A story on the Highway of Tears by popular U.S. crime show 48 Hours has generated a few tips, says the leader of an RCMP task force investigating the cases of 18 missing and murdered women.
The response has fallen well short of the reaction generated when RCMP announced in September that DNA evidence had linked an American man, Bobby Jack Fowler, to one murder and that he is believed to be behind two others committed in the 1970s, said Staff Sgt. Wayne Clary.
However, Clary said he has not yet checked with a phone line set up in the United States for similar tips since the episode was aired Saturday night. Fowler, who died in 2006 in an Oregon prison, was prominently depicted in the show.
"What I'm going to do is I'm going to let the dust settle a little bit and I'm going to call my Oregon counterpart and see if anything kind of shook out there," Clary said Monday.
Although the Highway of Tears is generally regarded as the stretch of Highway 16, also known as the Yellowhead Highway, from Prince George to Prince Rupert, 720 kilometres to the west, Fowler's alleged victims were found near Clearwater and Lac La Hache and in Kamloops.
Clary's task force, Project E-Pana, is investigating 18 cases of women determined to have gone missing or murdered within a mile of Highways 16, 97 and 5, between Valemount and Merritt. In 2009, The Vancouver Sun expanded the criteria beyond the one-mile limit to come up with 31 cases.
In addition to the E-Pana investigations, the episode also looked at the May 2011 disappearance of Madison Scott from the Hogsback Lake campground, 25 kilometres southeast of Vanderhoof, and the four women for which Cody Alan Legebokoff is now facing murder charges.
"There was a lot to chew off in an hour," Clary said. "There is a lot more detail, from my perspective, that could have been put into it and particularly from our investigation, E-Pana, but then again I don't produce these shows and I'm sure they have to pick and choose what goes in there.
"But what came out of it was that the police are actively investigating, that we care, and we still obviously want to solve not only the Fowler cases but any one of them that we're investigating."
Clary also said the show did help highlight dangers women can face not just in B.C. but in North America and around the world, particularly if they're hitchhiking.
One aspect of the show did not sit well with the Scott family, namely a claim that Fribjon Bjornson, the victim of a murder in February in Fort St. James, was involved in Madison Scott's disappearance.
"We want to clarify that he was not responsible for her disappearance or involved in a relationship with Maddy when she went missing," the family said in a posting on www.madisonscott.ca. "There is no connection between the two cases."
48 Hours also relied on two-year-old statistics, when the city was ranked seventh for violent crime, to describe Prince George as "crime riddled." The picture has since improved due mostly to a drastic drop the murder rate, although the city was still ranked 14th out of 239 communities in 2011 according to Statistics Canada.
Clary, meanwhile, noted they neglected to air the phone number for the E-Pana tip line: 1-877-543-4822.