The two Port Alberni teenagers wanted for murder died in apparent suicides by gunfire in northern Manitoba, RCMP said Monday.
The Manitoba medical examiner has completed the autopsies and identified the dead men as Kam McLeod, 19, and Bryer Schmegelsky, 18.
The RCMP said two firearms were found near the bodies and forensic analysts will try to determine whether the weapons can be definitively linked to three murders in northern B.C.
McLeod and Schmegelsky were charged with second-degree murder in the death of 64-year-old Leonard Dyck near Dease Lake. The University of British Columbia botany lecturer’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 are also suspects in the killings of 23-year-old Lucas Fowler of Sydney, Australia, and 24-year-old Chynna Deese of Charlotte, North Carolina. The couple’s 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.
The RCMP said in a statement Monday that McLeod and Schmegelsky had been dead for a number of days before their bodies were found near Gillam, Man. The exact date and time of the deaths is not known.
“However, there are strong indications that they had been alive for a few days since [they were] last seen in July and during the extensive search efforts in the Gillam area,” the RCMP said.
Investigators located the bodies last week about eight kilometres from where Dyck’s burnt Toyota Rav4 was discovered near the Fox Lake Cree Nation north of Gillam on July 22 — the same day the teenagers were last seen alive.
RCMP were able to narrow the search for the suspects after investigators discovered items linked to the pair on the shore of the Nelson River, about one kilometre from where their bodies were eventually found.
Investigators have finished searching the area and are assessing the evidence “in order to gain more clarity” around what happened in northern B.C.
The force’s behavioural analysis unit is assisting with the investigation.
“The B.C. RCMP commits that once we have completed that review within the next few weeks, we will be providing the families with an update with respect to the totality of the investigations and then releasing the information publicly,” the RCMP said.
Port Alberni Mayor Mayor Sharie Minions said she hopes the information released by police Monday will answer some of the questions facing the families involved.
“There may never be enough information to adequately answer all of their questions, but our council remains committed to supporting the RCMP as they complete their investigation into what led to this tragic series of events,” she said in a statement.
“We understand that it will take time for additional analysis and investigation to be complete, and we are confident this information will eventually be made public. Our thoughts and sympathies are with those impacted.”
Minions thanked the RCMP and other government agencies for their work on the case, and she urged Port Alberni residents struggling with the revelations to take advantage of local support services.
The B.C. Prosecution Service said once an accused is proven to be dead, criminal charges do not move forward.
“We anticipate that the charge will be abated once the [prosecution service] receives official confirmation that the accused is deceased. That will conclude the prosecution,” spokesman Dan McLaughlin said in an email.
— With The Canadian Press