British Columbia

2 B.C. men considered missing now suspects in homicide of young couple

Two men previously reported missing are now suspects in the homicides of a young couple gunned down in Northern B.C. last week, as well as in the suspicious death of another man whose body was found near the men's burnt-out truck days later.

Childhood friends Kam McLeod and Bryer Schmegelsky at large; last spotted in Manitoba

Kam McLeod, left, and Bryer Schmegelsky, right, from Port Alberni, B.C., are now suspects in the homicides of a young couple gunned down in mid-July and in the suspicious death of another man whose body was found near the men's burnt-out truck days later. (B.C. RCMP/Alan Schmegelsky)

Latest

  • Kam McLeod, 19, and Bryer Schmegelsky, 18, now suspects in 3 deaths.
  • They may be driving grey 2011 Toyota RAV4.
  • Anyone who sees them is asked to call 911.

Two lifelong friends previously reported missing are now suspects in the homicides of a young tourist couple gunned down in Northern British Columbia last week, as well as in the suspicious death of another man whose body was found near the friends' burnt-out truck days later.

RCMP said Tuesday that Kam McLeod, 19, and Bryer Schmegelsky, 18, are suspected of shooting Australian Lucas Fowler, 23, and American Chynna Deese, 24. The couple's bodies were discovered along the side of the Alaska Highway south of a popular hot springs tourist destination on July 15.

Four days after the bodies of Fowler and Deese were found, McLeod and Schmegelsky's burnt-out truck was discovered near the community of Dease Lake, B.C., more than 470 kilometres away from the first crime scene.

The body of an unidentified man in his 50s or 60s was found two kilometres south of that truck.

McLeod and Schmegelsky were initially considered to be missing persons. Their families hadn't heard from them in days and said the pair, friends since elementary school, had been travelling to Whitehorse from their homes in Port Alberni on Vancouver Island in search of work.

U.S. tourist Chynna Deese, right, and her Australian boyfriend, Lucas Fowler, were found dead on July 15 about 20 kilometres south of Liard Hot Springs, B.C. (Sheila Deese)

Burnt car in Manitoba

The pair is no longer considered missing and are now at large. They were last seen driving a grey 2011 Toyota RAV4 and Mounties said they may still be on the move.

It is believed they've left British Columbia and may have been spotted in northern Saskatchewan, the RCMP said on Tuesday morning. Two employees at a hardware store in Meadow Lake, Sask., about 250 kilometres northwest of Saskatoon, told CBC News the suspects were in their store and made purchases, though it was not clear when. 

Later in the day, Manitoba RCMP said in a tweet they had "reason to believe" McLeod and Schmegelsky were recently in the Gillam area, in the northeast of the province.

A burnt-out car was found near the reserve of Bird, not far from Gillam, on Tuesday, prompting a statement from Chief of the Fox Lake Cree Nation Walter Spence.

"We cannot confirm this was directly connected to the individuals wanted by RCMP. I have spoken with the RCMP. An all night patrol for the community has been prepared as a caution," Spence said.

Officers said the two teenagers may have changed their appearances and have asked anyone who sees them not to approach them.

"We are asking the public: if you spot Kam or Bryer, consider them dangerous," Sgt. Janelle Shoihet said during a press conference from the Lower Mainland on Tuesday. "Take no action and immediately call 911."

Both McLeod and Schmegelsky are described as six feet, four inches tall and around 169 pounds.

McLeod has dark brown hair, brown eyes and facial hair. Schmegelsky has sandy brown hair.

Schmegelsky and McLeod are believed to be travelling in a grey 2011 Toyota RAV4. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Fowler and Deese were days into a three-week road trip and were bound for Alaska when they were killed. Fowler's weathered, soft blue 1986 Chevy van carefully chosen for the journey marked the crime scene at the side of the road.

RCMP said the couple, who met abroad two years ago, likely died on July 14 or 15. 

Surveillance video shows Fowler and Deese hugging at a gas station, days before they were killed:

Surveillance video recorded on July 13, 2019 that has been edited for brevity shows 23-year-old Lucas Fowler and 24-year-old Chynna Deese stopping at a gas station in Fort Nelson, B.C. In total, the pair spent just under 17 minutes at the station; nine of them inside it 1:04

On Tuesday, Sgt. Janelle Shoihet said McLeod and Schmegelsky were seen near Dease Lake, the area in which their truck was found, on July 18.

The red and grey Dodge pickup truck was outfitted with a camper. RCMP released a sketch of the deceased man found nearby on Monday and asked for the public's help identifying him.

He is described as white and in his 50s or 60s with a heavy build and grey hair. RCMP Cpl. Chris Manseau said he would have stood between five feet, eight inches and five feet, 10 inches tall.

McLeod and Schmegelsky's burnt-out truck was discovered near the community of Dease Lake, B.C. (Chris Corday/CBC)

Schmegelsky's father, Al, described the pair as "best friends" who met in elementary school. He previously said in an interview that the boys recently graduated high school and had just spent five weeks working at Walmart.

Al Schmegelsky said his son and McLeod were disappointed with the Walmart gig — their first jobs — so they decided to head off in search of something better up north.

"They're just kids on an adventure. They're good boys," Schmegelsky said Monday, speaking a day before his son and his friend were named suspects.

RCMP have released a composite sketch of the man who was found dead two kilometres south of a burnt-out camper truck near Dease Lake, B.C., on July 19. The man has not been identified. (Don Marce/CBC)

Region on edge

The series of crimes has sent a chill through the northern region, an area known for its quiet seclusion and largely unaccustomed to heavy police presence. Friends have established "check-in" routines so they know loved ones are safe and some are no longer driving to work down remote highways alone.

Mounties have been slow to release details on the specifics of the investigations, if at all, as is fairly common practice with the force in the province. RCMP have acknowledged heightened public interest in the cases, given how "unusual" crimes of serious nature are in the north — let alone more than one at once — but have declined to give further information for fear of jeopardizing ongoing investigations.

"The rumour mill is rampant," said Gail Andrews, whose family has run the Tetsa River Lodge at Mile 375 on the Alaska Highway for three generations. "It's become, 'Don't get out of your car, you'll get murdered.' People are nervous."

Store owner Claudia Bunce says McLeod and Schmegelsky were in her shop earlier this month. They were captured on video, walking in for a cup of coffee, she says.

Claudia Bunce, owner-operator of the Jade City Store north of Dease Lake, B.C., says suspects Kam McLeod and Bryer Schmegelsky were in her store this month 3:42

Andrews said visitors and residents staying at the lodge heard sirens screaming by the property last week as police raced to the spot where Fowler and Deese's bodies were found about 100 kilometres away.

Another missing persons case involving two men from Surrey, B.C. also made headlines alongside news of the investigations in the north, but RCMP confirmed Tuesday that case is unrelated to the homicides.

A map shows the locations in Northern B.C. where three bodies were found, as well as the abandoned truck of two men now considered suspects. Chynna Deese and Lucas Fowler, a young couple from the U.S. and Australia, were gunned down near Liard Hot Springs on July 15, 2019. To the southwest, a body was found on July 19 near the truck of suspects Kam McLeod, 19, and Bryer Schmegelsky, 18. (CBC News)

About the Author

Rhianna Schmunk is a reporter for CBC News based in Vancouver. Reach her at rhianna.schmunk@cbc.ca or on Twitter.

With files from Michelle Ghoussoub and CHEK News