Search for B.C. murder suspects comes to a close after two bodies discovered near Gillam

After two-and-a-half nerve-racking weeks, Manitoba RCMP finally called off the nationwide manhunt for Kam Mcleod and Bryer Schmegelsky Aug. 7 after officers discovered a pair of corpses near the shoreline of the Nelson River.

During an afternoon press conference in Winnipeg, Assistant Commissioner Jane MacLatchy, commanding officer of the Manitoba RCMP, said they are confident these bodies belong to the two Port Alberni teens connected to three recent homicides in northern B.C.

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An autopsy is scheduled for sometime this week to confirm the pair’s identity and the cause of their deaths.

Even though the suspects haven’t been officially seen since July 22, MacLatchy said her officers never gave up in their search by following-up on every lead and using every available resource.

She said the RCMP finally caught a break Aug. 2 when they located items directly linked to the suspects on the shoreline of the Nelson River near Gillam and Fox Lake Cree Nation.

From there, specialized RCMP officers were able to narrow the search area and scour higher probability areas.

At approximately 10 a.m. on Wednesday, they stumbled upon two corpses in the dense brush one kilometre away from where these items were found. 

“To the families of everyone affected by the series of events over the last few weeks, I know it has been so very difficult and I hope today’s announcement can begin to bring some closure,” said MacLatchy.

Even though the active manhunt in that area has been scaling down as of late, Gillam and Fox Lake Cree Nation remained a pivotal part of the ongoing investigation since the suspects’ burned Toyota Rav 4 was discovered near these communities July 22.

The RCMP even deployed a diving team to search the Nelson River over the August long weekend after they found a damaged, aluminum boat on its shores.

While police still aren’t completely sure how all these pieces fit together, they still believe that McLeod and Schmegelsky are responsible for killing University of British Columbia lecturer Leonard Dyck and tourists Lucas Fowler and Chynna Deese.

Fowler and Deese were found dead on the Alaska Highway in B.C. July 15. Four days later, Dyck’s body was discovered south of Dease Lake, B.C., two kilometres away from a burnt-out truck that the suspects were driving.  

On Aug. 1, Fowler’s family held a funeral for the homicide victim in his native Australia. Deese, Fowler’s American girlfriend, was buried in her home state of North Carolina July 27.

Authorities initially began searching for McLeod and Schmegelsky as missing persons but declared the two teens were being investigated as suspects in these deaths after they were spotted in Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan July 21.

MacLatchy wrapped up her press conference on Wednesday by thanking various northern communities like Gillam, Fox Lake Cree Nation, War Lake First Nation and York Landing for helping them with this ongoing investigation.

“Your lives have been disrupted, many of you lived with uncertainty and fear,” she said. “But throughout, you were resilient, you came together as communities and you helped our officers get the job done.”

Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Grand Chief Garrison Settee also commended the tireless efforts of volunteer community patrol teams like the Bear Clan and offered his support to northern residents who are still reeling from this experience.

“Today’s news is a first step in helping Northern First Nations to feel a renewed sense of safety,” he said in an Aug. 7 press release. “It may take some time for people to recover from the trauma caused by this lengthy manhunt. MKO will continue to support our Northern First Nations with the healing work that needs to be done in the weeks and months to come.”

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