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The Unsettling Murder of Philip Fraser: Killed by a Hitchhiker

Philip Fraser

Philip Fraser

Philip Innes Fraser

Philip Innes Fraser was born on January 3rd, 1965, in Anchorage, Alaska, to parents Robert and Shirley, both prominent doctors. Philip grew up to be outdoorsy like his parents. He also loved literature and had become a skilled violinist at an early age.

His dream was to follow in his parents’ footsteps and become a doctor, so he enrolled in the pre-med program at his father’s alma mater: Western Maryland College.

After a year of attending college, Philip became restless and wanted to return to Alaska, where he felt he belonged. But eventually he decided that he wanted to get back on track with his medical career aspirations and enrolled at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington.

In June 1988, 23-year-old Philip packed all of his belongings into his 1983 black Volkswagen Jetta and set out on a journey to Washington State, intending to camp along the way.

The trip did not get off to a great start, unfortunately, as Philip began to experience car trouble early on. Still, he was able to keep moving and two days later, on June 17th, 1988, he crossed the border into Canada. The two handguns that he had brought along with him were confiscated by border patrol agents because it was illegal for Americans to bring firearms into Canada.

Philip was now free to continue on his way, unaware that he was about to meet the man who would change his life forever.

The Hitchhiker

On June 18th, a hitchhiker was dropped off at the 40 Mile Flat Café, roughly 600 miles away from the border checkpoint. The café was owned by Gaye Frocklage and her daughter Tina.

Gaye and Tina sensed something off about the mysterious customer right away. They said he had badly decayed teeth and that he gave off a strong odor. Though he didn’t do anything suspicious while he ate his meal there, they felt very uneasy around him and said that they even feared he might have escaped from a mental institution.

This individual was described as being a Caucasian male, 20-25 years old, 5’9’’ and approximately 229 lbs. He had brown hair and brown eyes.

When he was finished, the hitchhiker paid for his meal and left the café. According to the Frocklages, it was at this point that Philip Fraser pulled up to the café in his Volkswagen Jetta and stopped. He appeared to be looking for something in his car.

The hitchhiker walked up to the vehicle and asked Philip for a ride. Initially Philip refused and started to drive away. However, the hitchhiker wasn’t going to give up so easily and started to run after the car. For unknown reasons, Philip finally stopped and allowed him to get inside and the two left together.

This was the last time that Philip Fraser would be seen alive.

Composite sketches of the hitchhiker

Composite sketches of the hitchhiker

The Olsons

Eight hours later and 200 miles south of the café, a hitchhiker flagged down Eddie and Pauline Olson. The man claimed he was having car trouble. The couple thought he seemed nervous, but didn’t find anything particularly suspicious about that. According to Pauline:

“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.”

Eddie and Pauline generously offered to let the stranger stay the night in their basement, which he accepted.

The next morning, the hitchhiker introduced himself as “Philip Fraser” and began to tell the Olsons about himself, stating that he was from Alaska and that his parents were both doctors. He also mentioned that he was studying medicine at a college in Washington State.

The hitchhiker then tried to make a deal with the Olsons: he wanted to sell his car to them in exchange for a plane ticket. Eddie agreed, but said that it would have to wait until Monday, so that the purchase could go through customs first. The stranger said that he couldn’t wait that long and that he needed to leave immediately.

Eddie and Pauline started to get a bad feeling about the stranger when he pulled out two wallets and “began to behave secretly.” He gave them $20 for their trouble and set out to repair his car, which as it turned out only needed a new fan belt. After this, he left and the couple didn’t think about the encounter again for weeks.

Philip's charred Volkswagen Jetta

Philip's charred Volkswagen Jetta

Philip's Car is Found

On June 19th, just 12 hours after the hitchhiker left the Olsons’ home, Philip Fraser’s burned-out car was found 300 miles away in a car wash bay in Prince George, British Columbia. No one at the scene had witnessed anything or seemed to know to whom the vehicle belonged.

Corporal Craig Gates of the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) had this to say:

“The condition of the car after it was burned, it was… almost 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.”

Ultimately, it was the Jetta’s VIN number that led them to the identity of the owner: 23-year-old Philip Innes Fraser.

The Anchorage Police Department was alerted as well, and they went to make contact with Philip’s parents and apprise them of what was going on. Robert and Shirley were shocked by this news and worried about their son. The last they had heard from Philip was when he’d been having car trouble, less than a week prior. They had no idea what he’d been up to since then or why his vehicle would turn up charred.

Despite this chilling turn of events, they tried to hold out hope that their son might be okay.

I was sure that there had been foul play. But I kept hoping… thinking of all sorts of alternatives.

— Robert Fraser

The Investigation

The search for Philip Fraser turned up nothing for weeks until his body was found on July 27th, 1988 in a gravel pit off of Highway 37A—“The Glacier Highway,” near Stewart, British Columbia. He had been shot to death with a handgun and left there. It was determined that he had likely died right around the same time he’d gone missing, based on his body’s advanced state of decomposition.

An extensive investigation into Philip’s murder was conducted by the RCMP, which soon led them to the Frocklages’ café in Beaver Creek. Gaye and Tina told the police their story about the strange man who’d come into their establishment that night and how he had left with a person who looked like Philip Fraser. A composite sketch of the hitchhiker was made.

The RCMP continued to publicize Philip’s picture and story, hoping that more people would come forward and possibly help them to identify and locate his killer.

Multiple witnesses, including the Olsons, did come forward to try to help the RCMP solve this case. Each had seen and spoken with the hitchhiker in the days following Philip’s murder and told a story similar to the Olsons’—about how the man had introduced himself as Philip Fraser and gave Philip’s backstory as his own.

The authorities believe that this man learned as much about Philip as possible and then murdered him so that he could assume his identity. They think that he may have continued to pose as Philip for a time and that he may even still have Philip’s credit cards, checkbook, passport and birth certificate, none of which have ever been located.

the-unsettling-murder-of-philip-fraser-killed-by-a-hitchhiker

Current State of the Investigation

Philip Fraser's case is still open and unsolved. The identity of the hitchhiker, who was almost certainly responsible for Philip’s murder, has never been discovered.

Some have speculated that Michael McGray, a Canadian serial killer who was active at the time that Philip was murdered, might be the culprit. However, the RCMP says that they have ruled him out as a suspect.

Sadly, Philip’s father died in 2014, never having seen his son's killer brought to justice.

Philip’s mother and the rest of his family and friends still hope that one day justice will be served in his case and that they will finally have closure.

Sources

An Interrupted Journey - American Crime Journal

Philip Innes Fraser - Unsolved Mysteries Wiki

Philip Innes Fraser - Find a Grave