British Columbia·Video

'This tragedy, it affects 5 families': Bryer Schmegelsky's great uncle speaks out

John McNabb, the brother of Bryer Schmegelsky's grandmother, says "it's just inconceivable to the family that this has happened."

John McNabb says family is struggling to reconcile the man they knew with the crimes he's accused of

'It's just inconceivable to the family that this has happened ... our hearts and prayers go out to the other families,' says John McNabb, the great-uncle of Bryer Schmegelsky, one of the men accused in three northern B.C. murders. (CBC)

The great-uncle of Bryer Schmegelsky, one of the men accused in connection to three northern B.C. murders which sparked a national manhunt, says he shares the grief of the victims' families.

"This tragedy, it affects five families," said John McNabb, the brother of Schmegelsky's grandmother. "It's just inconceivable to the family that this has happened ... Our hearts and prayers go out to the other families."

McNabb says his sister was like a surrogate parent to Schmegelsky, 19, and is devastated by the loss.

"It's very much like losing a child ... you're not supposed to be burying your children, they're supposed to be burying you."

A still taken from surveillance footage released by the RCMP shows Kam McLeod, left, and Bryer Schmegelsky leaving a store in Meadow Lake, Sask., on July 21. (RCMP)

McNabb says he saw Schmegelsky the day before he departed with Kam McLeod on their fateful trip up north, ostensibly to find work in Whitehorse.

The pair were charged July 24 with second-degree murder in the death of botanist Leonard Dyck. The 64-year-old was found dead July 19 at a highway pullout about two kilometres from a burned-out camper truck — believed to have been driven by McLeod and Schmegelsky — south of the B.C.'s Stikine River Bridge on Highway 37. 

The lifelong friends are also suspected of gunning down a young couple, Lucas Fowler, 23, an Australian, and Chynna Deese, 24, an American. Their bodies were found on the Alaska Highway, south of Liard Hot Springs, B.C., on July 15.

The two men fled east, sparking a weeks-long massive cross-Canada search. 

On Wednesday, their remains were found in dense brush in northern Manitoba, eight kilometres northeast of where a burned-out Toyota RAV4, which police believe the two fugitives were driving, was found. 

'The side of folks that we see and think we see'

McNabb said the entire family is reeling from trying to reconcile the "polite, kind, young fellow" they knew with what Schmegelsky has been accused of. 

"If you met these two fellows, they were not people you would be afraid of."

John McNabb on the family trying to reconcile the Bryer Schmegelsky they knew with what happened

John McNabb says his family is struggling to reconcile the man they knew with the crimes he's accused of. 0:44

He said speaking to the staff sergeant in charge of the investigation had provided some comfort.

"He indicated that [it's] not unusual that the side of folks that we see and think we see on a daily basis can change given some input that we don't know about," McNabb said. 

But with their deaths, McNabb says closure will be difficult to get.

"We were hoping that they would be found and captured and that the story of how this all unfolded would be available ... [their deaths] are going to make it a lot more difficult for the RCMP to come up with with what really happened."

With files from Tanya Fletcher

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