GILLAM, Manitoba (NEWS 1130) — Manitoba RCMP are confirming two murder suspects from Vancouver Island were spotted in the province’s north twice before a burned-out vehicle driven by them was found on Monday.
Cpl. Julie Courchaine said the last sighting of Bryer Schmegelsky, 18, and Kam McLeod, 19, was on Monday in the Gillam, Man, area before the torched SUV was found outside the town. No other stolen vehicles have been traced back to them.
“At this point in the investigation, we believe they are still in the area,” she said.
She called the investigation complex and said all confirmed sightings will be reported to the public. However the latest confirmed sightings come days after the men were seen.
“Manitoba RCMP has deployed a significant amount of resources to the Gillam area, including our emergency response team, our crisis negotiation team, police dog services and air services assets,” Courchaine said. “The RCMP Major Crime Unit is involved as well as the RCMP North District and RCMP resources from other provinces.”
Canada-wide warrants are out for Schmegelsky and McLeod, who are wanted for second degree murder in the death of 64-year-old Vancouver-resident Leonard Dyck and suspected in the deaths of American Chynna Deese, 24, and her Australian boyfriend Lucas Fowler, 23, whose bodies were found on a northern B.C. highway.
On Monday evening, RCMP recovered a vehicle in the Gillam area after receiving a report of a vehicle fire. We can now confirm this vehicle is the same vehicle the suspects were travelling in. #rcmpmb
— RCMP Manitoba (@rcmpmb) July 24, 2019
Southwestern Oklahoma State University Criminologist Howard Kurtz admits these types of incidents are quite unusual for Canada.
“One of the issues that kind of struck me was the isolation where the incidents originally happened,” he said, adding the killings do not appear to have a clear motive. “About 85 per cent of the time when a young person is involved in some type of homicide…usually the motive is pretty transparent. But in about 15 to 16 per cent, there really doesn’t seem to be any sense in it all.”
The bodies of Fowler and Deese were found along the Alaska Highway, south of Liard Hot Springs in B.C., on July 15. Days later, the body of UBC sessional lecturer Leonard Dyck was found about 470 kilometres away near Dease Lake by a burned out truck and trailer, belonging to Schmegelsky and McLeod.
“To flee and move that far across the country, generally those types of situations, you would see the youth stay somewhat in that area,” Kurtz explained. “I’m not sure how they travelled that distance, but considering that terrain that they’ve covered … that was quite a bit of a road trip. How they managed that without coming into contact with police.”
The Gillam-area is surrounded by forests and swamps, and has been described as unforgiving terrain for anyone who is not prepared. Even if the boys have training, experts have said they could run out of supplies or face quickly changing weather conditions.
With swamps, bugs, wildlife and hundreds of km's of bushy forest, locals say the pair is likely going to run into trouble if still in northern Manitoba.
"If they're wet and cold and weak it's not a good situation," says Clint Sawchuk, owner of Nelson River Adventures in Gillam.
— Monika Gul (@MonikaGul) July 25, 2019
Kurtz’s concern, however, is not for the men, but rather for the communities they may be around.
“As the days go on, they will become more desperate. My biggest concern is for Canadian citizens right now,” he said.
Kurtz has circled back to troubling comments made by Schmegelsky’s father, in which he said he expects his son to die in a confrontation with police.
“Which to me raises the risk factor, because at that point they have nothing to lose,” Kurtz explained. “So the question, again, becomes, ‘What is going to happen if and when this confrontation comes about?'”
WATCH: RCMP confirm burned car found in Manitoba used by suspects in northern B.C. murders
Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale has said police are doing all they can to make sure people in the search area are out of harms way.
“Police services across the country are on the alert to lend assistance and support to the effort to make sure they are captured,” Goodale said on Thursday. “You can see from the reallocation of RCMP personnel, for example, the application of technology, in the use of drones, as another example. Police services are dealing with a dangerous situation, and they are putting all of the appropriate resources into making sure the public is kept safe.”
Meantime, the RCMP said it was also investigating a photograph of Nazi paraphernalia that was allegedly sent by Schmegelsky to another user on Steam, a video game network.
Investigators apparently also received images of the 18-year-old in military fatigues brandishing an airsoft rifle and wearing a gas mask.
The teens were initially treated as missing persons. They are now considered dangerous, and people living in northern Manitoba are on edge as the search for them continues.
The last time both of the suspects were logged into their Steam accounts was close to two weeks ago, around the time they reportedly told family and friends they were leaving Port Alberni in an effort to find work.
-With files from The Canadian Press