Northern B.C. murders: Suspects continue to elude national manhunt

Two teens wanted for three murders in Northern B.C. continue to elude a national manhunt led by RCMP and the Canadian military in Manitoba.

After a "thorough and exhaustive" search, Manitoba RCMP said Monday afternoon that they have yet to substantiate a tip that Kam McLeod and Bryer Schmegelsky are in the York Landing area. However, resources will remain in both the York Landing and Gillam areas as the search continues, RCMP said. 

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"We thank the community for their patience and understanding and ask them to continue to be vigilant," RCMP said in a tweet.

 

Mounties redirected their search for McLeod and Schmegelsky from Gillam to York Landing on Sunday afternoon, after the two were thought to have been spotted scavenging at a landfill. 

Earlier Monday morning, Cpl. Julie Courchaine said officers searched the area throughout Sunday night and were to be aided by the Canadian air force today. 

"Our goal today remains to safely locate and apprehend the individuals and confirm their identities," Courchaine said.

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Kam McLeod, 19, and Bryer Schmegelsky, 18, are suspects in the murders of Lucas Fowler and Chynna Deese on the Alaska Highway, and the death of a man on Highway 37 near Dease Lake. - BC RCMP

McLeod and Schmegelsky are wanted on a Canada-wide arrest warrant, and are charged with second-degree murder in the death of 64-year-old Leonard Dyck of Vancouver. Dyck’s body was found at a highway pullout two kilometres from where the teens’ burned-out Dodge pickup truck was found on Highway 37 near Dease Lake on July 19.

The pair are also suspects in the killings of 23-year-old Lucas Fowler of Sydney, Australia, and 24-year-old Chynna Deese of Charlotte, North Carolina. Their bodies were discovered July 15 beside the Alaska Highway, 20 kilometres south of Liard Hot Springs. No charges have yet been announced in that investigation.

York Landing is about 90 kilometres southwest of Gillam, where police had been concentrating their search efforts since a week-long manhunt began Monday, July 22. 

Police closed in on York Landing Sunday around 5 p.m. after security patrollers saw two men scavenging at the local dump.

Bear Patrol Inc. executive director James Favel said his company had been asked to send staff in to assist communities in the search area when patrollers saw two young men with no weapons or backpacks at the dump. All they had were the clothes they were wearing from what the team could see.

When the pair saw the security team, "they bolted," Favel said. The pair ran for trees and the patrol called police.

"All hell is breaking loose and the town is locked down," Favel said.

He said the team weren't worried as they initially thought the pair might be a work crew. It was the absence of a work truck that made them suspicious, he said.

"The adrenaline hit," he said.

York Landing is accessible only by air, or a two-hour ferry crossing in the summer from the community of Split Lake. A rail line also runs 25 kilometres south of the community. Search efforts there included a helicopter, police dogs, emergency response team members, and other specialized officers. 

McLeod and Schmegelsky were confirmed to have been seen in Split Lake before the SUV they were last seen travelling in was found on fire north of Gillam.

RCMP, with the help of police dogs and the military, had spent the last week searching homes, cottages, cabins, abandoned buildings, rail lines, and waterways around Gillam. 

Their efforts were bolstered Saturday when a Canadian Air Force CC-130H Hercules airplane landed in Gillam along with military personnel.

York Landing resident John Kalenchuk said helicopters and police in fatigues had been patrolling the area since about 6 p.m local time on Sunday, just over an hour after the security team spotted the suspicious pair.

"They're flying around lots looking for those two characters," he said. "There's patrols on foot with dogs."

Kalenhcuk said the pair would be trapped if they hadn't managed to escape the dump area. Their choice to escape, he said, would be to take a winter road back out of the area or swim from island to island in the Hayes River which enters Hudson Bay not far to the northeast.

© Preeceville Progress