The Canadian teenage fugitives wanted for the murder of an American backpacker and her Australian boyfriend and a Vancouver botanist have been found dead after two weeks on the run.
Canadian Police announced Wednesday afternoon local time that two male bodies believed to be Bryer Schmegelsky, 18, and Kam McLeod, 19, were found in ‘dense brush’ by Nelson River near Gillam, Manitoba, hours earlier.
Assistant Commissioner Jane MacLatchy said she is ‘confident’ the bodies belong to the suspects. An autopsy will be performed to confirm their identities and cause of death.
The discovery of the bodies concludes a 15-day manhunt that began in the western Canadian province of British Columbia and spanned about 5,000 kilometres across three provinces.
Schmegelsky and McLeod were the sole suspects in the murders of American Chynna Deese and her Australian boyfriend Lucas Fowler, as well as Vancouver professor Leonard Dyck.
The find has left Chynna Deese’s mother, Sheila, ‘speechless’, CBC News reported, while Mr Fowler’s family are yet to comment.
Ms Deese’s brother, British, said the couple had met at a hostel in Croatia, and after visiting Mr Fowler at a cattle ranch in Canada, they had planned a cross-country road trip.
Her mother said the pair were a perfect match, and their relationship was very serious.
‘It is a love story, a Southern girl goes out of the country, meets this Australian, and they were just the same personality,’ she said. ‘It was like two butterflies that found each other and they were going to be forever.’
The bodies believed to be Schmegelsky and McLeod were found just a kilometre away from where investigators found several items linked to the pair on Saturday. It is not known how long their bodies have been there.
Police said items found less than six miles from where the teens set fire to the grey Toyota RAV4 they were driving on July 2 helped narrow down their search for the fugitives.
After Schmegelsky and McLeod’s bodies were found, police confirmed the RAV4 belonged to Vancouver botanist Leonard Dyck. The teenagers had been charged with his murder.
While the pair are currently the only suspects in the murders, police say their investigation will not close until it is proven McLeod and Schmegelsky were responsible.
Assistant Commissioner Kevin Hackett told reporters officers would continue to work on the case until police have no doubt there are no other suspects.
There is ‘significant evidence’ linking the scene of Mr Fowler and Ms Deese’s death to the scene of Mr Dyck’s death, he said, but no evidence linking the victims together or proof the murders were targeted.
On the same day that police found the items, they also discovered a damaged aluminium boat near the river near Gillam, Manitoba. Police divers spent Sunday searching the frigid waters of the Nelson River for the fugitives’ bodies.
However, the underwater recovery team did not find additional items, police said. Survival experts predicted the teenagers would struggle to stay alive if they attempted to hide in the swampy, bug-infested wilderness around Gillam without shelter and equipment.
They also faced the threat of polar bears, black bears, grizzlies and wolves in the area. At the beginning of this week, police focused their search on Sundance in Manitoba, blocking all roads in or out.
Sundance was built in 1975 to house the workers of the Limestone Dam project and their families, and consisted of mostly portable buildings, trailers, with a few small stores and a primary school.
The community was closed in September 1992, and satellite imagery shows empty lots surrounded by roads. Sun-dance is considered part of the town of Gillam, where the teens were last seen, and is roughly 1,800 miles from where the bodies of Deese and Fowler were found.
The move to Sundance came as Deese’s family slammed Canadian police for failing to find the teens, questioning whether they were even involved in the tragic deaths of the young couple.
‘It’s taking so long, our family is frustrated the police have not made more progress and we don’t know if it’s even the teenagers who killed my sister and Lucas,’ Miss Deese’s brother Stetson told The Daily Telegraph. Everyone wants to catch them but we don’t even know if they did it. We’re in the dark as much as the public about what happened to Chynna and Lucas.’
Deese, 24, and Fowler, 23, were found shot dead in a ditch on the side of a highway in British Columbia on July 15.
The body of botanist Leonard Dyck was discovered four days later on another BC highway and a mile away from an abandoned and burning pick-up truck Schmegelsky and McLeod had been driving.
Schmegelsky and McLeod drove a grey Toyota RAV4 3000km east to Gillam before setting it alight in bushland. The RCMP had not announced a single confirmed sighting of the duo up until Wednesday’s press conference.
Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Royal Canadian Air Force, using teams on the ground and planes in the air with infrared cameras and imaging radar, unsuccessfully searched 7,000 square miles around the town of Gillam and surrounding wilderness before scaling back the hunt.