Ray Michalko would never have predicted that putting an ad in a northern B.C. paper in 2006 would end up with him writing a book 10 years later.
Obstruction of Justice details the private investigator’s probing into the numbers of the missing and murdered women along the Highway of Tears, a name given to the 722 km stretch of Hwy 16 between Prince Rupert and Prince George.
“I think it’s going to make people aware about a lot of things and I’ve tried not to be judgemental but present the information or facts and let readers make up their minds about the whole thing,” he says about what he hopes the book will accomplish.
“I’m sure it’ll generate more calls for me,” said the former police officer who lives on the Lower Mainland.
When Michalko began his search way back in early 2006, seven women were missing or had been found murdered along the highway, which grew to nine – the number Michalko talks about in his book – then jumped to 18 when the RCMP decided to add more cases, some from Alberta and some from further south in B.C., saying they were related.
His search for answers began with placing an ad in papers in the northwest, asking anyone with information to come forward and talk to him.
Michalko believed that someone out there knew something but was afraid to talk to the police.
A friend laughed at him, saying he’d never get any replies to his ad; however, Michalko was swamped with tips.
Over the years, he has travelled to Terrace and Prince George several times, and to Smithers, and Houston to investigate further.
He’s met with tipsters and has wanted to share his information with police, but says he’s never heard back from the authorities.
Now, he says he can’t escape from the cases and his investigations.
“I’ve given up on the idea [of quitting]. The only way I’ll escape is to retire and disconnect my phone and email. I can’t sit still so I don’t see that happening in the near future.”
Michalko added that of the tips that he still receives, none are about missing Terrace women Lana Derrick or Tamara Chipman.
The women he’s still focused on are Roxanne Thiara and Leah Alishia Germaine, both of Prince George and whose cases he thinks are related, Alberta Williams of Prince Rupert and maybe Nicole Hoar, the only non-aboriginal woman included in the nine original women noted to be missing or found murdered along Hwy16 between Prince George and Prince Rupert.
Michalko has some firm conclusions from his investigations about why the cases have gone unsolved.
“I think probably the single most [important] thing that stands out for me was the investigators of the day who were trying hard to solve these cases, had they been given enough resources at the time, they should’ve had some success,” said Michalko.
“I think the fact they weren’t given resources says a lot about why the crimes were not solved back then,” he added, saying that a number of the investigators have said the same thing.
And it wasn’t because of a lack of money, he believes.
“Money is tight in police forces but they always have the money,” he said.
Michalko believes that when it comes to people who live on the fringes of society that money isn’t given as freely as it would have been if the missing person was, for example, the daughter of a civic official.
Michalko believes that’s the same across the country, explaining why in some cases it takes so long for anything to be done.
Michalko is still convinced the answer is the same as when he started investigating: someone out there knows something about the missing and murdered women on the Highway of Tears.
He’d still like to talk to them in confidence if they’re brave enough to do it.
“I feel for the families, I think they’re getting to the point they’re losing, if not lost, any hope in these cases being resolved,” said Michalko.
“It’s almost like they’re not going to get resolved unless someone walks into the police station and says ‘here I am and here’s what I did,’” he added.
Ray Michalko’s book Obstruction of Justice will be released May 15 by Red Deer Press, a Canadian publishing house based in Markham, Ontario.