Gale Ann Weys was a compassionate and determined 19-year-old who was idolized by her eight siblings, whom she would lead on adventurous excursions around Kamloops.
The "fiercely independent tomboy" travelled extensively in her young life and dreamed of returning to Mexico to help impoverished families, says her family.
"But (Gale) always knew that the role of motherhood — her strongest aspiration — was what the future held for her," said younger sister Dianne Weddell.
Having just moved away from home in October 1973, Weys was living and working two jobs in Clearwater to save money for a trip to Mexico.
But all of her dreams evaporated on Oct. 19 of that year when she left her service station job to visit her parents in Kamloops by hitchhiking Highway 5. Her body was found in a ditch 11 kilometres south of Clearwater on April 6, 1974.
Nearly 40 years later, 13 members of the Weys family, including Gale's siblings and parents, filed into the Kamloops RCMP detachment and made a tearful plea for help identifying her murderer.
"As a family we truly never thought this open wound would be resolved in any way, we had given up hope," said Weddell on Wednesday.
That changed this week when investigators of 13 murders and five disappearances along B.C. highways announced that DNA evidence conclusively points to deceased Oregon prison inmate Bobby Jack Fowler as the 1974 killer of 19-year-old Colleen MacMillen.
She was last seen hitchhiking to Lac La Hache on Aug. 9. Fowler dumped her body beside a logging road about 25 kilometres south of 100 Mile House where she found a month later.
Similarities to MacMillen's murder led police to suspect Fowler "extremely, extremely strongly" in Weys's homicide, according to major crimes investigator Insp. Gary Shinkaruk.
But that's not quite enough for those left behind.
"For our family and other families that are going through the loss of a loved one, there is still that uncertainty of not knowing, questions and emotions left hanging," said Weddell.
A plea for information during a press conference in Surrey Tuesday has already generated several calls and emails with possible leads, said Shinkaruk.
And he hopes Wednesday's repeat pleas in Kamloops and Prince George will generate even more.
Police strongly suspect Fowler in the Nov. 6, 1973, murder of 19-year-old Kamloops resident Pamela Darlington, one month following Weys's disappearance.
Darlington was last seen at the David Thompson Pub in the company of a man with messy blond hair believed to be the driver of an older model white Chrysler four-door.
A passing train crew reported blocking the way of a 1950s, off-white Chrysler coming from the park and train passengers described the driver but no suspect was found.
Technological advances enabled investigators to link DNA evidence in MacMillen's case to Fowler.
But those advancements haven't quite come far enough to link him to Weys and Darlington, said Shinkaruk. So the debate becomes whether to test at all.
"Do we risk submitting something to DNA that may destroy the one piece of exhibit or do we wait for some amount of time to let the advances help us out?" said Shinkaruk.
However DNA is not the only form of evidence that would allow investigators to conclusively name Fowler as Weys's and Darlington's murderer, he said.
"We're not very far away from being able to make that definitive statement," he said. "There's many, many homicides in this country and other countries have been solved… on evidence that is not DNA."
Fowler died of lung cancer in prison in 2006 at the age of 67. He was serving a 16-year sentence for sexual attacking a young woman he'd lured to a Newport, Oregon motel.
Fowler is also a person of interest in several other murders in Oregon, Texas and Northwest Territories and is being investigated by the FBI, said Shinkaruk.
Police have been able to track his movements in the U.S. over 40 years via encounters with the law, employment and by talking to former cellmates and family, who have been co-operative, according to Shinkaruk.
Police determined that young women would often turn up dead in areas where Fowler travelled.
But he practically disappears once in Canada.
Highway of Tears investigators have taken note of 18,000 names over the decades. Fowler's name appears nowhere, said Shinkaruk. And his fingerprints also never made it into a Canadian databank.
A rare appearance occurs in 1974 while working with Happy's Roofing in Prince George. That connection gets him closer to this region since the roofing company picked up material in Kamloops and Clearwater.
Now police and the Weys family are hoping to solidify their strong suspicions with witnesses.
"Perhaps you found (Gale's) clothing and didn't understand what you had found," said Weddell. "Perhaps you met or worked with this man. Perhaps he assaulted you in some way, made you feel uncomfortable or maybe he was involved in a bar fight.
"If fear has kept you silent, Fowler can no longer hurt you in any way, so please come forward."
Anyone with information is asked to call the E-PANA investigation at 1-877-543-4822 or Crime Stoppers at 1-888-222-TIPS.