News that RCMP in Manitoba have likely discovered the bodies of two B.C. fugitives that have been the subject of a Canada-wide manhunt is “absolutely devastating,” says Port Alberni Mayor Sharie Minions.
Kam McLeod, 19, and Bryer Schmegelsky, 18, both of Port Alberni, were suspected in the deaths of three people in northern B.C. in mid-July. They were last seen on July 22 near Gillam, Man., and since then, the RCMP, the military and countless others have conducted an intense cross-country search that covered more than 11,000 square kilometres.
“We are definitely saddened by the news today, as a city and as a community. It’s definitely not the outcome that we had hoped for,” Minions said.
“No matter how you look at it, there has been so much tragedy. This has affected people across the country, and across the world. We’re thankful the search at least has come to a conclusion.”
Minions said she has not reached out to the young men’s families yet. “Over the last couple of weeks, I have tried to respect their privacy. But I am planning to reach out now,” she said.
The families of McLeod and Schmegelsky were not available for comment on Wednesday.
“We request that you respect privacy at this time, by keeping off our property and not ringing the door bell or banging on our door,” a sign on Schmegelsky’s grandmother’s door said. “We will not be making any statement.”
Minions said she has kept in touch with Gillam Mayor Dwayne Forman and will reach out to him again now that the search is over.
“I’m hoping that at least their community will be able to start to return to their normal lives and feel a bit of closure on their end. And that they’ll begin to feel safe again.”
McLeod and Schmegelsky left Port Alberni on July 12 to drive to the Yukon to look for work, according to their families.
Their camper truck was found on fire south of Dease Lake, B.C., on July 19 – close to where Vancouver professor Leonard Dyck was found dead the same day.
Police also announced around that time that Lucas Fowler of Australia and Chynna Deese of North Carolina had been found dead near Liard Hot Springs on July 15.
The men were initially declared missing, but on July 23, police named them as suspects in the double homicide and later charged them with second-degree murder in Dyck’s death.
Subsequent sightings of the fugitives led law enforcement to Cold Lake, Alta., Meadow Lake, Sask., and Gillam, Man.
Gillam Mayor Forman said it’s not a surprise they were found dead.
“This is non-forgiving terrain … there was a lot of speculation this was likely to be the outcome,” he said. “The closure is here for Gillam and the Fox Lake area. But the closure for the victims’ families is far from over.”
Deese’s brother, British Deese, told The Associated Press that the family needed time to process the news that the suspects’ bodies had been found.
“We are speechless,” he said in a text message, declining further comment.
Above all however, it was a search that could only be successful if we had strong public engagement and support. Thank you to all Canadians for remaining vigilant, for calling us with information and most importantly, for being our partners. #rcmpmb
— RCMP Manitoba (@rcmpmb) August 7, 2019
— Scott Fraser (@scottfraserndp) August 7, 2019
– with files from The Canadian Press