Tuesday’s announcement from the RCMP that the murderer of 16-year-old Colleen MacMillen from Lac La Hache has been identified was a breakthrough in the Highway of Tears cases.
The findings go to show that even though a case seems unsolvable — this one took 38 years as Colleen was killed in 1974 — there is always hope that answers will be found and that a case is never closed.
The news that U.S. prisoner Bobby Jack Fowler’s DNA was found on Colleen’s body, linking him to her murder, is bittersweet, as Fowler died in prison in 2006 and can’t be made to face his crime. However, as Colleen’s brother Shawn MacMillen noted, at least Fowler was in prison after being convicted in 1996 of other violent crimes before his death in 2006 and couldn’t and can’t hurt anyone else again.
We hope that the RCMP’s Project E-PANA — which is investigating the remaining Highway of Tears cases — will continue to find more leads and solve more crimes, as there are still another 17 women and girls listed as either murdered or missing on the list. Their families and the rest of the public need to know what happened to them. There are several victims Fowler cannot be linked to, which means there is more than one person responsible for some of these losses, but Fowler could be linked to two others on the list, possibly more.
We echo the RCMP’s plea to the public to look at the photos of Bobby Jack Fowler and think back. Did you see him somewhere? At a gas station? A bar? Did you socialize with him? Do you have any memories at all of him? Even the tiniest detail could help investigators piece together a time line of his whereabouts and find answers.
Kudos to the investigators involved in determining Colleen’s killer. We offer them our support in solving the rest of the Highway of Tears’ tragic mysteries.