Teens considered missing now suspects in 3 B.C. deaths
Two teenagers previously considered to be missing are now suspects in the murder of a young couple and the death of an unidentified man in northern B.C., the RCMP said Tuesday.
Kam McLeod, 19, and Bryer Schmegelsky, 18, were last spotted in northern Saskatchewan and police believe they continue to travel. The RCMP has issued a warning to the public not to approach McLeod and Schmegelsky, saying they are considered dangerous.
“Investigators have been able to confirm that Kam McLeod and Bryer Schmegelsky have left British Columbia and have been spotted in northern Saskatchewan. We believe that they’re likely continuing to travel,” said RCMP Sgt. Janelle Shoihet during Tuesday’s press conference.
“If you spot Bryer or Kam, consider them dangerous. Do not approach. Take no action and call immediately 911.”
Hours after the press conference, RCMP in Manitoba sent out a tweet saying McLeod and Schmegelsky may have been spotted near Gillam, Man.
The suspects were last seen driving a grey 2011 Toyota Rav 4. However, Shoihet was quick to note that the suspects may have switched vehicles, or even altered their appearances.
Last week, a burned-out truck belonging to the two young men was found on Highway 37 near Dease Lake in northern B.C. Two kilometres away, RCMP discovered the body of an unknown man.
Another burned-out vehicle was found abandoned near Bird, Man., not far from Gillam, Fox Lake Cree Nation Chief Walter Spence said Tuesday night in a statement. It was not clear if this vehicle was linked to McLeod and Schmegelsky in any way.
Those discoveries were made just days after a young couple was found shot dead on the side of a road in a remote section of the Alaska Highway, some 20 kilometres south of Liard Hot Springs.
Australian Lucas Fowler, 23, and his American girlfriend Chynna Deese, 24, were travelling in a blue 1986 Chevy van on a three-week road trip through Canada to Alaska. Fowler had been working on a ranch near Hudson’s Hope in B.C. and Deese travelled from her home in North Carolina to join him for the journey.
RCMP said the couple had been shot to death sometime between July 14 and July 15, when their bodies were found.
Police initially investigated the disappearance of McLeod and Schmegelsky as missing cases. But they say there’s now evidence to consider them suspects in the three murders.
The teenagers are from Port Alberni on Vancouver Island. Last week, police said they were travelling in a truck with a sleeping camper through B.C. on their way to Whitehorse to look for work.
CTV News has confirmed that the lifelong friends were former employees at a local Walmart.
Port Alberni’s Mayor says the small town has been greatly impacted by the developing situation.
“We are a small community, and whether you know the boys or the community, everyone is connected in one way or another,” Mayor Sharie Minions told CTV News. “It’s definitely challenging, it has far reaching impacts for sure.”
McLeod is described as 6’4”, approximately 169 pounds, with dark brown hair and facial hair and brown eyes.
Schmegelsky is described as 6’4”, approximately 169 pounds, with sandy brown hair.
Police were able to confirm the suspects’ whereabouts and label them as suspects in both cases after tips from the public following a press conference on Monday. They did not release any additional information about McLeod or Schmegelsky, citing the ongoing nature of the investigations.
“I think it speak to itself the fact that we’ve asked the public to please not approach them,” investigators said, adding they don’t know what type of weapons they might be armed with.
“We don’t know what they may be carrying or even what their thoughts are.”
Shoihet said the RCMP has been in contact with both teens' families for assistance in finding them.
"I'm certain they're being impacted by this news," she said.
Meanwhile, RCMP in Surrey, B.C. say the disappearances of two other men, Ryan Provencher, 38, and Richard Scurr, 37, are not related to the investigation.
In an interview with CTV News Channel, former RCMP deputy commissioner Peter German said McLeod and Schmegelsky’s fast progression from missing persons to suspects shows the impressive speed of the ongoing investigation.
“I don’t think anyone would have expected this turn of events,” German said. “I think that says something that the police are ahead of the game on this one.”
The former commissioner said investigators would have reasonable suspicion and enough evidence to publically name the teens as suspects.
“They’ve obviously got forensics or witness identification of some sort that point to these two individuals. That’s not to assume guilt at all,” he said.
German added that the manhunt for the two suspects will be complicated by the distance in which they have travelled and how they might be getting around.
“It’s quite possible that they’ve been hijacking vehicles along the way and that might account for the murder of the individual that has yet to be identified—we don’t know, that’s pure speculation, but obviously they’re making a lot of territory, they’re moving fast,” he explained.
On Monday, RCMP released a sketch of the unidentified deceased man in the hopes the public would be able to help identify him.
He’s been described as between the age of 50 and 60 with a heavy build, grey hair, and a beard. The man would have been between 5’8” and 5’10” tall.
Police remained tight lipped about the man’s identity during Tuesday’s press conference, refusing to call the man’s death a homicide. They said they have concerns that there remain “a number of people” that investigators have yet to speak with who may have “key evidence.”
“A love story that ended tragically”
On Monday, Fowler’s father echoed the RCMP’s public appeal for assistance in the investigation into his son’s murder.
“However little, please contact police,” Chief Insp. Stephen Fowler of the New South Wales Police Force in Australia pleaded.
Stephen Fowler said his long career in policing could not have prepared him for the news of his son’s death. He said his son was “having the time of his life” travelling the world with his girlfriend before his death.
“It’s a love story that's ended tragically,” he said. “It’s the worst-ever love story. We have two young people who had everything ahead of them who have been murdered.”
RCMP also released security footage showing Fowler and Deese at a Fort Nelson gas station on July 13, two days before their bodies were found. In the video, the couple can be seen filling up the tank and washing their van before driving away sometime before 8 p.m. that evening.
- With files from Jackie Dunham