The bodies of two B.C. homicide suspects have been found following a police hunt that had lasted three weeks and stretched across four provinces.
Bryer Schmegelsky, 18, and Kam McLeod, 19, were found dead in dense brush near the community of Gillam, Manitoba RCMP announced at a news conference on Wednesday morning.
The bodies were found at about 10 a.m. on Wednesday, said RCMP Assistant Commissioner Jane MacLatchy. An autopsy has been scheduled to take place in Winnipeg to determine the identities and cause of death, though police believe the bodies are those of Schmegelsky and McLeod.
:We knew that we needed to just find that one critical piece of evidence,” MacLatchy said. “On Friday, Aug. 2, that one critical piece of evidence was found.”
MacLatchy said items linked o the suspects — including an abandoned aluminum boat — were found on the shoreline of the Nelson River on Friday.
That discover allowed police to narrow down their search area and, on Wednesday morning, police located the bodies of the two men about one kilometre from where the items were found and about eight kilometres from where the suspects’ last known vehicle was found on fire.
The pair had been in the Manitoba wilderness for two weeks, after the Toyota RAV4 they had been driving was found burned near Gillam on July 22.
The search in northern Manitoba included helicopters, a plane, heavily armed officers and police canine units that scoured the remote wilderness where the pair, believed to be survivalists, were thought to be hiding. A dive team and search of the Nelson River was also prompted this past weekend by the discovery of a damaged aluminum boat spotted by aerial search teams.
“To the families of everyone affected by the series of events over the last few weeks, I know it has been so very difficult,” said MacLatchy. “I hope today’s announcement can begin to bring some closure.
“Many of you lived with uncertainty and fear but throughout, you were resilient, you came together as communities, and you helped our officers get the job done.”
Schmegelsky and McLeod were charged with the second-degree murder in the death of University of B.C. professor Leonard Dyck and had also been named as suspects in the fatal shootings of Australian Lucas Fowler and his American girlfriend Chynna Deese.
The travelling couple were found dead on July 15 on B.C.’s Alaska Highway 97, south of Liard Hot Springs. Their minivan was stranded nearby. Just four days later, Dyck’s body was found on B.C.’s Highway 37 near Dease Lake and was located two kilometres up the road from a burned-out truck. The vehicle was believed to have been driven by Schmegelsky and McLeod at one point.
Various sightings allowed police to track the suspects from B.C. to Saskatchewan and then over to Manitoba, where their latest vehicle, a Toyota RAV4 was found on fire near Gillam in late July.
The last confirmed sighting of the pair was in Meadow Lake, Sask., when the pair were filmed on security camera walking through a store. After police released images of the pair, more than 200 tips poured in over the course of five days.
A volunteer with the Bear Clan Patrol, an Indigenous-led neighbourhood watch group, had also reported a possible sighting of the pair to police on July 28, prompting police to focus their efforts on York Landing.
A Canadian Air Force aircraft equipped with high-tech thermal detection gear was also deployed in the search.After the search uncovered no signs of Schmegelsky and McLeod, police scaled down their search in the York Landing and Gillam areas, focusing remaining resources in Gillam.
The end of the manhunt also ends days of living on edge, as police warned residents in the area to lock their doors and be guard for any sightings of the pair, who were considered dangerous.
—with files from Canadian Press