The RCMP’s Highway of Tears probe was launched almost a decade ago in the fall of 2005.
At its height, ‘Project E-PANA’ had 70 officers involved in a task force that was looking into 18 cold cases of missing and murdered women last seen within a mile from highways 16, 97 and 5.
Staff Sg.t Wayne Clary heads up the team today, now made up of 12 officers.
“There is less and less work to do because we’ve pushed through so much material. So I foresee at some point, I don’t know when, that we will be running out of work to follow up on, which would be unfortunate because I think these cases need to get solved.”
Clary says, for now, the team is focusing on preparing evidence for the trial of Garry Handlin. Handlin was arrested in December 2014 and is facing two counts of first-degree murder, one of which is one of Project E-PANA’s 18.
“We have Mr. Handlin charged with two murders, one Monica Jack (killed 1978) and the other Kathyrn-Mary Herbert (killed 1975). It takes a lot of resources, especially in these old cases, because there is material going back years and years.”
In 2012, RCMP used DNA evidence to tie now dead convicted American rapist Bobby Fowler to the killing of Colleen MacMillen, 16, who was found dead near 100 Mile House in 1974. Police say the man is also a “strong suspect” in two other E-PANA cases from the same time period. Fowler died in an American prison in 2006.
“As the years go on, and it doesn’t take many years. Our forensic labs are getting that much better, as far as identifying offender DNA.” Clary said.
“Science, as it steps forward, helps our investigation especially when we have DNA on cases.”
Clary says he doesn’t think E-PANA will be taking on any new cases and that most Major Crimes Units take control most that surface. However, he says that RCMP across the country are very aware of the task force and what they are doing and share any information that would be of interest to them.
Tips still trickle in according to Clary, and he encourages anyone out there who hasn’t gotten in touch with police and may have information to do so.
(Files from MY PRINCE GEORGE NOW)