Mounties in Prince George, B.C., have identified human remains discovered earlier this month near LC Gunn Park as those of Cynthia Frances Maas, a missing local woman, and are classifying her death a homicide.

Plain-clothes officers discovered her remains while patrolling a wooded area of the park, which is allegedly frequented by sex trade workers, with a police dog on Oct. 8.

Maas' identity was confirmed by fingerprint examination in Kamloops earlier this week. Her family has been notified.

Her family reported her missing last month after she lost contact for almost two weeks. She was last seen near Juniper Street and 19th Avenue on Sept. 10.

Mounties described the 35-year-old's lifestyle as "high risk." Police have not said how Maas died, but believe she was murdered.

A team of between 30 and 40 investigators are on the case, Cpl. Dan Moskaluk said in a release.

"Cynthis Maas is a victim. Our duty and responsibility is to bring justice, whomever is responsible for her death," he said.

"We do want the general public to remain vigilant, in particular our more vulnerable citizens."

Anyone with information on Maas' death is asked to contact the Prince George RCMP at 250-561-3300 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.

Another local woman, 23-year-old Natasha Lynn Montgomery, disappeared in late August and has not been seen since.

The Highway of Tears

Police say it's too early to say whether Maas' murder is linked to any other investigations along the so-called Highway of Tears, but there are some who fear another serial killer akin to the notorious Robert Pickton is at work in B.C.

At least 18 women have vanished on the stretch of Highway 16 between Prince George and Prince Rupert in the past 40 years, including Gladys Radek's neice, Tamara Chipman, who disappeared five years ago.

"Every time they say there was a girl found on the highway it opens all those wounds again," Radek said.

Attorney General Mike de Jong hosted a justice ministers' conference in Vancouver this week, which produced nearly 50 recommendations on how to protect women living high-risk lifestyles.

"How do we effectively organize ourselves to ensure we are sharing information with a degree of integration that is necessary to identify a serial killer is actually operating in an area?" he said.

The ministers said the problem goes well beyond Pickton, and is, in fact, a Canada-wide epidemic.

But despite the renewed attention, Radek isn't ready to be optimistic just yet.

Radek says she had hoped for real change back in 2006 during the Highway of Tears Symposium, but was left disappointed.

The symposium led to more than 30 recommendations from the community to prevent more disappearances in the area, including:

  • More resources for the RCMP to increase highway patrols
  • A shuttle bus service between cities and towns
  • 22 safe houses along the route from Prince George to Prince Rupert
  • A network of emergency phone booths
  • More warning billboards, posters and signs
  • A risk awareness program in schools

Years later, Radek says she has been underwhelmed with the results. "I haven't seen any radical changes," she said. "There's been a lot of money to investigate these cases and here we are, five years later and there's no answers still."

Radek calls the pending B.C. inquiry into the missing women in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside a "baby step," and says a national inquiry is what's really needed to save lives.

With a report from CTV British Columbia's Peter Grainger