British Columbia

Couple killed in northern B.C. were shot, RCMP seek man for questioning

On Monday, RCMP also gave an update into a second, separate investigation in northern B.C., saying it's 'possible' the two cases are linked.

Investigators looking for man last seen speaking with Lucas Fowler

Chynna Deese kisses Lucas Fowler in this undated image from her sister's Facebook page. The pair was found dead along the Alaska Highway on Monday morning, 20 kilometres south of Liard Hotsprings, in B.C. (NSW Police)

Latest

  • Police release sketch of man seen with Fowler on evening of July 14.
  • Victim's father says killings have 'torn two families apart.'
  • Investigators release surveillance video of couple at gas station.

UPDATE: 2 men reported missing now suspects in homicide of young couple: RCMP


The father of a man who was shot and killed, along with his girlfriend, during the couple's dream road trip through northern B.C. described the pair as an inseparable team in life and travel, whose relationship was twisted into the "worst-ever love story" by their deaths.

The bodies of Australian Lucas Fowler, 23, and American Chynna Deese, 24, were found at the side of the Alaska Highway early in the morning on July 15. RCMP say the couple had been fatally shot, likely that day or the previous day.

Stephen Fowler, Lucas's father and a seasoned police inspector from New South Wales, described the bond between the pair during a news conference on Monday.

"We are just distraught. This has really torn two families apart," said Fowler, who travelled to B.C. from Australia after his son's death. "Two young people who had everything ahead of them … tragically murdered."

Lucas's father Stephen Fowler speaks to reporters during a news conference in Surrey, B.C. on Monday. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Lucas Fowler and Deese had been driving Fowler's aging, blue Chevy van on a three-week, Canadian summer road trip they'd planned meticulously together. He had been working on a B.C. ranch for part of the summer and Deese travelled from her home in North Carolina to join him there before they hit the road.

Moments before Fowler spoke Monday, RCMP investigators released a composite sketch of an unidentified man believed to have been one of the last people to speak to Lucas before the killings.

An artist’s sketch of a man who the RCMP believe interacted with Lucas and Deese is pictured during the news conference. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Cpl. Janelle Shoihet said the man was last seen with Lucas on the evening of July 14 along Highway 97. The man is described as white with darker skin and dark hair, standing shorter than Lucas, who was six feet, three inches. Shoihet said the man may have had a beard or glasses, and was possibly "associated" with an older Jeep Cherokee with a black stripe on the hood. He is believed to have been travelling south.

Shoihet stopped short of calling the man a suspect, saying RCMP only wish to speak with him as part of the investigation.

Police also released video of the last time the couple were recorded on camera. Fowler and Deese were seen at an unspecified gas station in Fort Nelson, B.C., just after 7:30 p.m. PT filling up and cleaning their van.

The pair spends roughly nine minutes inside the station before exiting. Deese can be seen carrying some supplies before they get into the van and drive away.

Watch surveillance video of Fowler and Deese taken three days before they were found:

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

Link to other case 'possible'

On Monday, RCMP also gave an update into a second, separate investigation in northern B.C., saying it's "possible" the two cases are linked.

That case concerns two missing men from Vancouver Island: Kam McLeod, 19, and Bryer Schmegelsky, 18. The men's burnt-out camper truck was found near Dease Lake, B.C. on Friday — more than 450 kilometres south of where Fowler and Deese were found. The men haven't been in touch with family or friends in several days.

Kam McLeod, 19, and 18-year-old Bryer Schmegelsky, right, both of Port Alberni, were reported by their families as being out of contact. Police found their burnt-out vehicle south of Dease Lake. (B.C. RCMP)

The body of a man, who has not been identified, was found two kilometres south of the flaming truck. Police said they're working to identify the body, but officers have confirmed that it isn't that of Schmegelsky or McLeod.

RCMP released a sketch of the deceased man 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.

RCMP have released a sketch of the unidentified man who was found dead two kilometres south of the burnt-out camper truck. (Don Marce/CBC)

Mounties acknowledged it is unusual to have two, high-profile major crime cases in the sparsely populated northern half of the province.

"Our investigators looking a possibility they may be linked," Shoihet told reporters. "It's uncommon to have two investigations of this kind in northern B.C."

Couple 'made a great pair' 

Deese met Lucas Fowler at a hostel in Croatia two years ago, matched by their shared avidity for travel and long blond curls. Stephen Fowler said his son had been travelling with a friend, with no plans to meet a girl.

"He had the time of his life travelling the world. He met a beautiful lady, they teamed up, they made a great pair, they fell in love," he said. "They were inseparable."

Deese's mother, Sheila Deese, said her daughter glowed about the "Aussie boy" she'd met abroad after returning home to North Carolina. Fowler came and spent three months celebrating Thanksgiving and Christmas with Deese, "immediately" becoming part of the family. 

Deese and Fowler enjoyed travelling. They met in Croatia two years ago. (Submitted by Sheila Deese)

Deese had hoped to meet the Fowler family in Australia. Sheila said the couple was so enthusiastic about the idea, Sheila feared her daughter wouldn't want to come home.

The trip never happened.

"It's a love story that has ended tragically," Stephen Fowler said Monday. "It's the worst-ever love story."

Video taken at 3:00 pm on July 16, 2019 shows RCMP at a crime scene near the Liard Hot Springs in B.C. The bodies of Chynna Deese, 24, of Charlotte, N.C., and Lucas Fowler, a 23-year-old from Australia, were discovered around 7:20 a.m. on July 15 along the Alaska Highway, 20 kilometres south of Liard Hot Springs. (Courtesy: Ed Grennan) 0:21

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 Yvette Brend, Roshini Nair, Maryse Zeidler and The Canadian Press

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