Manitoba RCMP say the bodies of two men believed to be the B.C. murder suspects from Port Alberni have been found.
The bodies of two men were found near the shoreline of the Nelson River on Wednesday morning at approximately 10 a.m. CDT (8 a.m. PDT) in dense brush, about eight kilometres from where the suspects’ burned RAV4 was found on July 22. Officers doing a foot search discovered the bodies.
“At this time, we are confident that these are the bodies of the two suspects wanted in connection with the homicides in British Columbia,” Manitoba RCMP Assistant Commissioner Jane MacLatchy said during a news conference on Wednesday in Winnipeg.
An autopsy is being scheduled in Winnipeg to determine the identities of the two men and cause of death.
“I’m confident that it is them but to identify them officially and to be sure, we have to go to autopsy,” MacLatchy said.
On Tuesday, RCMP said they found several items linked to Schmegelsky and McLeod on the shore of the Nelson River Friday.
According to RCMP, the bodies were found within a kilometre from those items. Police have not disclosed what the items were.
Kam McLeod, 19, and Bryer Schmegelsky, 18, from Port Alberni, B.C., were facing a second-degree murder charge in the death of University of British Columbia lecturer Leonard Dyck, whose body was found last month in northern B.C. on July 19.
They were also suspects in the shooting deaths of Australian Lucas Fowler and his American girlfriend Chynna Deese, who were found dead on the Alaska Highway near Liard Hot Springs, B.C. on July 15.
The two were originally considered missing persons before they were named suspects on July 23. The two had told family and friends they were leaving their home in Port Alberni to find work.
Details also surfaced about their use of video games. One game account showed Schmegelsky was a frequent player of a shooting game called Russia Battlegrounds, and both young men’s Facebook pages were connected to an account with a modified Soviet flag as its icon.
RCMP also said they were investigating a photograph of Nazi paraphernalia sent to another user by Schmegelsky, who was also pictured in military fatigues brandishing an airsoft rifle and wearing a gas mask.
There were sightings in Cold Lake, Alta. and Meadow Lake, Sask. before the last sighting on July 22 in Gillam. RCMP announced last week they were scaling back the search for the suspects but some resources remained in the area.
“It’s very dense brush,” MacLatchy said when describing the northern Manitoba area.
“Very thick, very difficult to work your way through. There’s no trails. It’s just very thick brush, very dense and it was a huge area we were searching before. We didn’t have any information to pinpoint to a specific search area where we could do a much more detailed search. The items we did find on the shoreline to pinpoint that search,” MacLatchy said.
MacLatchy acknowledged the families of everyone involved and thanked the officers and members of the Canadian Armed Forces involved in the search efforts. She also thanked the communities of Gillam, Fox Lake Cree Nation, Ilford War Lake First Nation and York Landing.
“There’s obviously a certain amount of relief that we were able to locate these people and hopefully bring some closure not only to the victims of the homicides but the people of Gillam, Fox Lake Cree Nation, York Landing, Ilford War Lake First Nation,” MacLatchy said.
“It’s huge to be able to hopefully give some people an opportunity to exhale and to hopefully, eventually go back to normal and not be afraid of who’s out in the woods anymore.”
Gillam Mayor Dwayne Forman said it’s not a surprise the suspects were found dead.
“This is non-forgiving terrain? There was a lot of speculation this was likely to be the outcome.”
Premier John Horgan reacted to the discovery of the two bodies, thanking officers, communities and everyone else who worked on the case.
“My sincere condolences to everyone touched by this terrible tragedy,” Horgan wrote in a tweet.
The search for the two murder suspects that began in BC is now over. Thank you to the officers, communities, and everyone else who worked tirelessly to bring this to a close while keeping people safe. My sincere condolences to everyone touched by this terrible tragedy.
— John Horgan (@jjhorgan) August 7, 2019
Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said in a tweet that “the RCMP’s hard work with policing partners, help from the Canadian Forces and support from the public brought a conclusion to this very challenging case.”
The manhunt in Manitoba is over. The RCMP’s hard work with policing partners, help from the Canadian Forces and support from the public brought a conclusion to this very challenging case. May it help provide closure for the victims’ families and peace-of-mind in these communities
— Ralph Goodale (@RalphGoodale) August 7, 2019
B.C. RCMP are still investigating the deaths of Dyck, Fowler and Deese.
A notice at Schmegelsky’s grandma house in Port Alberni says the family will not be making any statement.
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.
With files from Kelly Geraldine Malone, The Canadian Press