GILLAM, Mb. (NEWS 1130) – The search for Kam McLeod and Bryer Schmegelsky is over.
Mounties in Manitoba have confirmed two bodies believed to belong to the two murder suspects from Port Alberni were found approximately eight kilometres from where a burned SUV was found last month near the small community of Gillam.
Assistant Commissioner Kevn Hackett with B.C. RCMP says said the the burned SUV was owned by one of the victims, Leonard Dyck.
“Manitoba RCMP has confirmed that the autopsies are being scheduled in Winnipeg to confirm their identities and to determine the cause of death,” says Hackett. “While we’re still waiting for the definitive confirmation of the identities of the two deceased men, we believe that they are, in fact, the individuals that we were searching for.”
He says the families of all victims have been contacted by RCMP and been updated.
“I’d like to stress that our investigative efforts have not concluded yet. We still need to ensure that our investigative findings –whether it’s statements, evidentiary timelines, physical or digital evidence — continues to confirm our investigative theory and eliminates any other possibilities or suspects,” says Hackett. “Until that is completed, we will not conclude this file.”
The search is over. At 10am this morning, Manitoba RCMP officers located the bodies of two males, believed to be the BC suspects, near the shoreline of the Nelson River (approx 8km from the burnt vehicle). #rcmpmb pic.twitter.com/tZ7EBFsNDr
— RCMP Manitoba (@rcmpmb) August 7, 2019
The 18-year-old Schmegelsky and 19-year-old McLeod were wanted in connection to three deaths in northern B.C. last month. They were charged with second degree murder in the death of UBC sessional lecturer Leonard Dyck, whose body was found days later near a burned out vehicle not far from Dease Lake.
The pair was also suspects in the deaths of two tourists — Australian Lucas Fowler and American Chynna Deese — who were found dead along the Alaska Highway near Liard Hot Springs.
RCMP Assistant Commissioner Jane MacLatchy says for over two weeks, officers followed up on every lead, considered all options, and used every available resource.
A critical piece of evidence was uncovered on Friday — items directly linked to the suspects were located on the shoreline of the Nelson River, a big focus of the manhunt.
“There’s significant evidence that links both crime scenes.” Hackett says no information to suggest dead suspects are wanted for any other crimes committed since national manhunt launched. @NEWS1130 pic.twitter.com/jcWUFsn2y0
— Marcella Bernardo (@Bernardo1130) August 7, 2019
And this morning, officers located two male bodies in the dense brush within one kilometre from where the items were found.
“At this time, we are confident that these are the bodies of the two suspects wanted in connection with the homicides in British Columbia,” says MacLatchy. “An autopsy is being scheduled in Winnipeg to confirm their identities and to determine their cause of death.”
The weeks-long manhunt captured international media attention, but few details of the investigation were released by the RCMP, who urged people to refrain from posting unconfirmed information on social media.
“This was a search that could not have been successfully achieved without the help from our partners at the Canadian Armed Forces, from RCMP employees who came in from across the country and from multiple private partners,” MacLatchy adds.
“Thank you to all Canadians for remaining vigilant, for calling us with information and most importantly, for being our partners.”
What happens now?
Before the discovery of the bodies, the pair had been charged with one count each of second-degree murder in connection to the death of a UBC lecturer in northern BC last month. So, what happens to those charges and the rest of the investigation, if the two lead suspects are dead?
NEW: "The second-degree murder charge against the two accused (McLeod and Schmegelsky) will be abated by the BC Prosecution Service once confirmation is received from the RCMP the accused are deceased. This will end the prosecution and the involvement of the BCPS." @NEWS1130
— Sonia Aslam (@SoniaSAslam) August 7, 2019
Legal Analyst Michael Shapray says once the autopsies are done, investigators will reach out to Crown Counsel.
“What would happen is the RCMP will ultimately, if these people turn out to be the suspects, will provide death certificates to the Prosecution Office in BC and the [office] will then essentially bring the case to an end at that stage. They would not proceed with a trial or with the matter any further against those two people if they turn out to be deceased.”
The office echoes that and tells NEWS 1130 it’s waiting to hear from police.
“The second degree murder charge against the two accused McLeod and Schmegelsky will be abated by the BC Prosecution Service once confirmation is received from the RCMP that the accused are deceased. This will end the prosecution and the involvement of the BCPS,” says Dan McLaughlin with Crown Counsel.
— Bruce Claggett (@BruceClaggett) August 7, 2019
However, when it comes to motive or unanswered questions surrounding the investigation, Shapray admits that can be tricky.
“If the investigation from the RCMP perspective was complete, in terms of they believed they had their suspects beyond a reasonable doubt and there were no other leads or other possible suspects, then yes, the police investigation would be completed and the case would be closed. In terms of finding out information about why or what the motive was or other aspects of the original investigation into the murders, that would have to come through questioning of the police or if the police decide to reveal any information. I wouldn’t expect there would be any sort of inquiry or there wouldn’t be any public trial if there are no other suspects.”
Shapray adds the warrants for their arrest would also be taken off the record and a note would be added to explain why nothing moved ahead with the charges.