RCMP Insp. Gary Shinkaruk had plenty of praise for the progress made in using DNA to pin culprits down to crime scenes when he was in Prince George last week.
Where investigators once had to submit samples the size of a quarter or a dime for analysis, Shinkaruk said the amount is now down to "nanograms."
"You cannot even see the amount," said Shinkaruk, in charge of the B.C. RCMP's major crime special projects unit.
But police still need to be careful.
"You have to remember, many times when you're submitting DNA, that sample gets destroyed," Shinkaruk said. "So we have to be extremely wise in submitting samples. One of the challenges we have is do we risk a minute piece of evidence and the technology is just not there yet and then we can never resubmit it."
Shinkarkuk was in Prince George to speak about a man linked to one Central Interior murder and suspected of at least two more.
In 2007, when the RCMP increased to 18 the number of cases under investigation by its E-Pana unit, investigators resubmitted exhibits from the case of Colleen MacMillen, the 16-year-old girl who was found murdered a short drive from her Lac La Hache home in 1974 for DNA analysis to the National Crime Scene Databank but there was no match.
Fast forward five years and aware of the advances in DNA technology, E-Pana investigators tried once more and the result was the oldest match in Interpol's history when Bobby Jack Fowler was linked to MacMillen's death.
Police also strongly suspect Fowler, who died in an Oregon prison in 2006, was also behind the deaths of at least two more women:
- 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.
From a single line in a parole board report following on a conviction in Tennessee, police learned he had worked for Happy's Roofing in Prince George in 1974 and given his propensity for long distance driving, also have reason to believe he may have been back up here in the early to mid 1990s.
But before they take any more exhibits to the lab, police need additional evidence. That's why they were in Prince George last week to try and spark people's memories, particularly of those who may have hired Happy's Roofing back in the 1970s to work on their homes.
"They went to work sites across northern B.C. and so we're certainly looking for anyone who had 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," Shinkaruk said.
E-Pana's tip line can be reached at 1-877-543-4822.