Charges of second-degree murder have been laid against two Port Alberni teens in connection with the death of a man in northern B.C.
Canada-wide warrants have been issued for Kam McLeod, 19, and Bryer Schmegelsky, 18, in connection with the death of the man, who was found a few kilometres from the teens’ burned-out pickup truck on Highway 37 near Dease Lake on July 19.
On Wednesday, RCMP identified the man who was killed as Leonard Dyck of Vancouver.
Dyck’s family issued a statement calling him a “loving husband and father.”
“His death has created unthinkable grief and we are struggling to understand what has happened,” the statement said. “While we understand there will be interest in knowing more about him and the impact he had during his life, we are asking for the public and the media to please respect our privacy during this difficult time.”
McLeod and Schmegelsky are also suspects in the killings of Australian Lucas Fowler and American Chynna Deese; their bodies were found along the Alaska Highway on July 15.
Mounties have confirmed that an abandoned vehicle found Monday near the Bird reserve in Manitoba is the grey 2011 Toyota RAV 4 the teens were seen driving in Saskatchewan.
Police continue their search, with a heavy presence in nearby Gillam, Man.
“With respect to public safety, we understand the concerns being raised,” Cpl. Julie Courchaine said at a press conference in Winnipeg.
“This is a complex, ongoing investigation, involving multiple jurisdictions. We are engaged with police across Canada.”
Gillam is roughly a 12-hour drive northeast of Winnipeg, and there is only one highway in and out of the community. The highway continues north through the Fox Lake Cree Nation to the abandoned town of Sundance, a former Manitoba Hydro camp.
Police said more resources have been deployed to Gillam, but Courchaine did not elaborate.
“We are investigating all tips and are continuing to ask for the public’s assistance,” she said. Updates will provided as more information becomes available, she said.
RCMP ask anyone who sees McLeod and Schmegelsky to call 911 immediately. They are considered dangerous.
The investigation in northern B.C. began on July 15 after the bodies of 24-year-old Deese of Charlotte, North Carolina, and 23-year-old Fowler of Sydney, Australia, were discovered by a road worker on the side of the Alaska Highway, about 20 kilometres south of Liard Hot Springs.
RCMP said the two were shot and killed on July 14 or 15. The couple, who met in Croatia two years ago, had been travelling through B.C. in a van that belonged to Fowler.
Four days after the bodies of Fowler and Deese were found, Dease Lake RCMP discovered a burning truck and camper belonging to McLeod and Schmegelsky. The body of an unidentified man was found two kilometres away.
In Gillam, the deputy mayor said residents are locking their doors earlier than usual. John McDonald said residents are used to seeing strangers come and go from Manitoba Hydro projects, but they’re paying closer attention to faces since the release of photos of the suspects and word that they may be in the area.
Extra officers were brought in for a search focused about 70 kilometres northwest of the town near Fox Lake Cree Nation.
Police set up a checkstop at an intersection on the only road leading into Gillam.
McDonald said if McLeod and Schmegelsky are there, they are in country known for its thick bush, swamps and pesky insects, and where it’s easy to get lost.
“If they are wandering around in the bush, they couldn’t have picked a worse time because the sandflies came out three days ago and they’re just voracious,” he said.
“I’m quite sure they’ll be more than happy to have someone find them.”
— With files from The Canadian Press and Alaska Highway News