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Bryer Schmegelsky and Kam McLeod, the two fugitives at the centre of the summer’s nationwide manhunt, had plans to hijack a boat in Hudson’s Bay and flee to Europe or Africa after killing three strangers and contemplated killing others.
That’s according to a new report released by the RCMP on Friday, including details of the men’s videotaped confession to all three northern B.C. homicides and further insight into the two-week search that gripped the country and ended in the discovery of their bodies in the dense bush of rural Manitoba.
Schmegelsky, 18, and McLeod, 19, had been charged in the murder of Leonard Dyck, a university botany lecturer, whose body was found at a highway pullout on July 19. They were also suspects in the shooting deaths of American Chynna Deese and her Australian boyfriend Lucas Fowler, who were found on a highway near Liard Hot Springs on July 15.
At a news conference in Surrey, RCMP Asst. Comm. Kevin Hackett told reporters the murders appear to be have been mere crimes of opportunity, with the working theory being that the men came across Fowler’s van and targeted the couple for some reason.
“They shot and killed the couple before continuing up into the Yukon,” Hackett said.
The men returned to B.C. a few days later because they were having car troubles, and encountered Dyck outside of Dease Lake.
They killed him, police said, then burned McLeod’s white Dodge pickup and stole Dyck’s silver Toyota RAV4, money and other personal items, and headed east.
Six videos and three photos were recovered from a camera, which belonged to Dyck, found near Schmegelsky and McLeod’s bodies. The images will not be released to the public, police said, and do not reveal any insight into motive.
“The videos may influence or inspire other individuals to carry out a targeted act of violence, essentially creating copycat killers,” Hackett said.
“Releasing them would not only be disrespectful to the families of the deceased – who are also concerned about the impacts of the release – and it could sensationalize the actions of the suspects.”
|Kam McLeod’s white Dodge pickup found burnt. (RCMP handout)|
The first video contains what police called a confession that “lacked remorse” to all three deaths, he said, and a detailing of their plan to leave the country.
The second video, 51 seconds long, is believed to have been taken after the fugitives made it to the Nelson River near Gillam, Man. Schmegelsky says the river is big and fast, according to the RCMP, and the two may have to commit suicide, to which McLeod agrees.
In the third video, 32 seconds long, Schmegelsky says the two have shaved in preparation for their death. The two state they plan to “go back and kill more people and expect to be dead in a week,” police said.
The fourth video, 19 seconds long, includes a description of how the two plan to end their lives. The fifth video is believed to have been taken unintentionally, police said.
In the last video, 31 seconds long, the two men describe their last will and testament and their wishes to be cremated.
Photos found on the camera included Schmegelsky with one of two SKS semi-automatic rifles later found near the bodies, an unintentional photo depicting nothing, and an apparent selfie of McLeod.
Both guns found near the bodies were used in all three murders.
Timeline shows pair moving briskly across the country
According to police, McLeod and Schmegelsky left Port Alberni on July 12 and purchased an SKS semi-automatic rifle and a box of 20 rounds of ammunition using McLeod’s gun license at a Cabela’s store in Nanaimo.
Families told authorities at the time that the two friends, who both worked at Walmart, had left on a road trip to find other jobs in northern B.C. and the Yukon.
Their truck and camper they were driving was found burned on July 15, a few kilometres from where Dyck’s body was discovered at a highway pullout.
The bodies of Deese and Fowler were found near the Alaska Highway, 470 kilometres from where Dyck’s body was discovered, four days later.
Over the course of just a few days, Schmegelsky and McLeod travelled across 3,000 kilometres quickly, ending in Gillam, Man. – the only evidence of their travels documented in surveillance footage in small towns along the way, discovered by police long after the pair had left.
Police confirmed that McLeod shot Schmegelsky before turning the gun on himself, but were unable to confirm the exact day the two men died. Their bodies were discovered on Aug. 7, just eight kilometres away from where Dyck’s stolen vehicle was found burnt in Gillam on July 24.
|Top: SKS semi-automatic rifle legally purchased by Bryer Schmegelsky in Nanaimo, B.C. Bottom: A similar rifle obtained by Schmegelsky and Kam McLeod. (RCMP handout)|
The police released a statement from Deese’s family, who thanked both the public and investigators for their efforts and support, as “a piece of justice has been served in knowing the conclusion of this case.”
“The loss we continue to endure is shattering, but Chynna’s memories are a benediction to her genuine happiness and intense love of life,” the statement read.
“Throughout this tragedy, along with the help of many, they serve as our reminder of the good nature and peace humanity has the capacity to show. We hope Chynna’s legacy continues to grow and her spark allows us to build each other up.”
Look back at the hunt for Bryer Schmegelsky and Kam McLeod: