Did a mysterious hitchhiker murder a med student in the Canadian wilderness?

Philip Innes Fraser

Composite #1 of hitchhiker

CASE DETAILS

On June 14th, 1988, 25-year-old Philip Fraser, the son of two physicians, left his home in Anchorage, Alaska, to enroll in a pre-med course at Evergreen College in Washington State.  Philip had packed everything he owned for the trip, including two handguns.  On June 17th, after losing two days to car trouble, Philip crossed the border into Canada.  Craig Gates was a corporal with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police at the time of Philip’s crossing:

“Philip did declare that he had two firearms of his own.  And at that point, our Canada customs people seized the firearms from him as it is illegal for Americans to enter Canada with any kind of a firearm.”

Composite #2 of hitchhiker

After a one-day delay, Philip Fraser was again, on his way.  His guns became the property of the Canadian government.  The next day, six hundred miles south of the border checkpoint, a hitchhiker was dropped off at a local café south of the border.  Café owner Gaye Frocklage was working when the hitchhiker stopped in:

“The individual that dropped him off didn’t come in to the café, just dropped him off and left… there was something wrong with him, in appearance, wasn’t comfortable.

Gaye’s daughter, Tina, was also working at the cafe:

“I remember saying to Mom, you know maybe he escaped from a mental institution because he was so strange.”

Nobody was in the café at the time, and Gaye worried for her daughter’s safety:

“I wouldn’t leave her alone in the building with him as there was nobody else there at the time. I said to Tina, well you go ahead and take care of him and I’ll just hang around.  As I passed the side window, I saw a small black car pull up to the side of the café.  And the young man in the car… was searching his car like he had misplaced something that he needed.”

Composite #3 of hitchhiker

The vehicle was Philip Fraser’s.  Meanwhile, inside the café Gaye was relieved when the hitchhiker finally finished his meal.  He paid for his bill in Canadian money.  Gale then watched as the hitchhiker approached Philip’s car:

“The car sat for a few minutes and then he pulled ahead like he had second thoughts.  The hitchhiker just ran beside him and pulled the door open and the young man in the car proceeded to let him enter.”

According to Gaye, it was then that Philip drove off with the hitchhiker in his car:

“The strange thing was that, as they left the yard, Tina made some remark about he’s going to live to regret the day he picked this man up.  It was like a sixth sense that this man was capable of anything.”

The mysterious hitchhiker wants a ride

Eight hours later and 200 miles south of the Café, Eddie and Pauline Olson, of Kitwanga, Canada, pulled over to help a stranded motorist.  Eddie Olson remembered how nervous the man was:

“I thought that he was just scared of being out there late at night, and at that point I just said well I’ll tow you home and we’ll figure it out in the morning.”

Eddie Olson offered to let him sleep in their basement for the night.  The next morning, the young man told Edie that his parents were both doctors in Anchorage and that he was on his way to college in the States, to study medicine:

“I got to talking to him about his car and he told me that if I was interested, he would sell it to me.  But I said the only way I would buy it is if he waited until Monday and we went through customs.  And he said that would be too late for him.”

The Olsons were surprised when the young man pulled out two wallets and began to behave secretively.  He gave the Olsons twenty dollars in American money, then left to fix his car.  Within an hour, the young man was back on the road, headed south.  The car trouble had turned out to be nothing more than a broken fan belt.

Then, just twelve hours later, the charred ruins of Philip Fraser’s car were found at a car wash in Prince George, British Columbia, 300 miles from the Olson’s home.  According to Corporal Gates, the car was completely gutted prior to being set on fire:

“Nothing was found in the car of any significance.  In fact none of Philip Fraser’s belongings have ever been found.  The parents were contacted in Alaska and there was a great deal of investigation done at that point, as Philip was considered a missing person and potentially a homicide victim.”

Philip’s father, Dr. Robert Fraser, was not very hopeful after hearing the news:

“I was sure that there had been foul play.  But I kept hoping, thinking of all sorts of alternatives like maybe he decided he wanted to ditch his car and be on his own … intellectually I knew that was wrong because he really loved his car.”

Six weeks later, Dr. Fraser was informed that his son’s body had been found seventy miles from the Olson’s home:

“I felt angry and bitter. I wondered what kind of a person would destroy someone who was so idealistic and so full of life.”

What really happened along that lovely stretch of Canadian highway?  The Royal Canadian Mounted Police believed that the mysterious hitchhiker learned everything he could about Philip and then killed him.  Corporal Gates believed the hitchhiker assumed Philip’s identity, stole his possessions, and finally, attempted to destroy the car:

“In my mind, he most definitely is a dangerous person.  He’s taken one life.  He has the capability of taking more… and I would consider him very dangerous.”

The authorities believe that the hitchhiker is familiar with Toronto and Seattle and may be using Philip’s name—Philip Innes Fraser.  Among the items never recovered were Philip’s birth certificate, visa, passport, and checkbook.


Watch this case now on Amazon Prime in season four with Robert Stack and in season two with Dennis Farina. Also available on YouTube with Dennis Farina. Various seasons available now on Hulu.

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30 Comments

  1. Beccaboo

    I found the cafe owner Gaye Frocklage on Face book. She told me that the 40 mile cafe isn’t there anymore, they sold it in 1997 and the rest of the land in 1999. She said Phillip seemed a very nice guy and exactly what she said on UM is what happened. She told it as it unfolded. Philip was driving away and they exchanged a few words and so it seemed that Philip let him in. I didn’t want to keep bothering her with questions, seemed like a nice lady.

    Reply

  2. anon

    It suddenly struck me that maybe the hitchhiker while jogging beside Phillip’s car before getting in threatened Phillip…not with danger to himself – he can clearly just drive off…but with the two women in the diner.

    Explains why Phillip changed his mind about picking the stranger up. A single young man may think of himself a bigger challenge to kill than 2 women, and if he’s driving…that gives him some (misguided) sense of control over the situation.

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  3. Petaa motex

    This story creeps me out more than any other on Unsolved. I like road trips and traveling. Phillip was traveling to college and he was murdered so far away from home. The Canadians shouldn’t have taken the guns as Phillip was just passing through. This guy definitely looks like a creep and I would hate to run into him. Hope he is caught. He makes me scared to pick up hitchhikers.

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  4. chris

    I ran across the name of Ronald Dominique on the internet, a serial killer from Louisiana who murdered and raped men. His looks similar to the composite.

    Reply

    • Chris R.

      Most definitely wouldn’t have been Ronald Dominique, as he didn’t go on a murder spree until 1997 (according to several websites), 9 years after Phillip died. Plus, Phillip was traveling from Alaska to Washington state, while Ronald did his “dirt” in Louisiana.

      Reply

  5. Fraser

    Has anyone ever thought to type that name on Facebook and see who comes up?

    Reply

  6. LUIS FREEH

    FRASER” WELL”I” UNDERSTAND YOUR INTEREST BUT “WHY” NOT TELL ME THAT IS WHY U SAID I WAS DUE SOUTH? NOW MY HELACOPTER IS BEHIND “MY” AIRPORT.

    Reply

  7. Anonymous

    Has anybody else ever speculated that this case might be related to the Blair Adams case (also featured on UM)?

    I’ve always pondered this because a couple of the composites really look like some of the pictures they show of Adams. Specifically composite #2 looks almost identical to a picture they show of Adams.

    Reply

  8. Anna

    I saw this story last night for the first time. This morning I saw the news from Michigan about the Uber driver named Jason Dalton, who killed several people. The sketches of the hitchhiker look very much like Jason Dalton. Has anyone else thought this?

    Reply

  9. Butch

    Michael Wayne McGray. Born just north of Toronto, and implicated (by his own admission) in several hitchhiker-style killings in British Columbia and Seattle. Physically fits the profile of Fraser’s killer.

    Reply

  10. Janalyn

    I really feel for Phillip Fraser — could have been me! A few years ago I picked up a young woman who was running in the street at night, as I exited a freeway offramp. She shouted something to me as I passed her. I was afraid that if I didn’t let her in my car the next motorist might hit her. Her eyes were fearful and she said someone was trying to kill her. I’m also a young woman and I felt for her. I took her to an emergency room, and she told story after story about being held against her will, raped, pursued… until I realized they didn’t make any sense and she was either on drugs or mentally ill. The intake nurses and I tried to calm her and keep her there, but she ran back out into the night. I was so concerned about her safety (and the safety of other drivers) that I notified the police. Eventually she was picked up by the police and arrested, but they couldn’t tell me what the charges were. Good thing her paranoia didn’t turn on me!

    Reply

  11. joseph nodine

    I just saw this episode on tv and the three drawings of that hitchhiker LOOKS like my brother who is on America’s most wanted and still being hunted for…. I believe it is him. his name is howard james nodine the 3rd 3rd belive hitchhicker

    v

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  12. Steffy C

    A few things that I’m curious about are, how was the hitchhiker acting that was so creepy to the cafe workers? What was he doing exactly that made them so nervous and so certain he was bad news? They don’t really say. You normally just don’t look at someone who looks out of place and say “that man is dangerous”.
    I think it would help if they explained that a little more. Maybe someone would recognize him for something creepy that he does.
    What I find really disturbing is that he basically chased Frazer in his car after he clearly refused to give him a ride. I guess being kind doesn’t pay off after all.
    Frankly, if anyone ever ran alongside my car after I told them “no” then I would’ve been out of there in record time. I really wonder what he said to him to get him to stop and let him in. Was it something that made him feel bad for him or was it some type of threat? I’m leaning more towards the former simply because if he did in fact threaten him, he probably wouldn’t have stopped.
    Another thing that bothers me a lot is who was the person that dropped off the hitchhiker at the cafe? Didn’t the cafe workers see the car and able to describe it? At least the color, make and model? I really think that would have been a huge key to solving this case. Even if they weren’t able to describe the car then this driver must have heard about this case by now. Something just doesn’t add up with that. Maybe it’s possible that it was someone the hitchhiker knew? Or possibly even related to?

    I think it’s more than likely that this hitchhiker/killer is from the area where he had ditched the car. At least close to where he wanted to go. If not then he would’ve more than likely had to get a ride from another motorist and that person could have identified him eventually and told police where he had brought him.
    So it makes sense that he is or was from the British Columbia area.
    I am personally shocked that this scumbag has never been identified. Maybe the story wasn’t big enough for too many to notice.

    Its too bad that there weren’t better detectives on the case. I have no doubt that it would’ve been solved if there were.
    They actually think this guy is/was using Frazer’s name and information as his own? That’s just ridiculous.
    Unfortunately, since it has been this long, and the crime scene spans several areas, states, and even countries, I am quite certain that they will never solve this case.
    It’s just sad. Such a bright kid with a promising future.

    Reply

  13. Caitie

    I think that the women who owned/worked in the cafe were right to be suspicious of the hitchhiker. I wonder what the guy said to get into Philip’s car, because it seems like Philip didn’t want to pick him up, so I wonder if the hitchhiker threatened him or something.

    Reply

  14. Rebecca

    Phillip left the café with the hitchhiker, eight hours later the Olson’s picked up the hitch hiker. It seems the hitcher hiker murdered Phillip and assumes Phillip’s identity. The hitch hiker has things people just don’t leave behind (birth paper, passport, checkbook),The Olsen’s claim the hitch hiker had two wallets and began to behave secretively. The Olson’s picks up the hitch hiker and offered a tow to their home, also offered to let him sleep in their basement for the night. Hmmm. That was a devastating blow to that family. I wonder why he didn’t try to call his parents to inform them of his car troubles, maybe they could have suggested something or at least know his whereabouts and what is going on.

    Reply

    • tim

      He didn’t call his parents because he was dead :-/ it quite clearly states that the hitch hiker impersonated Phillip when the Olsens stopped to help….

      Reply

    • Paul Meier

      Obviously hitchhiker stole Phil’s identity to help himself. I remember this case more than any other because of the randomness of it. Been a long time but I hope some day they catch that scumbag.

      Reply

    • Chris R.

      The Hitchhiker wasn’t the one with the parents, it was Phillip. I also believe that the Hitchhiker not only stole Phillip’s Identity and his possessions but might’ve killed him to do it too. Hitchhiker is/was an ugly personality. However, Phillip seemed like a nice young gentleman with a beautiful personality. Phillip reminded me of this white boy in my computer class who gave me sunglasses at the end of the semester.

      Reply

  15. Jan

    The composite looks very much like my cousins who were living in Alaska at the time. Their father and half his cousins had been in jail for fraud, stealing selling drugs. If it was any part of this line of my family I can well imagine they were capable of murder. My cousins had deep set brown eyes and had like colored to dark brown hair but all had dark brown bushy eye brows except for 1. Several had the same hair cut but then sometimes would cut it in a surfer type hair cut pulled to the left side.

    Reply

  16. Stacey

    What I’m wondering is they say that his body was found 70 miles from the Olson’s home. In which direction? That could help determine a lot. I’m guessing he was found between the café and the Olson’s house. If he was found past the Olson’s house his body must have been in the trunk the whole time, which seems unlikely if he was trying to sell the car to the Olson’s. Very curious case. Seems like someone would have to know something.

    Reply

  17. Anonymous

    ?????????????????

    Reply

  18. grahamclayton

    The interesting point is what happened to the hitchiker just prior to Fraser’s meeing with the Olsons. Did he leave Fraser, and then catch up with him the next day? If Fraser was so afraid of this person, why did he pick them up? I am assuming that it was the hitchhiker who murdered Fraser, took all of his belongings and torched his car. If not, then Fraser was murdered by another person, who was not the hitchhiker.

    Reply