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Recent tip prompts police to revisit 25-year-old hit-and-run death

'Now is the time to come forward and help the Sams family bring resolution to what has been 25 years of painstaking agony,' says Barrie police traffic unit sergeant

After 25 years, the death of Dale Sams has never been solved, but Barrie police never close a case and say a recent tip has investigators taking another look. 

It was shortly after 4:30 a.m., on Saturday April 26, 1997, when city police responded to a report of a motor vehicle collision that occurred sometime between 3:30 a.m. and 4:30 a.m. on Big Bay Point Road in Barrie's south end. 

At the scene, between present-day Prince William Way and Sandringham Drive, the 18-year-old's body was located and it was evident that he had been the victim of a fail-to-remain collision.

Barrie police communications co-ordinator Peter Leon tells BarrieToday that Sams was walking home from a residence near the Allandale Golf Course.

“There was a party at a house down there and he had about a three-kilometre walk,” Leon said Tuesday. “He was walking west on Big Bay Point and was struck by a vehicle coming east.”

An investigation began with evidence seized and sent to the Centre of Forensic Sciences in Toronto for further analysis. 

Police also conducted a line search of Big Bay Point Road and conducted "countless interviews" that included the people who first came across the teen's body and with those who he had gathered with earlier in the evening. 

Leon said today is not just about marking the anniversary, but rather a continued plea for answers to this unsolved case.

“This is not a 25th anniversary; it is a marked day in the calendar that reminds us of a family looking for answers," he said. "There are people, or a person, out there who knows something. There are those who would now be the same age Dale would have been who have children that are around the same age he was when he died.

“We want them to think hard about anything they may know that could help bring resolution to Dale’s family and friends," Leon added. 

A news conference held five days after the collision included a passionate plea from Dale's sister, Dawn, for the driver to come forward to police or for anyone with information to contact investigators. 

Leon told BarrieToday the Sams family doesn't want to speak to the media about the case. Dale's father is still alive, but his mother had recently passed away. 

Sams was born Oct. 26, 1978. He is buried at Barrie Union Cemetery with the epitaph reading 'Loved By Many 103.5 FM,' surrounded by four music notes and an eagle. 

Leon said police don't use the term 'cold case,' because “no case ever stops trying to be solved.”

Tips in the Sams death investigation have continued coming in over the years and it has been an ongoing investigation, Leon said, but a recent tip resulted in members of the Barrie Police Service Traffic Investigative Team taking another look at this unresolved case. 

“We have recently received some information, we’ll call it a tip. Unfortunately, I can’t go too much into the content of that tip, but it caused the traffic unit to revisit this case,” he said.

“I can say that, due to current technology, investigators are now able to take what was at the scene 25 years ago and implement it into the investigation," Leon added. "They can take the marks from the road and generate it into an image that perhaps has not been seen by us (police) before.

"They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but we’re hoping this one is worth 10,000 words. We are very confident this is solvable.”

In a statement released by police, Barrie police traffic unit Sgt. Chris Allport of the Barrie Police Traffic Unit had a message for the driver of the vehicle who struck Sams and for anyone who may know something. 

“If you are the driver who is responsible for the death of Dale Sams, you have likely spent the past 25 years looking over your shoulder and keeping this secret to yourself has likely been painful," Allport said. 

"Now is the time to come forward and help the Sams family bring resolution to what has been 25 years of painstaking agony,” he added. “The same can be said to anyone who knows who is responsible for what happened during the early morning hours of April 26, 1997. Just call us. It is the right thing to do.”

While the stretch of Big Bay Point where Sams was hit is very developed now, the area looked quite different back then.

“This was a two-lane street (in 1997), gravel shoulders, no lights and the only house being a farmhouse nearby,” Leon said. “It was also a different time. The first person on the scene had to run to the closest house to get someone to call for help because 25 years ago, not everyone had a cellphone.”

Anyone with information can contact the Barrie police Sams tip line at 705-728-9712 or by email at traffictips@barriepolice.ca.  

If you wish to remain anonymous, call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS) or report online at www.p3tips.com