Philip Innes Fraser 23, was the son of Shirley and Robert Fraser both prominent physicians in Anchorage. His murder 30 years ago this month still remains a cold case. Other than a segment on ‘Unsolved Mysteries’ in the early nineties, there has been little publicity regarding his murder and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police still refuse to release key details
This is one of those stories that we fear, not just for ourselves- but our loved ones who travel. One of isolation and an open road heading into the unknown. An innocent man with a bright future crosses paths with a phantom transient with rotted teeth. One case in particular haunted me since it originally aired and still haunts me to this very day. His name is Philip Innes Fraser.
A Million Miles From Home
Prince George, British Columbia- June 19, 1988 was suppose to be a typical mild spring evening. At 9:30 PM, an intense inferno rages inside of a bay at the Car Pool Car Wash on Fifth Ave and Third Ave directly across from a small patch of grass bordered by Cassiar Street. It’s a ”triangle intersection” blending a residential neighborhood into a commercial zone. Teenagers on BMXs and skateboards cut through yards and parking lots from every direction, flocking towards the sunlit evening smoke signal. Exploding glass echoes throughout the neighborhood. A symphony of berserk dogs and honking drivers pollute the air.
Despite being the largest city in northern British Columbia with a population over 65,000, Prince George is no metropolis, but consistently ranks as one of the most dangerous cities in Canada.
A crowd gathers on Fifth Ave, an artery of Prince George. The intense heat and wild flames dancing into the sky tames the crowd into awe as it ignites the outside signage and roof of the building. In an instant, barking dogs turn into ominous howls as piercing sirens of the firetrucks weave through the crowd. A stench of fuel still lingers as firefighters begin extinguishing what most speculate as a stolen car some kids decided to burn up at the end of a joyride. Even the names of local troublemakers are getting tossed around. Others, including a firefighter were optimistic and suspected a resident had car trouble and perhaps it burst into flames. “Is this anyone’s vehicle? Is anyone hurt?”, an approaching officer shouts. “Can anyone explain what happened?” The crowd begins to gossip and offer their theories to the authorities at the scene, but this was serious. Regardless, nobody expected what was about to unfold in the coming weeks.
The Prince George substation of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) began to process what they could of the charred Volkswagen sedan. It’s quickly identified as a 1983 Volkswagen Jetta, a two-door sedan with a sunroof and missing license plates. The following morning they were able to piece together the VIN number.
The burned-out Jetta belonged to 23 year-old Philip Innes Fraser from Anchorage, Alaska. The Prince George RCMP knew immediately something was wrong. Either the vehicle was stolen without Mr. Fraser’s knowledge or he’s the victim of foul play. The remains of the Jetta left no clues as to the fate or whereabouts of it’s owner. Corporal Craig Gates of the Prince George RCMP recalled on Unsolved Mysteries, “The condition of the car after it was burned, it was… almost was totally gutted out on the inside due to the fire and fire damage to the outside as well. Nothing was found in the car of any significance”. Prince George RCMP contacted the Alaska State Police to see if the Jetta’s plates had been reported missing prior to finding the car that morning. Once the plates came back clear, they explained to the Alaska State Police they had nothing but the Jetta’s remains sitting in a car wash stall. Alaska State Police immediately entered Alaska plate CBJ-358 as stolen and sent out a statewide All-Points Bulletin Philip Fraser.
Prince George Royal Canadian Mounted Police needed to establish contact with the victim’s family. An RCMP investigator would recount to the media, “All we have is the burned-up car of a young man that lives far away without a single witness. We needed to speak to someone who could give us a timetable of when he would have been around here”. The Anchorage Police Department queried Phillip’s address on the 1100 block of W. 12th Ave Anchorage. Philip’s parents, Robert and Shirley Fraser were also listed at that address. To ensure they also weren’t victims of foul play, a patrol car was sent to the residence.
Dr. Robert Fraser served as the Director of Tuberculous Control for the State of Alaska Department of Public Health. His mother, Dr. Shirley Fraser was a neurologist. Around midnight they get a knock at the door, an Anchorage patrol officer states he was doing a ‘wellness check’ on behalf of the Prince George RCMP due to a vehicle with stolen license plates registered to their address. The Frasers immediately contacted the Prince George RCMP substation to figure out exactly what was going on. It had been five days since they had spoke with their son. Last they knew, he was camping in Alaska until he could figure out what was going on with his car. Now his car was reported stolen and found burned up all the way in Prince George?
Robert’s heart sank, he already suspected the worse. “I was sure that there had been foul play. But I kept hoping… thinking of all sorts of alternatives”.
Philip Innes Fraser’s charred 1983 Volkswagen Jetta
The Journey Home
Philip Innes Fraser was born January 3, 1965 to Shirley and Robert Fraser, both physicians of Anchorage Alaska. Shirley was a neurologist and Robert Fraser was an internist originally from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Frasers were intellectuals with high academic expectations of their three sons. They both also had a genuine love for anything outdoors. That was passed down to their kids, Philip especially who also enjoyed literature and was an exceptional violin player. The violin was something he loved from an early age- not something his parents forced him to play.
In 1982, Philip graduated from West Anchorage High School at 17. The following year he attended Western Maryland College, his father’s alma mater but didn’t stay longer than a year. Philip was very opinionated and idealistic. A high school friend recalled, “He danced to the beat of his own drum. Sort of a rebel, but not the fight with your parents and take up smoking type. He was following in his mom and dad’s footsteps, but it was going to be on his own terms”. He left Western Maryland because he really missed what Alaska offered him in his everyday life.
After trying to find his place in this world in Anchorage, he finally enrolled in pre-med at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington. The Frasers’ weren’t happy about it, but they supported his decision. Despite his parent’s objections, he planned on trekking the 2,300 mile journey to Olympia in his 1983 Volkswagen Jetta while camping in wilderness along the way.
Alaska Highway 1 is known as the “The Alaskan Highway” in both the US and Canada, it is the main artery of the first leg between Alaska and the lower 48. It cuts through the rugged frontier of Alaska and Canada’s Yukon Territory. Nothing but miles and miles of asphalt and gravel winding and slicing through mountain valleys of Alaskan-Canadian wilderness. The road is breathtaking, but extremely dangerous. In June, the weather is unpredictable and wildlife is in full swing. Boulders, rocks and tree-limbs hitting the road and vehicles happens frequently. Philip’s window already was shattered and taped up due to a semi shooting it out with a rock on the highway earlier that year.
On Tuesday June 14, Phillip had packed all of his possessions, including two handguns into his 1983 black two-door VW Jetta. Sometime between 11 AM and 3 PM the lifelong resident of Anchorage and student set off into the frontier headed for his Olympia home an hour south of Seattle. Just five hours into his journey, Philip noticed something wasn’t right with his car. Not far outside a town named Tok, Alaska, he decided to set up camp. He called his parents late that evening letting them know of his setback. Dr. Robert Fraser pressed for further details, but his son minimized it. Everything was “fine” and he’d resume his trip in the morning. The Fraser’s knew he had checks, major credit cards and if it was any worse- he’d call them. Dr. Robert Fraser and Dr. Shirley Fraser would never hear from their son again.
Between Prince Rupert and Prince George British Columbia, Highway 16 is a 450 mile (740 km) stretch of road in British Columbia known as the “Highway of Tears”. Over a period of forty years, at least twenty-one indigenous women has been last seen around or found slain along Highway 16. After Prince George Royal Canadian Mount Police found Philip Fraser’s incinerated Jetta at the Car Pool Car Wash on June 19 and speaking with his father Dr. Robert Fraser, Prince George RCMP detachment requested assistance from the Prince Rupert RMCP detachment’s regional General Investigation Section (GIS) led under Sergeant Wayne Watson. Although Philip wasn’t an indigenous woman or a child, something was wrong. Very wrong. The general consensus, even for Robert and Shirley was that Philip had met foul play. Typically when an adult goes missing, there is not much law enforcement agencies will do for at least 24 to 72 hours. Especially in the eighties, unless there was evidence of foul play, anything beyond a written report was… a miracle. “A young single man leisurely travels, camping in the wilderness during the summer as he makes his way down to school”, said Dr. Robert Fraser speaking of law enforcement’s urgency in finding Philip- “There was no hesitation. I think everyone knew right away… something just wasn’t right. They knew when they found his car on fire with none of his belongings”.
Unfortunately, all the RCMP knew up until this point was that Philip was last heard from on the evening of June 14th claiming to be near Tok, Alaska and the remains of his burned out Jetta were in Prince George. The Prince Rupert/Prince George RCMP GIS the following day had assigned four full-time investigators working his disappearance. They knew the chance of finding him alive was slim-to-none, but they had to narrow down his whereabouts. Investigators issued an All-Points-Bulletin for Philip and received photos from the Frasers to fax over to their Alaskan and RCMP substation counterparts all throughout British Columbia and the Yukon Territory. They even approached, the media.
Then a small break came the following day.
Late morning of June 17th, Philip Innes Frasier crossed into Canada and had signed a Royal Canadian Mounted Police NonResident Firearm Declaration at the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) in Beaver Creek, Yukon Territory. I’d like to add that contrary to what is portrayed on Unsolved Mysteries, since 1981; CBSA in Beaver Creek has been a concrete and steel building with paved roads and boom gates. The station is roughly 18 miles from the Alaskan border, the furthest station from the actual border than any other station in Canada. Philip surrendered his two handguns and was back on the road within an hour. It wasn’t the break they were hoping for and certainly wasn’t the greatest news for the Fraser family- Philip had surrendered his weapons. Camping in vast hostile wilderness without a firearm is a big risk. Then to have met foul play? Had to be stomach turning for the Fraser family.
Over the next week or two, leads started to seep in. Despite law enforcement’s intensity and the regional publicity regarding Philip’s disappearance, reality as described by Cpl. Craig Gates was, “People out here just don’t have access to it[media outlets]. Quite a few families live off the land around here… we have to visit every rest stop, gas station, campground and store over thousands of kilometers”. Gates was correct. Most of the leads were folks that seen someone in there resembling Philip days or weeks earlier.
Most leads meant investigators had to travel hundreds of miles, using precious time and resources. There were a string of credible leads that had come from Upper Liard and Lake Dease in the Yukon Territory, which would have been Philip’s route of travel to Seattle. A few days later, Prince George RCMP was able to confirm that Philip had stayed at a campground near Lake Dease the early morning hours of June 18th. Then there were numerous sightings of Philip at a campground in Dawson Creek, British Columbia- which was four-and-a-half hours past Prince George. It started giving the Frasers a false sense of hope, suggesting that Philip very well may have abandoned his car and went off on his own. RCMP wasn’t confident in the Dawson Creek leads and continued running newspaper ads in regional newspapers.
Just to give everyone an idea of how remote these areas are, regional newspapers had sections called “Tourist Alerts” issued by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police asking certain tourists to call certain individuals regarding an urgent message. On July 11 and 18, 1988 the Nanaiamo Daily News asked “Philip Fraser, Prince George, Please call home”. In talking to some folks from the region, especially in the eighties and nineties, this wasn’t abnormal. People from the all over the United States and Canada would travel to the Yukon Territory and Northern British Columbia to get away from everyday life. Usually just to camp and have an adventure. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police would get at least a dozen calls at each substation every month with concerned family and friends. So they would take an ad out once a week and list everyone who’s people are looking to get in contact with them. There are even times when people came just for a short duration, but family emergencies would spring up. While it may seem that something sinister may be in play or strange, majority of the time someone was concerned and that was it. Worse thing that would happen is that people would be reported missing, and once the concerned party made contact with their loved one, they wouldn’t let the RCMP know. There would be instances where RCMP would make contact with folks who had a missing persons report filed for them years prior.
Hunting a Phantom
On July 27, 1988 the mystery of Philip Fraser’s journey came to an end. Twenty-nine miles(47km) east of Stewart, British Columbia; tourists pulled into a gravel turnaround right off Highway 37A “The Glacier Highway”. It was a beautiful place to take some pictures and stretch out their legs. A gentleman began walking their dog who started to pull him up into some thick shrubs. Face down in the mud was the bullet riddled body of 23 year-old Philip Innes Fraser. The tourists immediately took off and headed towards Stewart to report it to authorities. Cpl. Craig Gates later recalled on Unsolved Mysteries, “At the time of the discovery of the body it was already well known about the incident of the car burning in the car wash at Prince George… Almost immediately investigators were looking at the remains being that of Philip Fraser.
In order to do a positive identification, we required dental records from Alaska, which we obtained very quickly and were able to make that identification”. His remains were positively identified two days later on July 29th. The medical examiner determined cause of death to be multiple gunshot wounds by a handgun. Based on the advanced decomposition of the body, his estimated time of death was around the time he went missing. RCMP began sifting through every lead and piecing together Philip’s trail. A team was assembled to begin “an extensive publicity campaign” in effort to solve Philip’s murder. Given their experience with major crimes and his body in their jurisdiction, Prince Rupert Royal Canadian Mounted Police substation assigned four full-time General Investigation Section (GIS) investigators along with seven Prince George RCMP investigators. Sgt. Wayne Watson remained in charge.
RCMP worked extensively in the Upper Liard and Dease Lake area and within a day interviewed Gaye Frocklage, owner of 40 Mile Flats Cafe- a gas station and restaurant over 720 miles from the Beaver Creek checkpoint and just an hour south of Dease Lake where Philip was last seen alive. She had called in a tip a couple of weeks prior.
Gaye ran the cafe with her daughter Tina. The dates they provided corresponded with investigator’s estimated time and route of travel. According to Gaye, in the late afternoon of June 18th, someone driving a “dark colored pick up with a light stripe on the side” dropped off a hitchhiker. She immediately was put off by the individual at first sight and recalled, “just looking at him through the window, it was something wrong”, she continued, “there was something wrong with him, you know, in appearance. [I] wasn’t comfortable. And I said to Tina, we’ve got a winner here”. Gaye was suppose to leave around this time while Tina was working until close, but she was so uncomfortable that she wouldn’t leave her daughter while the hitchhiker was in the establishment.
It was around this time that she saw a small black Jetta pull up to the side of the cafe, but didn’t get out of the car. Gaye would elaborate on Unsolved Mysteries, ”[Philip] proceeded to act like he was searching his car, like he had misplaced something that he needed. During this time is when another vehicle pulled up to the service station”. Gaye then instructed Tina to go pump gas for the customer and she’d take care of the suspicious hitchhiker inside.
When Tina went to pump gas for the customer, both she and Philip exchanged hellos. Shortly afterwords she came back inside and the suspicious hitchhiker finished his meal and came up to pay. Both Gaye and Tina noticed that he had paid with Canadian currency. The suspicious hitchhiker left the cafe and both Tina and Gaye witnessed the individual approach Philip Fraser. There was a brief exchange before the hitchhiker proceeded to head south down the cafe’s lot along Highway 37. Philip sat in the lot a few minutes and then pulled ahead “like he had second thoughts”, according to Gaye. Phillip pulled beside the hitchhiker and they exchanged some words. As the Philip started rolling ahead, the hitchhiker pulled the passenger door open and while running beside the car. Philip relented and proceeded to let the hitchhiker enter. Tina then remarked to Gaye that “he’s[Philip] going to live to regret this day he picked this man up”. She told both Unsolved Mysteries and the RCMP, “it’s like a sixth sense, this man was capable of anything”. Investigators campaigned for several weeks traveling along Highway 37 and Highway 16, sure to stop at each restaurant and gas station between the 40 Miles Flats Cafe and Prince George, handing out fliers, talking about Philip Fraser and the hitchhiker. One investigator would later explain, “we thought he would be assuming the identity of Philip Fraser or his story at least, ya know making purchases and getting fuel. We kept on putting his name out there”.
To a degree, the campaign worked. Multiple witnesses, including folks from two establishments along Highway 37 and several others on Highway 16 shared accounts similar to the Frocklages. None of the witnesses the hitchhiker encountered were able to identify Philip Fraser in photos provided to RCMP by his parents. The hitchhiker gave similar stories of Philip’s life and they were able to give similar descriptions of the hitchhiker. He told one witness that he had been visiting relatives in Tok, Alaska and another that he worked for a fish-processing plant there. He told other witnesses that he was a medical student from Toronto and just left a friend’s wedding in Whitehorse and was hitchhiking home.
Witnesses described the hitchhiker and the man they believed to be Philip Fraser as a white male in his early to mid-twenties with a large beer belly, rotten teeth, strong body odor and stubble on his face. He was very unkempt and waddled when he walked. Most described him as either “slow or mildly retarded”. He constantly bites his nails and is a chain smoker of American cigarette brands. When he smokes, he cups his right hand around the cigarette, holding the cigarette with his index finger and thumb(like a joint). They all were unsure if he is Canadian or American. Prince Rupert/George Royal Canadian Mounted Police continued to travel between 40 Mile Flats Cafe and Prince George, stopping at gas stations, campgrounds and parks on different days and hours hoping to find someone who could identify the suspect.
Two months later, RCMP would receive their most significant break.
Eddie and Pauline Olson a down-to-Earth couple from Kitwanga, a village just two hours south of Meziadin Junction sitting right inside the Gitwanga Indian Reserve had not only encountered the suspected killer, but stayed the night in their home. It was the only witness that spent a significant amount of time with their suspect, which was shortly after Philip’s execution. Eddie seen a composite and suspect description at a gas station that he frequented. It resembled and sounded just like a stranded motorist he helped a couple months prior.
On the late evening of Sunday June 18, and 250 miles south of the 40 Mile Flats Cafe, Eddie and Pauline Olson spotted a stranded motorist on Highway 37 not far from their Kitwanga home. Eddie explained on Unsolved Mysteries, “You could tell he was nervous, but I thought well you know, he was just scared being out here this late at night. Didn’t want to stay out here because it’s kind of a remote area. At this point I said we’ll just tow ya home and figure it out in the morning”. The Olsons towed Philip Fraser’s VW Jetta to their home.
This wasn’t the first time the Olsons welcomed a stranded motorist into their home. Eddie let the man into their basement where they had a couple of couches, pillows and blankets for their guests to sleep on. The thought sent shivers down Eddie’s spine and later recalled, “He slept downstairs in our basement and I have about 12 or 15 guns in a gun case down there and where he slept- the guns were just right beside him”. The next morning the suspect joined the Olsons for Sunday breakfast. He explained to them that his parents were physicians in Anchorage and he had to start classes tomorrow morning in Seattle. Pauline and Eddie told investigators that they felt some of the man’s explanations were ‘secretive’ when asked simple questions just ‘for small talk’. The young man was adamant that he had to be in Seattle the next day to start school, so he offered to sell his 1983 VW Jetta for a reasonable offer.
Eddie and the stranded motorist went outside and inspected the car. He recalled the back window being taped up and it wouldn’t start, however, for a car only five or six years old, it was in excellent condition. Eddie explained to the RCMP investigators he was interested and made the suspect an offer. The suspect accepted, but was adamant that the sale needed to be done today. Eddie thought it was strange and explained to the suspect that it was Sunday, he’d have to go the bank in the morning and then “declare the sale through customs legally”. The stranded motorist refused and then told Eddie he was willing to sell the car for just a plane ticket to Seattle. “The only way I would buy it is if you waited til Monday and we went through customs… and he said that would be too late for him”. The stranded motorist wanted to thank Eddie and Pauline Olson for their hospitality offering them some cash and Eddie told him, “not to worry about it”. The suspect insisted, then pulled out two different wallets and gave Eddie Olson twenty American dollars for his troubles. He then told them that he had to get going in order to make it to school on time.
He then went out to begin working on his car and discovered that all it needed was a fan belt. He got it fixed and was back on the road in an hour or so. The RCMP are confident that the suspect departed the Olson’s home between 8:30 AM and 9:00 AM that Sunday. Price Rupert/George RCMP had come full circle. Twelve hours later and three hundred miles away, Philip Innes Fraser’s 1983 VW Jetta was found ablaze at the Car Pool Car Wash in Prince George.
Composites of the hitchhiker and man who later identified himself as Philip Fraser
An Inconvenient Timeline of Unfortunate Events
Sadly it would take months to piece together Philip’s last journey. We do know that Philip left Anchorage between 11 AM and 3 PM June 14, 1988 taking Hwy 1 “The Alaskan Highway”. He called his parents that evening informing them that he was setting up camp near Tok, Alaska due to car trouble, which set him back two days. He then crossed the border entering the Yukon Territory, Canada checking in at the Canada Border Services Agency in Beaver Creek. He declared his two handguns which were illegal for an American to possess in Canada and they were confiscated.
He traveled 680 miles continuing along Hwy 1 until he reached the Upper Liard area and then took Hwy 37 south until he stopped and camped near Dease Lake. It would have taken him about 14 or 15 hours to get from Beaver Creek to Dease Lake. His estimated time of arrival was “the early morning hours” of June 18th. Philip most likely slept in until noon or shortly after, got ready and then continued along Hwy 37 about an hour before stopping at 40 Mile Flats Cafe.
Based on everything I read in newspapers and reports, Gaye opened the cafe and was getting ready to leave once her daughter arrived. It was probably late afternoon when Philip arrived. It was here where Philip picked up the hitchhiker. Meziadin Junction where Hwy 37 meets Hwy 37A “The Glacier Highway”, is three-and-a-half hours south of 40 Mile Flats and two hours north of Kitwanga. Philip’s body was found nine miles from Meziadin Junction on Hwy 37A in a gravel turnaround.
In total, Kitwanga is roughly six hours from 40 Mile Flats, where the hitchhiker (now murder suspect) was picked up and towed by the Olsons. He stayed the night and left early in the morning after fixing the car, taking Hwy 16 to Prince George. Police did mention that there was a witness who helped make a composite of the suspect after he left the Olson’s home. There is little information about the witness or what occurred during their encounter. Twelve hours later, Philip’s VW Jetta was found burning in Prince George. Kitwanga and Prince George are six hours apart. While investigators often work backwards from the scene of the crime to find their suspect, the Prince Rupert/George Royal Canadian Mounted Police had their work cut out for them from minute one.
When looking at any case after all is said and done, it’s easy to play Monday morning quarterback and point out the mistakes, flaws and what they should have done in this or that particular instance. To be fair, I might be too quick to point out mistakes and mishaps when it comes to criminal investigations in general. When I first really started digging into the investigation of Philip Innes Fraser, I was a bit biased. My first mistake was to start delving into message boards being lazy, hoping to see if someone was going to make this a bit easier for me.
Perhaps someone had contacted the RCMP and got some additional information that would give me a quick jump on things. That was hardly the case. Everyone True Crime Junkie has that “One Case” they spend every extra resource, money and time digging into. Sadly, I can say that Philip Fraser was never given his due by anyone, credible that is.
One of the first obstacles I thought I would encounter would be RCMP, as it was long rumored that Philip Fraser’s cause of death was Canada’s Area 51. Even when I found Philip Fraser’s cause of death mentioned by a Mountie in a newspaper article and politely pointed it out for folks to read, the so-called heavies dismissed it and carried on as if it was still “close to the vest”.
Far from it. Not only was the RCMP quick to point out that he was executed by a coward in a hail of bullets, they made it clear from day one to the media. Which is why I must commend the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in their investigation into the murder of Philip Fraser. The moment his car was found ablaze in a Prince George car wash, it was treated and investigated as a homicide. Robert and Shirley Fraser weren’t even in denial. They knew something happened to their son just like the police. The most they could hope for is closure and to give him proper respect and to do so, they needed to treat it as such.
Often we can dismiss small town police or our friends in Canada as lacking the proper experience when it comes to murder investigations. Not only did Prince George reach out to Prince Rupert’s GIS division who was known as their most experienced homicide investigators, they committed proper manpower. They knew they had to reach out to the public, but they knew their people best. Northern British Columbia, Yukon Territory and Alaska is one of the harshest and desolate regions on the planet. In most instances, the nearest metropolitan area that even broadcast AM/FM radio could be three to four hours away. It wasn’t as simple as running Philip’s picture on the five in-the-morning, six and ten o’clock news. They had to drive what they suspected to be Philip Fraser’s route. In one instance, they received a couple of tips that he was in Dawson Creek British Columbia.
If we followed Philip’s route, that would be five hours past Prince George, meaning that Philip started heading northeast after his car was torched. Investigators wasted a few weeks traveling back and forth from Dawson Creek to Prince George trying to find evidence of Philip there. One of the most popular theories is that Philip Fraser fell victim to serial killer Michael McGray. According to some sources at RCMP he was ruled out long ago.
Personally, I don’t feel Philip was murdered due to a spree or serial killer. The biggest piece of evidence in my opinion is that the hitchhiker knew personal details of Philip Fraser that is usually acquired through small talk over time, not by threat or force. He then used these same details to get by until he got to a place he was familiar with. Another interesting detail in the investigation was Tok, Alaska. Philip told his parents that he was camping outside of Tok. The suspect also told witnesses that he was vising family in Tok and then other witnesses he worked at a fish-processing plant there. It could be a coincidence entirely, as Tok is the last stop for hundreds of miles on The Alaskan Highway.
It appears that they traveled together for several hours and then something went wrong. Highway 37A leads back into the Alaska panhandle, which was definitely off Philip’s projected route. That brings me to what troubled me most about this case, aside from his senseless execution. The location of Philip Fraser’s execution didn’t make any sense. It appeared that the hitchhiker and Philip followed Highway 37 until they got to Meziadin Junction and then took Highway 37A towards Stewart only for about 9 miles. Philip was then killed and dumped at the gravel turnaround. Then the killer turned back around and went back to Highway 37 and proceeded towards Prince George via Highway 16. Highway 37 and Highway 37A merge in Meziadin Junction, British Columbia.
Taking Philip’s known route, Highway 37 goes around a curve for about a mile and he would have to take a left to continue on Hwy 37 when it merges with Hwy 37A; going straight at the intersection is the start of Hwy 37A. There is an old abandoned log cabin gas station that sits at the intersection. It looks like it probably would have been in operation 1988 and well after. Hwy 37A is known as “The Glacier Highway” as it literally cuts through a narrow valley in between mountains for an hour or so to Stewart British Columbia which is less than a mile from the US-Canadian border right before Hyder, Alaska. From the streets of Stewart, “smokey mountains” are on all sides of it. I looked along Highway 37A for the gravel turnaround where Philip was executed. Based on the newspaper and police reports, his body was found in a gravel turnaround 47 kilometers east of Stewart on Hwy 37A. In 2009, Google mapped the area. Two gravel turnarounds are roughly within 2km of the 47km mark with one well within a kilometer. It really depends where from Stewart they started measuring the distance. From the center of the city? Right where city limits started?
If I had to guess though, about 9 miles from Meziadin Junction right before the road starts to dip into the valley, there is a gravel turnaround and yard. There are boom gates to block traffic from coming into the valley in the event of an avalanche, flood or severe weather that make passing in the valley dangerous.
Did Philip accidentally miss turning left on Highway 37 in Meziadin Junction and set off the paranoid hitchhiker? Did the hitchhiker take control over Philip much earlier in their trip and order him that location just to kill and dispose of him? Or like Gaye and Tina Frocklage, did Philip sense something was wrong with him, was afraid and attempted to take him through a border checkpoint in order to get rid of him? There was a specific reason for this detour that remains a mystery.
Based on the evidence and every detail I could find and/or inquire about, I firmly believe that Philip either accidentally or intentionally missed his turn(to relieve himself of the hitchhiker) onto Hwy 37 and continued on Hwy 37A toward Hyder, Alaska and to a US Border checkpoint- which the hitchhiker panicked and forced Philip to pull over and then executed him. Perhaps he didn’t even threaten him, told Philip to drop him there, so Philip used the bathroom and the hitchhiker started shooting him from behind.
There is little detail I could find regarding the state of Philip’s body and it’s position in the turnaround. It also must be understood that Philip’s body was left in harsh and remote Canadian wilderness for nearly six weeks. This used to be one of the scariest Unsolved Mysteries cases I seen. Today, it is one of the most tragic. The Frasers lost a son and brother, one who had a bright future. I will say that despite Unsolved Mysteries remaining rather faithful to the investigation of Philip Fraser’s murder, they failed to mention his cause of death. Some have argued that police kept this information “close to the vest”, with others even going so far as to claim they were in regular contact with RCMP and investigating this case as a Junkie. Neither are true. RCMP was rather open about his cause of death when I asked. They also shared it with the media in numerous publications from the time his body was discovered until at least 1999 when a special constable was reaching out to the media.
Others suggest their failure to mention it was due to creative story telling and was obvious when they mentioned Philip’s firearms being confiscated and mentioning the hitchhiker sleeping an arm’s length from the Olson’s guns. I was unaware of Christopher Nolan directing segments for Unsolved Mysteries in the nineties, but this is about a real murder where even a fraction of information could assist in the capture of the suspect. It’s really a small technical complaint on my part, probably edited out for run time and they felt everything is too important. What does bother me, they failed to elaborate on the suspect’s description and show all the composites. The two that generated the most leads were the two not shown on national television. It’s disappointing to learn that all of the witnesses including the Frocklages and Olsons described him with “rotted/rotten” and as a “chain smoking nail biter”. A chain smoking nail biter with rotten teeth? It’s a very specific description and behaviors. This may or may not have been a missed opportunity.
On a side note, RCMP and residents were excited about Philip Fraser’s case getting recognition and filming in the area. The only spot that was not filmed on location was the Beaver Creek checkpoint. That was actually filmed in downtown Hyder, Alaska and it still looks very much the same today. I didn’t see a Salmon River Outpost, but there is a Salmon River close by. Truly a breathtaking area and that is a tad bit creepy, due to the isolation. There is no doubt that someone knows who he is and it’s very likely that he’s still alive.
Categories: Cold Case