DNA tracked suspected killer of one of Highway of Tears victims

October 1, 2012 - 

DNA testing has proven yet again just how important and significant a tool it is in law enforcement and in solving cold cases.

Parents of one of Highway of Tears slaying victims from British Columbia, Canada, Colleen Rae MacMillen, have found their closure after Bobby Jack Fowler has been proven through DNA testing as her killer. Fowler was convicted of an attempted rape in 1996 and died in prison in 2006.

Retired Mountie Fred Bodnaruk, who headed the murder investigations of MacMillen and Pamela Darlington in the early 1970s, is in awe as to how DNA is able to find matches accurately. Haunted by unsolved cases, he is grateful that one of his cold cases has been solved.

“We never dreamed about DNA and what a tool it would be in my time,” he told the Vancouver Sun in an interview.

He and his team worked 15 to 18 hours a day just to narrow down suspects from hundreds. It halted when it exhausted the suspects and could no longer go anywhere. Two boxes of evidence from the said case were sent to Kamloops RCMP detachment’s evidence room for storage.

DNA fingerprinting was discovered by Sir Alec Jeffreys in 1984. In the early 1990s, samples needed to be about the size of a dime. Since then, there have been significant developments in DNA testing and analysis. Now, forensic scientists can use DNA samples from tiny saliva droplets, or dead skin cells.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has invested in setting up national DNA database and collecting DNA samples from suspects and those convicted. In fact, it was in utilizing FBI’s database that led to a match with the American killer, Fowler.

As Bodnaruk summed up, “It’s almost divine intervention that this clever person found DNA and made it work for police work. Fingerprints are great, but this science (DNA) is almost beyond belief.”

Should the police invest more in the improvement of DNA technology?

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About T'ash Spenser

T’ash Spencer writes full time for BiometricUpdate.com. She has 15 years experience in the field of regional planning and earned her Master’s of Science in Regional Development Planning and Management from the University of Dortmund, Germany. Follow her @tashspencer1.