Northern Manitoba manhunt for suspects in B.C. homicides ‘scaling down’

The search for B.C. homicide suspects Kam McLeod and Bryer Schmegelsky will scale down over the following week, but police will not end their manhunt until there is a resolution, Manitoba RCMP Assistant Commissioner Jane MacLatchy said at a July 31 press conference in Winnipeg.

MacLatchy, the RCMP’s commanding officer in Manitoba, said the majority of specialized RCMP and Royal Canadian Air Force personnel and equipment would be withdrawn.

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“To be clear, we're not ending the search – a number of tactical resources and specialized assets will remain positioned in the Gillam area and will continue with the efforts to locate the murder suspects,” MacLatchy said. “In addition, all of our resources will be ready to respond to the region as required should new information emerge. We have also received assurances that the RCAF will be ready to assist us if needed.”

More than 11,000 square kilometres were searched by air using RCMP and RCAF aircraft, 500 homes and abandoned buildings were canvassed or searched and more than 250 tips investigated since July 23.

“We have done everything we can to locate the suspects,” she said. “It’s just a very tough place to find someone that doesn’t want to be found.”

She also said that it was possible the two suspects were dead or had somehow left the area since they were last seen.

Cadaver dogs have not been used in the search to her knowledge, MacLatchy said.

She added that officers weren’t frustrated at not finding McLeod , 19,and Schmegelsky, 18, but that they would have preferred to have found them.

“We would love to be able to contribute to getting justice for the families of the victims,” MacLatchy said.

RCMP began searching the area of Gillam and Fox Lake Cree Nation after the Toyota Rav4 that McLeod and Schmegelsky had been driving was found abandoned and burned July 22. They established confirmed sightings in the area before that time but have not been able to confirm any sightings since, despite a daylong intensive search in York Landing July 28-29 after a Winnipeg Bear Clan Patrol member said he saw two people matching the suspects’ descriptions at the community’s dump.

McLeod and Schmegelsky are wanted in connection with the killings of Lucas Fowler and Chynna Deese, found dead on the Alaska Highway in B.C. July 15, and have been charged with second-degree murder in the death Leonard Dyck of Vancouver, whose body was found south of Dease Lake, B.C. July 19. Dyck’s body was discovered about two kilometres from a burnt-out truck that McLeod and Schmegelsky had been driving when they left Port Alberni on Vancouver Island, ostensibly on the way to Alberta to look for work.

CBC and other media reported that the pair had been stopped by Tataskweyak Cree Nation band constables after not stopping at a drug and alcohol checkstop at the entrance to the dry First Nation the day before they were identified as suspects in the three homicides. The vehicle they were driving was found abandoned and burned near Gillam that evening.

Manitoba RCMP said July 25 that they believed McLeod and Schmegelsky were still in the Gillam area, based upon two confirmed sightings prior to the pair’s burnt vehicle being discovered and the fact that no vehicles in the area have been reported stolen.

RCMP said July 30 said checkstops at the intersection of Provincial Road 280 and Provincial Road 290 to Fox Lake and Gillam were being removed.

Anyone who spots McLeod and Schmegelsky should call Gillam RCMP at 204-652-2200, Thompson RCMP at 204-677-6911 or 911 or their local police in other areas. RCMP said several sighting tips had been posted on social media before being reported to them over the previous few days, which can create a delay in investigating them.

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