In Canada, dozens of women have been murdered or disappeared along Highway 16 in British Columbia. Most are still unsolved. Many of the women are of Indigenous descent. Indigenous women in Canada are four times as likely to be murdered than non-native Canadian women. Indigenous groups have long claimed that police do not properly investigate these cases because of racial prejudice, however, it should be noted that the solution rate for homicides of Indigenous women is nearly identical for the solution rate for homicides involving non-native women. The Highway of Tears has a particularly high murder and disappearance rate because of poverty and a lack of public transportation in the area, which has lead to increased hitchhiking, where many women have met their death.
Below is a detailed list including images of Highway of Tears victims and the circumstances of their disappearance/death. Police launched Project E-PANA in 2005 to investigate the unsolved murders and disappearances. The victim criteria for the project is: female; engaged in a “high-risk activity” (ie. hitchhiking or the sex trade); disappeared from or found within a mile of highways 16 (most common), 97 or 5.
To combat the issue, the government is subsidizing new bus routes in hopes that this will decrease hitchhiking and provide safe, reliable and affordable transit.
Author’s note: several of the women featured in this list are known to have engaged in sex work (ie. prostitution). This does not lessen their value as a human being. They are someone’s mother, sister and daughter. Please be respectful when reading and/or commenting.
Images are placed above the description.
Women whose cases are being investigated as part of Project E-PANA:
Gloria Moody (aged 26) was last seen on October 25, 1969. She was seen leaving a bar in Williams Lake. Her nude body was found 10km away. She had been beaten, sexually assaulted, and left to die. In 1998 a police officer told family members that the three main suspects in the case were now all dead.
Micheline Pare (aged 18) was last seen on Highway 29 in July 1970. She came from Quebec and was hitchhiking through the area. Two women picked her up and dropped her off near Tompkins Ranch. Her body was found in August 1970. She had been sexually assaulted and beaten to death with a blunt weapon.
Gale Weys (aged 19) was last seen while hitchhiking from Clearwater, where she worked, to Kamloops, where she lived, in October 1973. A year later her body was found in a water-filler ditch just south of Clearwater. Serial killer Bobby Jack Fowler is the prime suspect in the case.
Pamela Darlington (aged 19) was last seen while hitchhiking from Kamloops to a local bar in November 1973. Her partly clothed, badly beaten body was found the next day in a river in Kamloops. Serial killer Bobby Jack Fowler is the prime suspect in the case.
Monica Ignas (aged 14) was last seen walking by herself along Highway 16 on Dec. 13, 1974. She was walking towards her home in Thornhill. Her body was found four months later in a heavily wooded area east of Terrace. Her cause of death was strangulation.
Colleen MacMillen (aged 16) was last seen August 1974 leaving her home in Lac La Hache to hitchhike to a nearby friend’s house. Her body was found dead 46 kilometres south of where she was last seen. Serial killer Bobby Jack Fowler is the prime suspect in her murder. In 2012, DNA from Colleen’s body was matched to Fowler.
Monica Jack (aged 12) was last seen riding her bike in May 1978. Her mother saw Monica riding her bike home from shopping and offered to drive her the rest of the way but Monica wanted to finish her ride home one her own. Her bike was later found but it took almost 20 years for the family to learn what happened to Monica. In 1995, forestry workers found Monica’s remains in a ravine off a logging road about 20 km from where Monica’s bike was found. In 2014, Garry Taylor Handlen was charged with the murder of Monica Jack and one other young girl. Currently (2017), he is in jail awaiting a trial.
Maureen Mosie (aged 33), was last seen on May 8, 1981. It is believed she was hitchhiking from Salmon Arm to Kamloops. Her severely beaten body was found the next day, a few kilometres east of Kamloops. Witnesses saw her getting into a vehicle with a man of this description: “late 20s or early 30s with black or brown hair and a beard.”
Shelly-Ann Bascu (age 16) was last seen walking along Highway 16 in the direction of her home in Hinton in 1983. Her body has never been found but several days after her disappearance school books and clothing of Shelly-Ann’s were found near the Athabasca River.
Alberta Williams (aged 24) was last seen in Prince Rupert in August 1989. She got into a truck with a non-native man and her uncle Jack. Her body was found three weeks later 37 km east of Prince Rupert. Alberta had been strangled and sexually assaulted.
Delphine Nikal (aged 16) went missing in June 13, 1990. Delphine was hitchhiking east to her home in Telkwa from the town of Smithers where she was visiting friends. She has been missing ever since.
Ramona Wilson (aged 16) was last seen at her home in Smithers on June 11, 1994. She was expected in Hazelton by friends but never showed up. It is thought she had been to hitchhiking get there. Ramona’s remains were found nearly a year later in a wooded area west of the Smithers airport. The family was not given the official cause of death, although they were told by a sympathetic insider that strangulation and a “sexual motivation” were possible.
Roxanne Thiara (aged 15) was last seen in Prince George in July 1994. She had turned to sex work to survive and told a friend she was meeting a client on the night of her disappearance. Her body was found weeks later in the bush along Highway 16.
Alishia ‘Leah’ Germaine (aged 15) was last seen at a Christmas dinner at the Native Friendship Centre in Prince George. She was found murdered on December 9, 1994, behind a school off Highway 16 on the outskirts of Prince George. She had been stabbed to death. She was known to be engaged in sex work and was friends with Roxanne Thiara.
Lana Derrick (aged 19) was visiting her mom in Terrace, B.C. in October 1995 and was last seen at a service station on Highway 16 just outside of Thornhill. It is believed she had been hitchhiking. Lana’s family dispute this sighting and state that Lana was last seen at her friend’s house in Terrace. She has been missing ever since.
Nicole Hoar (aged 24) went missing on June 21, 2002. Nicole was hitchhiking from Prince George to Smithers to surprise her sister with a birthday visit. She was last seen at a gas station on Highway 16 west of Prince George. She approached a vehicle; the driver was of the following description: “Caucasian man, between 20 and 35 years old wearing a short-sleeved white T-shirt.” She has been missing ever since.
Tamara Chipman (aged 22) was seen on 21 September 2005 in Prince Rupert hitchhiking east towards Terrace on Highway 16. She was known to be engaged in sex work and warrants were out for her arrest for failure to appear on assault charges. She was mother to one young boy. Tamara was not immediately reported missing as family thought she may have been avoiding the law; police believe Tamara was the victim of foul play. She has been missing ever since.
Aielah Saric Auger (aged 14) was last seen near a downtown bar in Prince George on February 2, 2006. Her body was shortly after in a ditch on Highway 16, 20 kilometres east of Prince George.
Additional cases identified on http://www.highwayoftears.ca/ :
Destiny Rae Tom (aged 21) was found dead On March 23, 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. In February 2015, Destiny’s husband Garrett Steven George was charged with 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.
Natasha Montgomery (aged 23) was last seen in Prince George in September 2010. 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.
Jill Stuchenko (aged 35) was last seen in Prince George. 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. Serial killer Cody Legebokoff was convicted of her murder.
Cynthia Maas (aged 35) was last seen in September 2010 in Prince George. Cynthia’s body was found in a park a month later. She had died from from blunt force trauma and penetrating wounds to the chest. She had defence wounds and her pants were rolled down to her ankles. She was known to be engaged in sex work. Serial killer Cody Legebokoff was convicted of her murder.
Bonnie Joseph (aged 32) disappeared from Vanderhooft on September 8th, 2007. She was reported missing in December 2007. Police say she led a high-risk lifestyle and was known to hitchhike alone between Fort St. James, Vanderhoof and Prince George, B.C. Her family considers her disappearance to be out of character.
Immaculate “Mackie” Basil (aged 26) was last seen on June 14, 2013, around the Kuzche Reserve near Fort St. James, British Columbia. An extensive search did not locate her. She has been missing ever since.
Unofficial Additions to the list:
Loren Donn Leslie (aged 15) was an acquaintance of serial killer Cody Legebokoff, whom she met online. Her body was foundin November 2010 on a remote logging road just off Highway 27 near Vanderhoof. Serial killer Cody Legebokoff was convicted of her murder. Legebokoff was pulled over by police on November 27, 2010 and was in possession on Loren’s belongings. Police followed his tire tracks back to Loren’s body and he was arrested. After this arrest, Legebokoff’s DNA was linked to the deaths of Jill Stacey Stuchenko, Cynthia Frances Maas, and Natasha Lynn Montgomery.
Madison Scott (aged 20) vanished on May 28th, 2011 after attending a party at Hogsback Lake, a campsite about 25 kilometres south of Vanderhoof. Police found her tent and truck, but Madison has been missing ever since. Foul play is suspected.
Cicilia/Cecilia Anne Nikal (aged 15) disappeared in October 1989, a year before her cousin Delphine Nikal (on the Project E-PANA list). She was last seen Smithers, B.C. near Highway 16, however, RCMP maintain she was reported missing in Vancouver. Another family member reported Cecilia moved to Vancouver Island, but that was never confirmed.
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Map from highwayoftears.ca
Serial killer Cody Legebokoff. Convicted for the murders of Loren Donn Leslie, Jill Stacey Stuchenko, Cynthia Frances Maas, and Natasha Lynn Montgomery. He is notable for being one of Canada’s youngest serial killers. His killing spree took place when he was aged 19 to 20. In 2014, Legebokoff was sentenced to life in prison with no parole for 25 years.
Bobby Jack Fowler was convicted for rape, kidnapping and attempted rape in Newport, Oregon, in 1996. He died in prison in 2006, six years before he was identified as a suspect in Highway of Tears cases. Fowler is a suspect or person of interest in at least 16 murders in British Columbia and Oregon dating as far back as 1969. He is the prime suspect for three of the Highway of Tears cases: Colleen MacMillen (his DNA was found on her body), Gale Weys and Pamela Darlington.