Manitoba RCMP believe they have located the bodies of two Port Alberni teenagers wanted for murder in northern B.C.
Assistant Commissioner Jane MacLatchy told a news conference that investigators found the bodies Wednesday morning in dense bush on the shoreline of the Nelson River in northern Manitoba.
She said police are confident the bodies are those of Kam McLeod, 19, and Bryer Schmegelsky, 18, but are awaiting the results of an autopsy in Winnipeg to confirm their identities and cause of death.
MacLatchy said the break in the case came last Friday when police discovered items linked to the suspects on the shore of the Nelson River.
The RCMP immediately narrowed the search and sent in specialized teams to target “high probability” areas, she said.
Investigators finally found the bodies about one kilometre from where the items were found and eight kilometres from where a Toyota Rav4 was discovered on fire near the Fox Lake Cree Nation north of Gillam on July 22 — the same day the teenagers were last seen alive. It’s believed that they had been travelling in the Rav4.
The pair were charged with second-degree murder in the death of 64-year-old Leonard Dyck near Dease Lake. The Vancouver man’s body was found at a highway pullout two kilometres from where the teens’ burned-out Dodge pickup truck was found on Highway 37 on July 19.
The pair were also suspects in the killings of 23-year-old Lucas Fowler of Sydney, Australia, and 24-year-old Chynna Deese of Charlotte, North Carolina.
Their bodies were discovered July 15 beside the Alaska Highway, 20 kilometres south of Liard Hot Springs. Fowler and Deese had been exploring northern B.C. in Fowler’s 1986 blue Chevrolet van with Alberta licence plates, which was found at the scene.
B.C. RCMP Assistant Commissioner Kevin Hackett said an investigation into the three killings is ongoing.
“It’s going to be extremely difficult for us to ascertain definitely what the motive was,” he said. “Obviously we will not have the opportunity to speak to these [suspects].”
Hackett said officers have spoken with the families of Dyck, Deese and Fowler about the discovery in Manitoba.
“We’ll also continue to offer support to the Port Alberni families of the two men as they deal with these difficult developments.”
Police initially treated McLeod and Schmegelsky as missing when their charred vehicle was found not far from Dyck’s body
But investigators later deemed them to be suspects and details surfaced about their use of video games. One game account showed Schmegelsky was a frequent player of a shooting game called Russia Battlegrounds, and both young men’s Facebook pages were connected to an account with a modified Soviet flag as its icon.
RCMP also said they were investigating a photograph of Nazi paraphernalia sent to another user by Schmegelsky, who was also pictured in military fatigues brandishing an airsoft rifle and wearing a gas mask.
The manhunt for the pair stretched across the Prairies into northern Manitoba.
Helicopters and military aircraft aided in searching the Manitoba wilderness. MacLatchy said the discovery of the items helped direct the search to a specific area, and the bodies were found nearby — about eight kilometres from where the Toyota RAV4 was located.
“Over the last two weeks, our officers have worked tirelessly to find the suspects wanted in connection to the homicides in British Columbia,” MacLatchy said.
“While there were no confirmed sightings since July 22, our officers never gave up in their search efforts — following up on every lead, considering all options, and using every available resource.”
MacLatchy said she hopes the discovery “can begin to bring some closure” to the families of everyone affected by the case.
She thanked all Canadians for remaining vigilant, particularly the communities of Gillam, Fox Lake Cree Nation, Ilford War Lake First Nation and York Landing in northern Manitoba.
“Your lives have been disrupted, many of you lived with uncertainty and fear, but throughout, you were resilient, you came together as communities and you helped our officers get the job done,” she said.
— With The Canadian Press