An Oregon woman who had been living in a small western Manitoba town under an assumed name is in custody in the United States, more than 15 years after a fatal crash on an Interstate highway that killed a 65-year-old woman.

Jean Terese Keating was arrested in April after an RCMP constable stationed in the town of Minnedosa heard a rumour that a woman going by the name Jean McPherson had been bragging about getting away with a crime at a local bar.

"The Constable didn’t pass it off as just one of many rumours floating around town," reads a news release from the Oregon State Police.

Upon further investigation, the Mounties were able to identify Keating based on a previous impaired-driving arrest in Canada. The 54-year-old was deported back to Oregon last month.

"I knew she had to be someplace," Ron Anderson, the son of the woman who was killed in the crash, told The Canadian Press. "She couldn’t be missing forever."

Anderson’s mother, Jewel Oline Anderson, was killed in 1997 after her car was side-swiped and she lost control of her vehicle on Interstate 5. According to Ron Anderson, his mother had been driving from her home in Dexter to Salem to visit her sister.

"She was always there, always helping. She helped other people in the community, too. She'd pull alongside the road and give them rides," Anderson said of his mother, who had five children.

Police said Keating disappeared while awaiting trial in March 1998. She faced charges of manslaughter, driving under the influence and recklessly endangering another person. A warrant had been issued for her arrest but police never found her.

But five years ago, an Oregon State Police investigator, Det. Howard Greer, began looking into the case during a slow shift. He followed lead after lead and even contacted Canadian immigration officials, but nothing panned out.

At one point, Greer thought he had located Keating in Victoria, B.C. but it wasn’t until he learned of her arrest in April that his search finally ended.

"I just about fell out of my chair. I thought it was a prank phone call," Greer said.

According to Greer, Keating had a son and a daughter in Oregon. The children were both with her at the time of the crash in 1997.

Greer said the father of the children was still paying child support to Keating even after she disappeared. Privacy laws in the U.S. prevented him from finding out where the money was going.

Lisa White, a spokeswoman for the Canada Border Services Agency, said Keating was in Canada illegally. It is still not known how she entered the country.

According to a woman in Minnedosa who didn’t want to give her name, Keating was married and was a housewife.

Upon learning that Keating was back in custody, Anderson’s family released a statement to the Oregon State Police saying that they “are thankful that finally after 16 years of her running, hiding and torment, our families will have some closure.”

Keating was arrested on April 4 and a deportation order was issued April 18. She was held in custody until she was handed over to U.S. authorities on June 12 because officials considered her a flight risk.

She made her first court appearance on Friday.

With a report from CTV Winnipeg's Andrea Slobodian