RCMP confident bodies found near Gillam, Man. are B.C. homicide suspects
The manhunt in northern Manitoba for two B.C. homicide suspects is now over, following the discovery of two male bodies Wednesday morning.
The bodies believed to be Bryer Schmegelsky, 18, and Kam McLeod, 19, were found in the dense brush near Gillam, Man. around 10 a.m., said Assistant Commissioner Jane MacLatchy, commanding officer of the Manitoba RCMP.
“At this time, we are confident that these are the bodies of the two suspects wanted in connection with the homicides in British Columbia,” said MacLatchy.
RCMP officers found the bodies one kilometre away from the location items directly linked to the suspects were discovered on Aug. 2 along the shoreline of the Nelson River and about 8 kilometres from where a torched vehicle the suspects were driving was found more than two weeks ago. The location of the vehicle had been the last known whereabouts of Schmegelsky and McLeod up until the discovery of the bodies.
“Following this discovery, we were, at last, able to narrow down the search,” said MacLatchy.
The search spanned several provinces including 11, 000 square kilometres of vast, inhospitable wilderness in northern Manitoba. Police used helicopters, aircraft, brought in the Canadian Armed Forces and visited more than 500 homes in Gillam and Fox Lake Cree Nation. Officers checked abandoned buildings, cottages, cabins and waterways yet their efforts yielded no concrete clues until late last week. Police had already scaled down the manhunt citing a lack of leads but some officers remained in Gillam to keep looking for the suspects.
“While there were no confirmed sightings since July 22nd, our officers never gave up in their search efforts – following-up on every lead, considering all options, and using every available resource,” said MacLatchy. “Our officers knew that we just needed to find that one piece of evidence that could move this search forward.
Schmegelsky and McLeod had been on the run for more than two weeks. The men were charged with second-degree murder in the death of a Vancouver man and identified as suspects in the deaths of an Australian man and American woman who were travelling in northern B.C.
The bodies of Lucas Fowler, 23, and Chynna Deese, 24, were discovered beside their van on the Alaska Highway on July 15.
Four days later, the body of 64-year-old Leonard Dyck, a professor at the University of British Columbia, was found at a highway pullout located approximately 470 kilometres southwest of where Fowler and Deese were killed. A burned-out camper truck belonging to Schmegelsky and McLeod was also discovered not far from Dyck’s body.
“To the families of everyone affected by the series of events over the last few weeks, I know it has been so very difficult and I hope today’s announcement can begin to bring some closure,” MacLatchy told reporters.
Prior to the start of the northern Manitoba search, the men were spotted in northern Saskatchewan driving the grey 2011 Toyota Rav4 found burned out near Gillam.
Gillam Mayor Dwayne Forman tells CTV News when he got the news the bodies had been found his whole body shook. The mayor said this provides “a sense of closure for the community. Now the community can feel secure.”
Areas around Gillam and Fox Lake Cree Nation had been the epicentre of the search for more than two weeks, leaving many people feeling uneasy with the suspects still at large.
“Welcome news for the communities of Fox Lake and Gillam, for sure,” said Forman. “And surrounding areas of Ilford and York (Landing), knowing that these individuals are no longer a threat to our communities."
MacLatchy said it’s not known how the pair was able to evade detection or how long they’ve been dead. She wouldn’t comment on whether the bodies contained any visible signs of injury.
It’s not known if a damaged aluminum boat found the same day as the suspects’ belongings was used by the fugitives.
With the suspects now believed to be dead, B.C. RCMP Assistant Commissioner Kevin Hackett said it will be difficult for investigators to determine a motive in the homicides. Hackett said there’s no other suspects and police are confident there’s no further risk to the public.
An autopsy has been scheduled in Winnipeg to confirm the identities of the deceased and determine their cause of death.