Suspect named in 1995 double homicide, linked to 20 others

Suspect named in 1995 double homicide, linked to 20 others »Play Video
Bobby Jack Fowler in a 1995 booking photograph.

PORTLAND, Ore. – Prosecutors have named a suspect in the 1995 deaths of two teenage girls found in Lincoln County, and they linked the man to more than 20 murders in the United States and Canada.

The bodies of 15-year-old Jennifer Esson and her friend 16-year-old Kara Leas were covered in brush at the end of a logging road in a clear cut north of Newport when found Feb. 15, 1995.

They had been strangled.

With the help of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Lincoln County District Attorney Rob Bovett named Bobby Jack Fowler as the suspect Monday in those homicides.

Fowler, 66, died in the Oregon State Prison in 2006 of end-stage lung cancer 10 years after he was convicted of kidnapping and attempted rape in Lincoln County.

The cold case team also has linked Fowler to the murders of 17-year-old Melissa Sanders and 19-year-old Sheila Swanson who were murdered in 1992.

Like Esson and Leas, the two were walking alone along Highway 101 when they most likely met up with Fowler.

The Royal Canadian police say they have physical evidence tying Fowler to the 1974 murder of 16-year-old Colleen MacMillen along BC's "Highway of Tears."

A source close to the investigation also said Fowler is being looked at as a possible suspect in the murders of as many as 18 other girls in British Columbia and that he could have been involved in more murders in the United States.

The investigation continues as detectives trace Fowler's movements working as a roofer around the country from the mid-1970s until his arrest in 1995.

A news conference is scheduled for Tuesday morning. Officials are expected to reveal more about Fowler and the crimes investigators connected to him.

It is supposed to be live-streamed here www.livestream.com/rcmpgrc starting at 11 a.m.