A couple in love, friends in search of work: Portraits of people at the centre of 2 Northern B.C. mysteries
Family and friends describe the 5 people who have become the subjects of police investigations
The deaths of a young couple, an unidentified body found by a highway, and the disappearance of two young men within the span of a week have shone a spotlight on the vast region of Northern B.C. which attracts tourists and workers in search of adventure in the hot summer months.
The bodies of 23-year-old Australian Lucas Fowler and 24-year-old American Chynna Deese were discovered about 20 kilometres south of Liard Hot Springs last Monday. Police say the couple were killed sometime on either Sunday the 14th or Monday the 15th. Officers confirmed Monday the couple died from gunshot wounds.
On Friday of that same week, a burning camper truck fitted with a sleeper was found 50 kilometres south of Dease Lake, about 500 kilometres west of Liard River. It belonged to 19-year-old Kam McLeod and 18-year-old Bryer Schmegelsky. They are now considered missing.
RCMP said a body was later found in a highway pullout about two kilometres from the flaming truck. Police said they're working to identify the body — but it isn't that of Schmegelsky or McLeod.
Here's what we've learned about the five people who were drawn to the vast wilderness of Northern B.C. before they disappeared or were found dead.
This file will be updated as we learn more information.
Chynna Deese, 24, was a volunteer who was passionate about travel. Her mother, Sheila, said Chynna squirreled away tips she made slogging through double shifts as a server to save up for her next trip with her boyfriend.
Deese met Lucas Fowler at a hostel in Croatia two years ago. They kept in touch when Deese left Croatia for the next leg of her trip and, eventually, when Deese returned home to Charlotte, N.C.
Sheila said her daughter glowed about the "Aussie boy" she'd met while she was away. Fowler came and spent three months celebrating Thanksgiving and Christmas with Deese, "immediately" becoming part of the family.
Sheila Deese said her daughter was so enthusiastic about plans to travel to Australia to meet Fowler's parents, she feared Chynna wouldn't want to come home.
Deese joined Fowler at the ranch he'd been working at in Hudson's Hope, B.C., before they left on their three-week Alaskan road trip on July 13.
She texted a final update to her mom that morning, letting her know they were packing up the camper van and hitting the road. Deese and Fowler's bodies were found two days later.
Lucas Fowler and Chynna Deese hug at a Fort Nelson, B.C., gas station just days before their death
Fowler, 23, grew up in New South Wales on Australia's east coast, with a fondness for animals and, like Deese, a pull to see the world.
Christoph and Erika Weder had hired Fowler in February to work on the Hudson's Hope ranch.
They remembered him as a "solid, good guy" who towered a head taller than his girlfriend with an "easy-going" nature.
Fowler's father, Stephen, is an inspector with the New South Wales Police force and a statement issued by the department on the family said they are devastated to lose "someone so young and vibrant."
Stephen Fowler travelled to B.C. from Australia after his son's death.
"We are just distraught. This has really torn two families apart," he said at a police news conference in Surrey on Monday. "Two young people who had everything ahead of them … tragically murdered,"
Kam McLeod and Bryer Schmegelsky
Kam McLeod, 19, and Bryer Schmegelsky, 18, are two friends from Port Alberni, B.C., who were travelling through B.C. to visit the Yukon together in search of work.
RCMP said it's not clear why the pair returned to B.C. or what their travel plans may have been, but they may have been in an area without cellphone coverage when they disappeared.
Schmegelsky's father, Al, described the pair as "best friends" who met in elementary school. They recently graduated high school and had just spent five weeks working at Walmart.
He said the boys found the Walmart gig, which was their first job, to be disappointing, so they decided to head off on a trip in search of greener pastures.
"They're just kids on an adventure. They're good boys," he said.
The man by the highway
Little is known about a fifth person, whose body was found at a highway pullout about two kilometres from McLeod and Schmegelsky's burned out camper truck.
On Monday, police released a sketch of the deceased man and asked for the public's help identifying him.
The man is described as white and in his 50s or 60s with a heavy build and grey hair. He would have stood between five feet eight inches and five feet 10 inches tall.
Mounties said investigators are still figuring out how the body and truck are related, if at all.