentence for the second-degree murder of his brother and is out on day parole as of late 2016. The RCMP also searched the property for the other missing women from the Highway of Tears; however, no further actions followed the investigation.
RCMP Sgt. Wayne Clary said they may never solve all of the cases and that it will be the "people in the communities that are going to solve these crimes." They do have persons of interest in several cases, but not enough evidence to lay charges.
B.C. Government Email Scandal
In an official government report, ministerial assistant George Gretes was accused of being irresponsible for "triple deleting" all emails relating to the Highway of Tears from the email account of Tim Duncan, former executive assistant to Transportation minister Todd Stone..
On 22 October 2015, Elizabeth Denham, the Information and Privacy Commissioner of British Columbia, published a 65-page report outlining how B.C. government officials had "triple deleted" emails relating to the Highway of Tears. In her report Access Denied, Denham describes the act of "triple deleting" as transferring an email to the "deleted" folder on a computer system, deleting the email from the folder and then overriding the backup that admits the system to retrieve deleted items. By deleting these files, Denham states the government had breached the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. Denham became aware of the scandal in May 2015 after she received a letter from Tim Duncan, the former executive assistant to Transportation Minister Todd Stone. Duncan claimed that as he was responding to an FOI (Freedom of Information) application, ministerial assistant George Gretes ordered for Duncan to search his records for any files pertaining to the Highway of Tears and missing women. Once the files were located, Duncan testified that Gretes ordered for them to be deleted. When Duncan hesitated, Gretes allegedly took the keyboard and "triple deleted" all of the emails relating to the Highway of Tears. According to Denham, Gretes originally denied this claim but later admitted to the triple deletion during a second police interview. Denham states that Gretes—who resigned from his job in October 2015—would have then lied under oath. A year earlier in the summer of 2014, a team from the Transportation Ministry toured Highway 16 and conducted numerous meetings with Aboriginal leaders and communities. The significance of this project was to produce safer travel solutions for women living along Highway 16, many of whom had turned to hitchhiking as a way of transportation. In November 2014, the NDP made the FOI request seeking all government files pertaining to missing women, the Highway of Tears and meetings arranged by the ministry: the report Duncan would later respond to. Despite a two-month tour and multiple meetings, the B.C. government claimed the FOI request produced no files relating to the Highway of Tears. According to Denham's report, these records did exist until government officials destroyed them in order to "skirt freedom of information laws". In Access Denied, Denham called upon the RCMP to further investigate the triple deletion of government files. In November 2015, Vancouver lawyer Mark Jetté was appointed as special prosecutor within the RCMP investigation. Jetté will act as the RCMP's independent legal adviser as well as administer an independent assessment of the evidence. He will also pursue any criminal charges that may be found appropriate.
Gretes was convicted of one count of lying to the British Columbia privacy commissioner and fined $2,500.
In 2005, the RCMP launched a provincially funded project, E-Pana, which started with a focus on some of the unsolved murders and disappearances of young women along Highway 16. E-Pana sought to discover if there was a single serial killer at work or a multitude of killers operating along the highway. The unit started with 3 cases in 2005, then the unit investigated 9 cases in 2006, but by 2007, its caseload had doubled to 18 and its geographical scope began spanning large parts of the province and not just Highway 16.
The victims involved within the E-Pana investigation followed the criteria of being female, participating in a high-risk lifestyle, known to hitchhike and were last seen or their bodies were discovered within a mile from Highway 16, Highway 97 and Highway 5. In the 2009/2010 year, E-Pana received over $5 million in annual funding but has since declined due to budget cutbacks; receiving only $806,109 for the 2013/2014 year. In 2013, Craig Callens, the RCMP deputy commissioner, warned that further budget reductions from the provincial government would greatly affect the Highway of Tears investigations; however, he didn't say this would affect the E-Pana cases which aren't Highway of Tears. A 2014 freedom-of-information request stated that the task force had dropped from 70 officers to 12 officers since 2010. E-Pana is responsible for linking the homicide of 16-year-old Colleen MacMillen, who was killed in 1974, with the now-deceased American serial killer Bobby Jack Fowler. E-Pana now considers Fowler a suspect in the murders of two other highway victims, Gale Weys and Pamela Darlington, both of whom were killed in the 1970s. In 2014, investigations by E-Pana and the Provincial Unsolved Homicide Unit brought murder charges against Garry Taylor Handlen for the death of 12-year-old Monica Jack in 1978. He was found guilty by jury and sentenced to life in prison in early 2019, thus Monica Jack's murder becomes the first file in Project E-Pana to officially be solved with full court proceedings and sentence. E-Pana is still investigating the remaining unsolved cases although it is unlikely that all will be solved.
Some critics argue that the lack of results arising from this investigation is the result of systemic racism. This was also reported to be an issue in the case of Vancouver's missing women and the Robert Pickton murders. The issue of systemic racism in these cases is explored in Finding Dawn, the 2006 documentary by Christine Welsh whose film includes a section on the Highway of Tears victim Ramona Wilson, including interviews with family and community members. Often overlooked in reports on the Highway of Tears is the fact that over half of the missing women are First Nations.
Activists argue that media coverage of these cases has been limited, claiming that "media assign a lesser value to aboriginal women". Furthermore, despite the fact that these disappearances date back as far as 1969, it was not until 2005 that Project E-Pana was launched, investigating similarities between the cases. Nicole Hoar, a Caucasian woman who disappeared in 2002 received a disproportionate amount of media attention at the time of her disappearance. Hers was the first of the Highway of Tears cases to be covered in The Globe and Mail, Vancouver Sun, and Edmonton Journal. Gladys Radek, a native activist and the aunt of victim Tamara Chipman, "believes that if it weren't for Hoar, the police would have invested less effort in investigating cases, and the media would have done little, if anything, to inform the public about the tragedies along the road."
Numerous municipalities and 23 First Nations communities border the Highway of Tears. The rural region is plagued with poverty and lacks public transportation; many residents turn to hitchhiking as a form of transit or partake in high risk lifestyles to survive.
Poverty and a lack of public transit has forced many disadvantaged Aboriginal women to turn to hitchhiking as a cheap means of transportation along Highway 16. Many of the Highway of Tears victims were last seen or reported to be hitchhiking before their disappearances. In March 2006, various Aboriginal groups hosted a two-day Highway of Tears symposium at the CN Center in Prince George. In attendance to the event were the victim's families and over 500 Aboriginal leaders from across British Columbia. Shortly thereafter, the Highway of Tears Symposium Recommendation Report was issued with 33 recommendations to improve public transit, deter hitchhiking, and prevent violence towards Aboriginal women. Some of the recommendations from the report include a shuttle bus operation along Highway 16, improved educational, health and social services for Aboriginal people as well counseling and mental health groups organized by Aboriginal workers. These propositions are part of a long-term recommendation to directly confront the issue of First Nations inter-generational poverty. The Highway of Tears Symposium Recommendation Report was endorsed by B.C. inquiry commissioner Wally Oppal in his 2012 Missing Women Commission of Inquiry recommendations. Oppal's public inquiry report into the Robert Pickton case demanded urgent transportation improvement along Highway 16. Like the Highway of Tears Symposium Recommendation Report, Oppal's report also suggested implementing a shuttle bus service along Highway 16 to deter young women from hitchhiking.
On 24 November 2015, the First Nations Health Authority and B.C. Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure held the Northern Transportation Symposium in Smithers, British Columbia. The symposium included Aboriginal communities and municipalities along Highway 16 and focused on the issue of medical and non-medical transportation in those regions. Discussions included and expanded upon the 2006 Highway of Tears Symposium Recommendation Report and the 2012 Missing Women Commission of Inquiry recommendations.
In June 2016, Transportation Minister Todd Stone announced that as the result of collaboration across local communities, a bus service would become available along Highway 16. The project will be joint funded by the federal government and the government of British Columbia.
In June 2017, a subsidized transit service began operations on alternating days along a 400 kilometres (250 mi) section between Prince George and Burns Lake.
Media and awareness efforts
- Highway of Tears totem pole raised by family of Tamara Chipman in Kitsumkalum, 4 September 2020.
- SERIAL KILLER: Highway of Tears is a Crime Junkies podcast that was broadcast 15 December 2019.
- Cold Track is a script written by a french writer Sylvain Blanchot based on the Highway Of Tears.
- Finding Dawn (2006) is a documentary film by Métis filmmaker Christine Welsh, about 16-year-old Ramona Wilson, one of the victims found alongside the highway. Welsh's documentary highlights the reality that Aboriginal women face today: in the past 30 years, an estimated 500 Aboriginal women have gone missing or have been murdered in Canada. Welsh uncovers the social, economic, and historical factors that contribute to this statistic. The film can be accessed online on the Nation Film Board web page.
- The Vanishing of Madison Scott, a documentary produced and directed by Steven Scouller.
- 48 Hours: "Highway of Tears" (season 25, episode 7), about the Highway of Tears murders, airdate 17 November 2012.
- Highway of Tears (March 2014), an 80-minute documentary by Canadian filmmakers Matthew Smiley and Carly Pope, narrated by Canadian actor Nathan Fillion. The documentary, which was featured in numerous film festivals, raises awareness about the stretch of highway and missing women. In a 2014 interview with CBC, Smiley said that during the editing of the film "over 400 [indigenous] women were estimated to be missing and or murdered across Canada. By the time we premiered the film, the number was over 600 in March of 2014, then the numbers increased to 900 and now over 1,200 missing and murdered indigenous women across Canada. We cannot turn a blind eye to this."
- Searchers: The Highway of Tears (2015), a mini-series produced by the online newscast VICE, highlights the story of various Aboriginal women who have disappeared along the Highway of Tears and brings attention to the family, friends, and detectives fighting for justice. VICE also offers online articles pertaining to the Highway of Tears murders and disappearances.
- Canada's Missing & Murdered Aboriginal Women is a series of 14 short episodes, aired on CBC's flagship news program The National. The series is accessible at The National's YouTube channel, under the playlist Canada's Missing & Murdered Aboriginal Women.
- That Lonely Section of Hell: The Botched Investigation of a Serial Killer Who Almost Got Away (13 October 2015), is a memoir for which its author, Lorimer Shenher, was nominated for the B.C. Book Prize. Shenher writes from the perspective of a former reporter and the first police detective to be assigned to the case of the missing women. They also cover the police culture in detail.
- Highway Of Tears is the name of a 2011 studio album by Vancouver, BC musician Pernell Reichert featuring the track Highway Of Tears (Song For Nicole), a dedication to Nicole Hoar who disappeared in 2002.
- The Stacey Dooley Investigates episode entitled Canada’s Lost Girls, first broadcast on 7 March 2017, where Dooley met the family of Amber Tuccaro, who went missing in 2010 aged 20.
- "Murdered and missing native women remain unsolved mysteries". Terrace Standard. 30 September 1998.
- Lee, Miyoung (17 November 2009). "BC's infamous 'Highway of Tears'". CBC Digital Archives. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 10 December 2009.
- "Highway of Vanishing Women", Daily Beast, 10 July 2011
- Tallman, Rebecca A. (2014). "Representations of security and insecurity in the Highway of Tears". Thesis (University of Northern British Columbia. International Studies) ; 2014.
- "The Taken: Who qualifies as a serial killer and more on the data behind the project". Retrieved 5 February 2019.
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