09/26/2012 06:46 EDT | Updated 11/26/2012 05:12 EST

B.C. family of woman murdered in early '70s makes emotional plea for tips

KAMLOOPS, B.C. - For nearly four decades, Denice Weys and Dianne Weddell had given up hope that police would ever find the person who murdered their older sister.

But then investigators broke another case open, thanks to DNA, and linked Bobby Jack Fowler, a now-deceased Oregon convict, to the 1974 murder of 16-year-old Colleen MacMillen of Lac La Hache, B.C.

One day after police made that announcement and also called Fowler a suspect in their sister's death, Weys and Weddell made an emotional plea to the public for tips that could help solve a crime that has left their family with an "open wound."

"If fear has kept you silent, Fowler can no longer hurt you in any way," the sisters said in a statement read out during a news conference at the RCMP detachment in Kamloops. "So please come forward."

Investigators also announced Tuesday that Fowler was a suspect in the murder of Pamela Darlington, who like Gale Weys was 19 years old when she died in the early 1970s.

The women are among a list of 18 females who have disappeared or been murdered along B.C. highways, including Highway 16, known as the Highway of Tears, during the past four decades.

In 2005, police launched an investigation known as E-Pana and have tried to determine whether one or more serial killers have been at work.

RCMP Staff Sgt. Wayne Clary said Wednesday that since police named Fowler as a suspect in the Weys and Darlington deaths, investigators have received 50 phone calls to a tip line, as well as numerous emails.

During the same news conference, Weys and Weddell painted a picture of their sister's life, calling her a tomboy who was fiercely independent and protective of her younger siblings.

They said she had an infectious laugh, a sharp sense of humour and was a natural leader, moving through Brownies, Guides and Rangers as a youth.

She earned a national lifeguard certificate, volunteered with special-needs children and always cajoled others onto the fastest, scariest, and highest rides at local fairs and the Pacific National Exhibition.

After moving away from home to Clearwater, B.C., their sister worked two jobs to save money for a trip to Mexico but always knew she wanted to be a mother, they said.

All those dreams ended when she was murdered in 1973.

"These dreams and many others yet to be created were never fulfilled as life was taken from her, and she from us, violently, painfully and abruptly."

The sisters pled for members of the pubic to dredge up any memory related to the crime, including found clothing, workplace interactions or bar fights with Fowler.

"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.

"If you can help in any way please do so for Gale and all the other women." (CHNL)

-- by Keven Drews in Vancouver