‘Somebody out there knows something’

Private investigator Ray Michalko is not convinced the infamous Highway of Tears cases of missing or murdered women will ever be solved.

Nicole Hoar

Nicole Hoar

Private investigator Ray Michalko is not convinced the infamous Highway of Tears cases of missing or murdered women will ever be solved.

But the former North Vancouver Mountie is not giving up his search for clues that may one day lead to what happened to Red Deer’s Nicole Hoar and eight other women along Hwy 16 between Prince George and Prince Rupert.

Hoar, 25, vanished while hitchhiking on the remote highway west of Prince George in June 2002. Bound for Smithers, B.C., to visit her sister, Hoar was last seen in front of a gas station. This month marks the 13th anniversary of her disappearance.

Police confirm her case remains as part of the RCMP’s Project E-Pana, a special task force charged with reviewing and investigating missing women in northern and central British Columbia. Seventeen of the 18 cases remain unsolved.

Michalko says he’s been a thorn in the police’s side over the years. A few years ago, he was sent a letter from the RCMP that he may be charged with obstructing justice.

“They are very territorial,” he said. “As far as they are concerned, I have no business doing this.”

But he will continue to send them tips when he comes up with solid evidence or leads.

Since 2005, Michalko has been investigating the nine missing and murdered women on his own dime. Michalko, who worked as an RCMP officer for nearly 10 years before quitting, decided to get involved because he felt he could do a better job than the police.

The tips have slowed down in recent years and there has been little progress. However, Michalko believes there are still clues to be found.

“In many cases, people have died since then,” he said. “I am a firm believer that somebody out there knows something.”

In the early days, Michalko believed a serial killer was responsible for the all disappearances.

But now he believes two or three cases may be the work of a serial killer and the majority of the women were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Michalko finds Hoar’s case particularly interesting because she went missing close to where teenager Leah Germaine’s body was found in 1994.

Germaine and teens Roxanne Thiara and Ramona Wilson were killed over the span of six months near Hwy 16 in 1994.

Hoar is also the only non-Aboriginal who vanished on the Highway of Tears. Michalko said this does not meet the patterns of the other missing women.

“There is somebody out there who knows something,” Michalko. “It’s just a matter of plugging away and maybe somebody will get lucky and solve one of these cases. Maybe one of these perpetrators will decide, for whatever reason, to clear their conscience and come forward.”

He does hold out hope there will be some breaks in the cases but the more the time passes, the more remote that possibility.

Michalko does not like to involve the families in his investigations.

“Over the years I talked to a few of them,” he said. “I talked to Nicole’s family but it’s been out of necessity. I don’t want to get involved with the families because I didn’t want to give them any false hope. It was such a long shot that I would come up with anything in the first place.”

Hoar’s parents, who continue to live in Red Deer, declined to be interviewed.

Two years after she went missing, the family set up the Nicole Hoar Scholarship at Red Deer College. It started as a $500 scholarship in 2004 and increased to $1,000 in 2006.

Eleven students have since received the scholarship.

Hoar spent two years at RDC in the bachelor of fine arts transfer program before transferring to the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, where she earned her degree in fine arts with a major in ceramics.

Hoar was accepted into the master of fine arts program just before she went missing.

“She made an outstanding impression on us,” said RDC instructor Ian Cook, who helped set up the scholarship with the family and Hoar’s former instructor. “She was a very young and outgoing woman. She valued friends and made a strong impression on her friends and instructors in the program.”

He said the Nicole Hoar Scholarship is a lasting legacy that keeps Hoar’s memory alive in the minds of the students and the program.

For more information on Project E-Pana, visit www. bc.cb.rcmp-grc.gc.ca

crhyno@bprda.wpengine.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Bloc Québécois MP Sebastien Lemire rises during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Friday, March 12, 2021. A Bloc Québécois MP has apologized for taking a screen shot of a Liberal MP who inadvertently appeared nude during virtual proceedings in the House of Commons last week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Bloc Québécois MP apologizes for taking nude photo of Liberal MP William Amos

‘I have no idea how that photo made its way into the media’

FILE - This Sunday, June 25, 2017, file photo shows TK Holdings Inc. headquarters in Auburn Hills, Mich. A driver in South Carolina is the latest person to be killed by an exploding Takata air bag inflator. Honda says that a faulty driver’s air bag blew apart in a crash involving a 2002 Honda Accord in Lancaster County, South Carolina. The company wouldn’t give details of the Jan. 9, 2021, crash near Charlotte, North Carolina, nor would it identify the person who was killed. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)
South Carolina driver killed by exploding air bag inflator

Drivers can check to see if their vehicles have been recalled

Hospital staff shift the body of a COVID-19 patient on a stretcher to a waiting ambulance at a specialized COVID-19 hospital in Noida, a suburb of New Delhi, India, Wednesday, April 21, 2021. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)
Low on beds, oxygen, India adds global high 314K virus cases

Government rushing oxygen tankers to replenish hospital supplies

A traveler wearing a protective mask, due to the COVID-19 outbreak, walks through the nearly empty JetBlue terminal at Logan Airport in Boston, Friday, May 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Charles Krupa
JetBlue expanding wings with service to Vancouver from New York and Boston

JetBlue will have to compete with Canadian airlines

Green Party MP Elizabeth May arrives on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday, Sept. 24, 2020. An emergency parliamentary debate that was supposed to be a forum for cross-party collaboration on better ways to combat the COVID-19 pandemic has devolved into another round of partisan finger-pointing. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Emergency parliamentary debate on pandemic devolves into partisan finger-pointing

‘Let’s work together instead of playing terrible politics in this debate’

Westerner Park’s Exhibition Hall was used as a vaccination clinic on Wednesday. A steady stream of people came to get their COVID-19 shots either by appointment or as walk-ins. Photo by PAUL COWLEY/Advocate staff
No long lineups at walk-in vaccination site in Red Deer

A steady stream of people walked into Westerner Park on Wednesday to… Continue reading

FILE - In this March 19, 2021, file photo, people take pictures of the Olympic rings installed by the Japan Olympic Museum in Tokyo. The vaccine rollout in Japan has been very slow with less than 1% vaccinated. This of course is spilling over to concerns about the postponed Tokyo Olympics that open in just over three months.(AP Photo/Hiro Komae, File)
Olympic bodies launch competitive series in virtual sports

Olympic body hopes to reach more young people

Linda Tomlinson
Gardening: Leave the lawn until the soil is dry

Spring is arriving, Alberta style with warm days, cold days and snow.… Continue reading

Silent protests were held recently in response to Red Deer Public Schools’ decision to reject a Pride Week in favour of a Diversity Week. Some former employees at Red Deer Public are saying the decision is misguided. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Letter: School board silencing Pride Week concern

While it has been our practice to not comment on matters arising… Continue reading

Anderson scores twice as Canadiens down Oilers 4-3

Anderson scores twice as Canadiens down Oilers 4-3

New York Liberty guard Kia Nurse (5) shoots next to Indiana Fever's Kamiah Smalls during the first half of a WNBA basketball game Thursday, Sept. 10, 2020, in Bradenton, Fla. Nurse isn't just one of Canada's finest female basketball players, she's becoming a popular voice of the game as well. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP -Phelan M. Ebenhack
Canadian basketball star Nurse is carving out space in sports broadcasting at just 25

Canadian basketball star Nurse is carving out space in sports broadcasting at just 25

Most Read