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Northern B.C. murders: Police say manhunt suspects died by apparent suicides

(via family photo/RCMP)

The RCMP say two British Columbia men who led police on a cross-Canada manhunt died by what appears to be suicide by gunfire.

Police say Bryer Schmegelsky, 18, and Kam McLeod, 19, appeared to be dead for a number of days before their bodies were found on Aug. 7 in northern Manitoba, but the exact time of their deaths isn't known.

However, police say in a statement that there were strong indications that the teens 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 pair led police on a cross-country chase since two bodies were found on the side of the Alaska Highway in northeastern B.C.

Four days later, another body was found near Dease Lake.

Police say two firearms were located with the dead men and forensic analysis is underway to "definitively confirm" that the weapons are connected with the homicide investigations.

McLeod and Schmegelsky were charged with the murder of Leonard Dyck, a University of British Columbia botany lecturer, and were also suspects in the deaths of American Chynna Dease and her Australian boyfriend Lucas Fowler.

Their bodies were found along the Alaska Highway July 15 near a van they had been travelling in.

At first, police said the teens were missing, but then Canada-wide warrants were issued for McLeod and Schmegelsky, who were charged with second-degree murder in connection with Dyck’s.

His body was found a few kilometres from the teens’ burned-out pickup truck on Highway 37.

Police said last week the Dyck and Deese-Fowler homicides were related.

The RCMP say once its review has been completed in the next few weeks it will provide the families with an update and then will release the information publicly.

RCMP assistant commissioner Kevin Hackett said Aug. 7 that the suspects’ deaths do not mean the homicide case is over, he said.

Hackett said the B.C. case remains open until all evidence is assessed to confirm investigative theories. 

That would include ruling out any other possible suspects.

“We anticipated the charges were going to be laid,” Hackett said. “There is significant evidence that links both crime scenes together.”

He said there doesn’t appear to be anything linking the victims.

Hackett said Dyck’s injuries are known but out of respect for his family there is no need to reveal them for his family’s sake.

The pair had been spotted in Saskatchewan before Dyck’s car was found torched near Gillam.

A house-to-house search was undertaken before forces moved to nearby York Factory after an unconfirmed sighting of two men scavenging in the town dump. 

The sighting led to a community lockdown and heavy search. A similar search was done around Gillam and police remain in the area.

The B.C. RCMP issued the following statement:

The Manitoba Medical Examiner has completed the autopsies and confirmed that the two deceased men located in Manitoba on Aug. 7, 2019 were Kam McLeod and Bryer Schmegelsky.

Their next of kin have been notified and they have been offered support.

The RCMP can also confirm that the two died in what appears to be suicides by gunfire.

While both individuals were deceased for a number of days before they were found, the exact time and date of their deaths are not known. However, there are strong indications that they had been alive for a few days since last seen in July and during the extensive search efforts in the Gillam area.

Police can also confirm that two firearms were also located with the two deceased males and forensic analysis is underway in order to definitively confirm that these weapons are connected with the northern B.C. homicide investigations.

The Manitoba RCMP have completed their search of the area were the two male bodies were discovered, approximately 8 km from where Mr. Dyck’s burnt RAV4 was located on July 22, 2019.

Investigators are now assessing all items located in Manitoba, along with the previous findings related to the three northern B.C. homicide investigations, in order to gain more clarity into what happened to Leonard Dyck, Lucas Fowler and Chynna Deese.

The assessment will review all the investigative findings to date, whether it is statements, evidentiary timelines, physical or digital evidence, and the B.C. RCMP have also have engaged our Behavioural Analysis Unit (BAU).

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.

More to come.

- Alaska Highway News, Jeremy Hainsworth, and The Canadian Press