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Highway of Tears
Written by Editor   
Friday, 17 March 2006 22:48

On Friday, February 15, 2006, the body of 14 year old Aielah Saric-Auger was along highway 16 by a passing motorist, once more raising the specter of a possible serial killer. The toll to date alleges thirty-three women and girls have gone missing or were killed during the last two decades somewhere along the that connects Prince George to Prince Rupert in northwestern British Columbia—the Yellowhead Higway, otherwise known as the Highway of Tears.

The missing and murdered along highway 16 had gone largely ignored by the media until the publication of a July 2002 article, "," wherein Fred Maile, former RCMP detective, present day investigator, told Calgary Sun reporters, "It's obvious a serial killer has been on the loose along the highway for years." Another year and a half would pass before the Canadian Green Party would call for an investigation into the unsolved highway cases. Again, the media remained largely silent. It would not be until after Canadian Film maker, Jeremy Torrie's September 2005 announcement of the of Warren Golden's book, ""—chronicling Saskatoon, Alberta serial killer, John Martin Crawford and his victims—that a handful of people would begin to speak out. In October 2005, covered Kathy Wesley's coordination of a march to "celebrate the lives and deplore the deaths or disappearances" of the victims.

When I first heard of our northerly neighbor's plight, I was astounded that something of such magnitude could go largely ignored by the media. In the process of researching for this article, I found scant information. Of the victims listed on the now defunct "" site under their page dedicated to the , the following 10 girls and women, listed as either missing or murdered, were all that I could find (quoted from the defunct site):

Monica Ignas, 15, of Thornhill, just west of Terrace, went missing Dec. 13, 1974. Her partially nude body was found in a gravel pit on April 6, 1975, about six kilometers from Terrace. She had been strangled.

Alberta Williams, aged 24, found murdered Sept. 25, 1989 near the Tyee Overpass, of Prince Rupert.

Delphine Nikal, Aged 16. Disappeared from Smithers, BC on June 14, 1990, hitchhiking east on Highway 16 from Smithers to her home in Telkwa.

Ramona Wilson, Aged 16, was hitchhiking to her friends home in Smithers, BC on June 11, 1994. Ramona's remains were found April 1995 near the Smithers Airport.

Roxanne Thiara, Aged 15 disappeared from Prince George, went missing in Nov, 1994. Her body was discovered dumped near Burns Lake.

Leah Alishia Germaine, Aged 15, of Prince George, BC. Her body was found Dec. 9, 1994. (some details )

Lana Derrick, Aged 19, Dark brown hair; brown eyes disappeared Oct. 7, 1995, at a service station in Thornhill while home from school or the weekend.

, Age 25, was last seen heading west from Prince George hitchhiking to Smithers on June 21, 2002.

, 22, has been missing since Sept. 21, 2005. She often wears wig such as blonde, brunette and red hair. She was last seen hitchhiking on Hwy. 16 near the Prince Rupert industrial park.

, 14, a student at D.P. Todd Secondary School in Prince George, was last seen by her family on Feb. 2. A passing motorist discovered Saric-Auger's remains just east of Prince George near Tabor Mountain on Friday, February 15, 2006.

Why the disparity? Spokesperson for Amnesty International, who made the original claims reported that the numbers were while researching their article "." Whatever the case, at first glance of the above list, three victims appear temporally close in that their murders occurred in mid-to-late 1994, their ages ranged from 15 to 16, and there is a seeming geographical focal point of Smithers, British Columbia. Further searches found a quoting Fred Maile, who noted the aforementioned similarities as well as speculating upon a fourth possible victim who fit the emerging pattern, 16 year old Delphine Nikal.

In order to get a better picture and since I am unfamiliar with the geographical region, much less the actual cases, I decided to create a crimemap to see if a spatial representation might reveal a possible pattern. Following Mr. Maile's lead, you will see the trajectory begins at Smithers in June of 1990 with a missing teen, followed by a murdered teen in Smithers in June 1994, continuing with two more murdered teens, one in Burns Lake and the other in Prince George, in November and December 1994, respectively.

Given the eastward progression, if you ignore dates and go by victim age only, 15 year old Monica Ingus could be a first victim, and 14-year-old Aielah Sarici-Auger could be a latest victim. For example, looking at the crimemap, you'll see that Monica Ingus's body was found in Terrace, British Columbia in 1975 (though she went missing and was likely murdered in 1974) and Terrace is 204 kilometers (approximately 127 miles) west of Smithers. Assuming these individuals were murdered by the same individual, we are however looking at 16, 4, and 12 year spans between the first, middle, and last murders respectively, beginning with Terrace, British Columbia with an eastward trajectory to Smithers continuing east, first to Burns Lake, and on to Prince George.

The above potential victim pool expansion raises the obvious question, is such a time span possible or perhaps more importantly, does such a time span make sense? I think so. If the killer first killed when he was say, in his late teens or early twenties, he would now be in his late forties or early fifties. Even if he waited until he was thirty to kill, that would still put his age well within a physically capable range to kill today. Furthermore, if he spent any time in jail or prison, that could account for some of the time. Or, say he led a quiet, non-criminal life during those periods. In the case of the latter, Dennis Rader has proven without the requisite lockup. If incarceration is not a mitigating factor with regard to the resulting time span and yet the same individual is responsible for the proposed vicitims, I would argue that, excluding the very first murder, the periods during which later murders occurred might track with his general commitments.

In other words, while working, he may very well find himself in an emotionally stable (or simply busy) place and therefore less compelled to "prowl" for victims. Whereas amidst those periods requiring fewer commitments — —for example, a situation where he might be between jobs — —he could experience increased stress in conjunction with protracted time during which to ruminate over certain "fantasies" that may cross his mind, thereby intensifying the potential desire to act upon those ruminations. On the purely temporal data and in context of this scenario, I would even go so far as to suggest his "fantasies" are about 'the first time' and later murders may be an attempt to re-enact the experience. Simply because we (as humans) tend to return to what we know — —what comforts us— — under duress.

Whether or not the aforementioned proposed scenario is plausible and while Mr. Maile has an understandably valid reason for refraining from speculating with regard to a possible connection between Aielah Sarici-Auger and the 1994 teen murders, I would not rule out the possibility that a serial killer has been, and still is, loose and roaming the Highway of Tears, that he made his first kill as a teen in Terrace, British Columbia, and that he now resides in the Prince George, British Columbia area.

 

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