Roxanne Thiara was born in 1978. She was placed in the foster care system at a young age and wound up in the care of Mildred Thiara in Quesnel, British Columbia, who later became her legal guardian.
According to her foster family, Roxanne was a happy and bubbly child growing up. However, as she entered adolescence, she began to experience struggles, skipping school and hanging out with a group of kids considered to be a “bad bunch”.
When she was 12, Roxanne reconnected with her biological father, Roland Twan. At this time, she was also incarcerated in a youth detention centre for an unknown petty offence. According to her former brother-in-law, Rene Bierness, this was “the worst thing that happened to” Roxanne, and “she went wild” after her release.
Roxanne struggled to reintegrate into civilian life upon her release. She turned to drugs and survival sex, and spent the majority of her time in Williams Lake, a town located just outside of Quesnel. While away for days at a time, she made a point of checking in with Mildred when she could.
In June 1994, Roxanne told Mildred she wanted to turn her life around and become a fashion designer. As such, she made the decision to enter a rehab program at a local drug treatment centre. At the time of her murder, she’d made an appointment to begin the program.
DISAPPEARANCE & MURDER:
On June 27 1994, Roxanne left Mildred’s home with plans to return the next day, after she’d collected her belongings in Prince George, British Columbia. What Mildred didn’t know was that this would be the last time she ever heard from or saw Roxanne, as she didn’t return to Quesnel as promised.
Over the July long weekend, Roxanne told a friend she was going with a customer to downtown Prince George. This exchange would be the last known sighting of the 15-year-old.
Throughout the month, Mildred searched for Roxanne and called those who knew her. On August 11, 1994, she reported her missing, and just six days later her skeletal remains were found outside Burns Lake, in the bush along Highway 16 – better known as the Highway of Tears. Local residents had found her while walking around the perimeter of a property they’d recently purchased.
After her body was found, local police released a photo of Roxanne to the public, in the hopes someone would come forward with information. This generated around 40 tips, but nothing that helped lead investigators to her killer. It was theorized the person or persons responsible for Roxanne’s death had killed her elsewhere and dumped her body along Highway 16. Given the remoteness of the location, it was believed they were familiar with the area.
In the fall of 2005, British Columbia’s Unsolved Homicide Unit was tasked with examining Roxanne’s case, as well as those of Ramona Wilson and Alisha “Leah” Germaine, as all three had been killed within the span of six months back in 1994.
Ramona Wilson was just 16 years old when she went missing from Smithers on June 11, 1994. She’d told her mother she was going to meet with friends and attend a dance in a nearby community. She never made it home, and her body was found in April 1995 by the Smithers airport, near Highway 16. Leah Germaine was known to work the streets of Prince George when she disappeared on December 9, 1994. Her body was found a few hours later near an elementary school on the outskirts of the city, close to Highway 16.
Roxanne and Leah were known to each other.
Behavioural-science experts with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police’s had noticed similarities between the three cases, prompting the involvement of the Unsolved Homicide Unit. Following their analysis, Project E-PANA was created to examine the large amount of missing persons and murder cases in British Columbia.
The project consists of five missing persons and 13 homicide investigations, all of which meet at least one of the following criteria: they were female; they were involved in high-risk activities that would have put them in increased danger; there was evidence of a stranger attack; and they were last seen near, or their bodies found, within a mile of Highway 16.
Former RCMP officer Ray Michalko has dedicated his time to looking into the cases along the Highway of Tears. Working as a private investigator, he theorizes that those involved in running sex trafficking rings in Prince George may have had something to do with both Roxanne and Leah’s murders. He has since grown close to the families of those who have been the victims of crime along the highway.
CASE CONTACT INFORMATION:
Those with information regarding the case are asked to contact the Prince George detachment of the RCMP at 250-561-3300 or the Project E-PANA tip line at 1-877-543-4822.
Image Credit: Justice for Native People