Even if it was nearly 40 years ago, meeting Bobby Jack Fowler might still be something a person would not forget.
The man police say murdered one teenaged girl in 1974 and is strongly believed to have killed two others the year before in B.C.'s Interior was described Wednesday as very social but also very creepy.
"He's the type of individual that I believe people at times would go away from," said RCMP Staff Sgt. Wayne Clary during a press conference Wednesday in Prince George. "He would be a person that your sense would say stay away."
Fowler, who died in an Oregon prison in 2006, was an alcoholic, a drug user with a preference for speed or methamphetamine and someone who thought nothing of driving great distances.
"Certainly he was very social but on a moment, his personality would change to become one that was extremely violent," Clary said.
From a single line in a parole report following on a conviction in Tennessee, police learned he had worked for Happy's Roofing in Prince George in 1974 and RCMP are asking anyone who recalls meeting Fowler to contact police.
The company is no longer in business and its records were destroyed in a flood last year although its previous owners have been "extremely cooperative" with the investigation.
"Certainly, they went to work sites across northern B.C. so we're looking for anybody that had any work done by Happy's Roofing, worked at Happy's Roofing, had a friend that worked at Happy's Roofing, anything to do with Happy's Roofing," Clary said.
There is a chance Fowler worked there for only a short period.
"They had a number of people who worked there for only an extremely short period of time and frankly not be good employees from what I understand," Clare said.
UNBC psychology professor Paul Siakaluk said memories of events 40 years ago can be shaky at best although Fowler may be an exception for some.
"I think the actual pool of people that would have good information for the police about this guy are going to be very few and it would have to be from people who had experiences with this guy that were disturbing enough for them to say 'wow, that was something else.'"
Police said this week that DNA evidence has matched Fowler to the 1974 death of Colleen MacMillen. The 16-year-old was last seen walking along Highway 97 from her home in Lac La Hache in August that year. Her body was found off a logging road 46 kilometres to the south about a month later.
MacMillen was one of 18 homicides or disappearances under investigation by the RCMP's Project E-Pana and the task force now suspects Fowler may also have been behind the deaths of two others on the list:
- Gale Weys, 19, of Clearwater, went missing on Oct. 19, 1973 when she was hitchhiking towards Kamloops. Her body was located April 6, 1974 just south of Clearwater off Blackwater Road.
- Pamela Darlington, 19, of Kamloops, was last seen partying at the David Thompson bar on Nov. 6, 1973 and her body was found the next day in a nearby park in the city.
Fowler would have been about 35 years old at the time, stood five-feet ten-inches tall, weighed 160 pounds and he drove a white 1961 Chrysler Imperial with large wings off the back. He was born in Texas and may have had an accent, although police stressed the lack of one should not prevent people from contacting RCMP if they suspect they may have met Fowler.
Fowler had a long list of criminal convictions for violent offences in the United States.
"He frequently picked up hitchhikers," Clary said. "He also attended a lot of taverns and bars and met women in those places and he believed that the majority of those woman that he met in those circumstances desired to be sexually assaulted and desired to be extremely violently assaulted.
"He was also extremely violent towards men so again, we ask the public to think back to that time period and please phone us with any information that they may have."
E-Pana's tip line can be reached at 1-877-543-4822. Tips can also be made by contacting CrimeStoppers.