Police say Vancouver Island teens wanted in murders likely still in Manitoba
Two Vancouver Island teens wanted in connection with three homicides in B.C. have been spotted twice in a small Manitoba town and investigators say they're likely still in the area.
In a news conference Thursday, Manitoba RCMP said there were two "established and corroborated" sightings of Bryer Schmegelsky, 18, and Kam McLeod, 19, in the remote northern community of Gillam.
The sightings took place before the Toyota RAV-4 the pair was driving was found burned near a First Nation reserve north of Gillam on Monday, said Cpl. Julie Courchaine.
"There have also been no reported stolen vehicles that could be attributed to the suspects," she said. "At this point in the investigation we believe they are still in the area."
Courchaine said in a 48-hour period, Manitoba RCMP received more than 80 tips in their search for the suspects.
RCMP are asking the public to remain vigilant and on the lookout for the duo and not to approach them if spotted.
"Call 911 or your local police immediately," said Courchaine, adding tips in the Gillam area must be called in to 204-652-2200.
An emergency response team including an armoured vehicle, a crisis negotiation team, police dogs and helicopters have been deployed to the area.
CTV Winnipeg reporter Jeff Keele said he saw the armoured vehicle and a police dog leave town Thursday to search the remote wilderness and witnessed a helicopter flying overhead.
“This search is intensifying. It is increasing and there are a large number of police resources here,” Keele said.
Gillam Mayor Dwayne Forman said he was aware of 20 specialized officers in the area with police dogs.
He said if the teens are on the run near Gillam, they're up against inhospitable conditions.
“It’s a swamp, heavy treed area. The insects are atrocious through swamps,” he said. “I would be extremely surprised if they could survive a long duration up here.”
The search has sparked concern in the quiet, remote community, and Forman had some advice for residents: "Just to travel within the community in pairs or groups and keep an eye out if you see anybody."
RCMP said they would have an update on search efforts in a news conference in Winnipeg Thursday at 1 p.m. PT.
The town of Churchill, Man. also issued a warning Thursday saying it was "closely monitoring" the RCMP search.
"We should all remain vigilant and report any and all suspicious activity directly to the RCMP," Mayor Mike Spence said in a statement.
Schmegelsky and McLeod, who are from Port Alberni, have been on the run from police since they were named as suspects in the deaths of 23-year-old Australian man Lucas Fowler and 24-year-old American woman Chynna Deese.
The couple was found dead along the Alaska Highway near Liard Hot Springs on July 15. Four days later, their burned-out truck was found near Dease Lake and a body recently identified as Leonard Dyck was found about two kilometres south.
Mounties announced Wednesday that Schmegelsky and McLeod were charged with second-degree murder in Dyck's death.
In a statement, the UBC instructor's family said they were "truly heartbroken" about his sudden death.
"He was a loving husband and father. His death has created unthinkable grief and we are struggling to understand what has happened," the family said. "While we understand there will be interest in knowing more about him and the impact he had during his life, we are asking for the public and the media to please respect our privacy during this difficult time."
Family members of Schmegelsky and McLeod have recently spoken with media about the heartbreak caused by the teens' alleged involvement in the homicides.
Keith McLeod, Kam's father, issued a statement earlier in the week saying his family was trying to "wrap our heads around what is happening."
He said they hoped Kam would come home safely "so we can all get to the bottom of this story."
Schmegelsky's father Alan spoke with media Wednesday saying he expected the nationwide manhunt would end in his son's death.
“He's on a suicide mission. He wants his pain to end,” he told The Canadian Press, breaking down into tears. “Basically, he's going to be dead today or tomorrow. I know that. Rest in peace, Bryer. I love you. I'm so sorry all this had to happen.”
With files from CTVNews.ca and The Canadian Press