Man who died in prison linked to multiple murders - Cincinnati News, FOX19-WXIX TV

Man who died in prison linked to multiple murders

Posted: Updated: Sep 25, 2012 01:10 PM
NEWPORT, OR (KPTV) -

A man convicted of sexual abuse who died in prison has been named the suspect in murder cold cases on the Oregon coast.

The Lincoln County District Attorney's Office and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police announced Tuesday they believe Bobby Jack Fowler committed a number of unsolved homicides over three decades.

Fowler was arrested in 1995 in Newport after investigators said a woman escaped an attempted rape at a motel by jumping out of a second-story window.

He was convicted of charges including kidnapping, attempted rape, sexual abuse and assault and sentenced to 16 years behind bars.

He died in a local prison in 2006 at the age of 66 from lung cancer.

In 2009, Lincoln County District Attorney Rob Bovett reopened five homicide cases from 1984, 1992 and 1995. All the victims were teenage girls.

Earlier this year, investigators began working with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police regarding similar cases in Canada.

On Tuesday, Fowler was named as a suspect for killings in both countries between the 1970s and 1990s.

Oregon investigators said he is considered a person of interest in the killings of Sheila Swanson, 19, and Melissa Sanders, 17, in 1992. They were last seen in May that year near Beverly Beach State Park. Their bodies were discovered in a wooded area near Eddyville in October 1992.

He is suspected of killing Jennifer Esson, 16, and Kara Leas, 16, in 1995. They were last seen walking on Northwest 56th Street in Newport in late January of that year. Their bodies were found in a wooded area north of Newport about three weeks later.

CTV in Canada reports investigators in that country identified Fowler as responsible for the death of a 16-year-old hitchhiker in British Columbia in 1974.

The Canadian news outlet said he was working at a roofing company in Prince George at the time. Fowler did not have a criminal record in Canada, but he is still potentially a suspect in as many as 18 other cases involving missing and murdered women in that region.

Local and Canadian investigators said DNA samples matched Fowler to the crimes.

If you know anything about the Lincoln County cases or any other unsolved homicides, call 541-265-0271.

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