British Columbia

Chynna Deese's brother asks 'entire country of Canada' to help catch suspects

The brother of one of three people whose killing led to a nationwide search said losing his sister has left his family paralyzed with grief.

Amid international coverage of national hunt for suspects, a family grapples with their loss

Chynna Deese, right, in a photo with her mother, Sheila. (Sheila Deese)

British Deese takes long pauses as he speaks, grasping for the right words to describe life since his 24-year-old sister, Chynna Deese, was found dead on an isolated stretch of highway in northern B.C.

"Right now, we're just paralyzed. So I can't tell you when or what the next step is, or what even tomorrow looks like," the 27-year-old said over the phone from North Carolina.

"Every time I even try to understand the fact that my little sister isn't in my life anymore ...." he said, but couldn't finish the thought. "And that's how it's going to be."

It's been two weeks since the bodies of Chynna Deese, of Charlotte, N.C., and 23-year-old Australian Lucas Fowler were found. Four days later, the body of university lecturer Leonard Dyck was discovered 500 kilometres away, though it took days for him to be identified.

The killings triggered a cross-country hunt for two suspects that has so far provided few answers.

To Deese, the fact that his sister, who "never had conflict and never got angry," could be shot dead makes no sense.

It makes even less sense that it happened to such an experienced traveller in an isolated Canadian community where residents, before the events of this summer, might not even have locked their doors.

American Chynna Deese, 24, and Australian Lucas Fowler, 23, met in a hostel in Croatia two years ago. (Sheila Deese)

"I mean if Lucas and Chynna died hiking Mount Everest, that seems more likely. That seems like something that they would do in their lifetime. But to think that somebody did this ... " he said. You could almost hear him shake his head over the phone.

"It's such a pointless crime."

Chynna was one of six siblings and "many step-siblings," said Deese, describing them as a massive, modern family.

"We're not a perfect family, but [Chynna] was the one that pulled us together through all our problems, and then fixed them with love and compassion," he said.

Chynna's passion for travel directed most of her life, from falling in love with Fowler to ending up with him on that northern B.C. road.

The pair met in a Croatian hostel two years ago, and travelled together as much as they could, speaking over FaceTime for hours when they couldn't actually be together.

Deese, 24, and Fowler, 23, were passionate travellers. (New South Wales Police)

Chynna began to travel after completing her studies, funding her trips by working along the way, saving up the tips she earned as she toiled through double shifts as a restaurant server.

"Instead of working at a bank and eating ramen noodles, like I was, she was travelling the world ... and that's what she made her life purpose," said British Deese.

Photos of Chynna circulated online since her death tell just that story: she and Lucas holding up a massive fish on a boat; goofy selfies snapped high in the mountains; clutching drinks at a holiday party; Chynna looking glamorous in a grey dress and hoop earrings, her unruly blond hair coiffed into neat curls. She is smiling in every photo.

Deese struggles when he reflects that Chynna won't be a bridesmaid at his wedding some day.

But he almost managed a laugh when describing her plan of having kids with Lucas in the U.S., and then moving the family to Australia once their children turned two, "so the kids would have the accent."

"We all thought that was really funny," he said.

While there's been round-the-clock coverage and speculation about the suspects, Deese said he hopes the focus won't always remain on the two men suspected of killing his sister, Fowler and Dyck.

"We pray that the two boys get caught ... and [we're] asking for the entire country of Canada's help in doing that."

About the Author

Michelle Ghoussoub

@MichelleGhsoub

Michelle Ghoussoub is a journalist with CBC News in Vancouver. She has previously reported in Lebanon and Chile. Reach her at michelle.ghoussoub@cbc.ca or on Twitter @MichelleGhsoub.

With files from Andrea Ross