A manhunt for two suspects in a series of killings in remote northern Canada appears to have ended with the discovery of the fugitives’ bodies, police say.
The search for Kam McLeod, 19, and Bryer Schmegelsky, 18, gripped the world for weeks after they allegedly killed a North Carolina woman and her Australian boyfriend.
Chynna Deese, 24, and her boyfriend, Lucas Fowler, 23, were found shot dead on a remote highway in northern British Columbia on July 15.
As police searched for clues on the killers and panicked residents shuttered their homes, the body of University of British Columbia professor Leonard Dyck was discovered four days later in northern British Columbia, a few hundred miles away from the first crime scene.
A burned-out camper believed to have been used by the two suspects was found a mile from Dyck’s body. Investigators believe the teens killed all three victims, and police scoured rugged terrain for clues to their whereabouts.
By late July, authorities were investigating signs suggesting the teens were in northern Manitoba — at least two days of driving east of the British Columbia killings. Police were urging residents near Manitoba’s Nelson River to remain inside, lock their doors and report anything suspicious.
The search is over, police say
But Wednesday, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police tweeted that it believes the suspects’ bodies have been found in northern Manitoba.
“The search is over,” it said. “At 10am this morning, Manitoba RCMP officers located the bodies of two males, believed to be the BC suspects, near the shoreline of the Nelson River.”
Authorities had been searching the area for weeks, after a Toyota Rav4 that authorities believe the teens stole from Dyck was found on fire and discarded July 22 outside Gillam, a small Manitoba town situated along that Nelson River and Stephens Lake.
The teens’ bodies were found in “dense brush” about 5 miles from where the burned-out vehicle was located, said Jane MacLatchy, assistant commissioner of the Manitoba RCMP.
“I’m confident that it is them,” MacLatchy said. She added that an autopsy will confirm their identities.
She could not say how they died, or how long they have been dead.
Discovery of a damaged boat and other items helped narrow the search
Though police already were searching areas near the burned Rav4, they said they narrowed the search even further on August 2, when they found items of interest near Nelson River.
Police first said they found a damaged aluminum boat along the river that day. Later, they said they’d separately found “items directly linked to the suspects” that same day on the shoreline.
Police haven’t said whether the boat is connected to the teens, and they haven’t said what those other items were.
The teens’ bodies were found Wednesday within 1 kilometer from where the unspecified items were discovered on August 2, MacLatchy said.
The motive still is unclear
The investigation is not closed even though authorities believe the suspects were the killers, said Kevin Hackett, the RCMP assistant commissioner in British Columbia.
Investigators, for instance, still are trying to determine a motive — and that will be difficult, Hackett said.
“The examination of the area where (their bodies) were located … is still being dealt with and searched. So there may be additional items that could help in that regard — identifying a motive, etc. — but we don’t have that information yet,” he said.
But police say they are sure the killings are connected, and they have nothing to indicate anyone else was involved.
“There was significant evidence that linked our suspects to both crime scenes,” Hackett said.