SURREY, B.C. — Two suspects confessed to the murders of three people in northern British Columbia in several videos taken before they shot themselves in a suicide pact, the RCMP said Friday.
The Mounties said Bryer Schmegelsky, 18, and Kam McLeod, 19, expressed no remorse in the videos and did not explain their motives behind the killings that sparked a nationwide manhunt this summer.
“If there was in fact a motive, it’s gone with the accused,” RCMP Assistant Commissioner Kevin Hackett told a news conference, adding the videos were “cold” and “matter of fact.”
“Their attitude, frankly, from my observations was not consistent with someone who was responsible for the type of violent offences that they took responsibility for.”
Before their deaths, the men were charged with the murder of Leonard Dyck, a University of British Columbia botany lecturer, and were also suspects in the deaths of American Chynna Deese and her Australian boyfriend Lucas Fowler.
The RCMP released new details of its investigation, including descriptions of the videos, and said police located a digital camera belonging to Dyck near where the bodies of the two suspects were found in northern Manitoba.
Police said McLeod shot Schmegelsky before shooting himself, and two guns found near their bodies were the same firearms used in the murders of Deese, Fowler and Dyck.
The RCMP said it believes the videos may inspire copycat killers and that releasing them would be disrespectful to the victims and their families, so they aren’t being made public at this time.
The camera contained three still images and six videos. In the first 58-second video, the RCMP describe Schmegelsky as saying their plan is to march to Hudson Bay, hijack a boat and travel to Europe or Africa. In the next, which is 51 seconds, he says they have reached a river that is large and fast moving and they may have to commit suicide, to which McLeod agrees.
The next 32-second video shows Schmegelsky saying they have shaved in preparation for their own deaths and they now plan to kill more people and expect to be dead in a week, the RCMP said.
The fourth video is 19 seconds long and they say they will shoot themselves, while the next is just six seconds and appears to have been taken accidentally. The final 31-second video is what the two men describe as their “last will and testament,” and they express their wish to be cremated, the RCMP said.
Hackett said none of the videos are date stamped.
One of the still images shows Schmegelsky lying on his side posing with a SKS rifle, another is a blurred photo with a finger across the lens and the third shows McLeod from the chest up.
The Mounties released a seven-page, double-sided overview of their investigation to media on Friday. The document provides a timeline and new details of the homicides but does not draw any conclusions about motive.
“Interviews of McLeod and Schmegelsky’s families, teachers and friends, seized evidence from search warrants and the six video recordings did not reveal their motivation for the murders,” the overview says.
The investigation began July 15 when the bodies of Fowler and Deese were discovered near Highway 97, south of Liard River Hot Springs. The bodies were found near a van registered to Fowler. A search of the vehicle over the next two days turned up identification belonging to the pair and spent and unspent bullet casings.
An autopsy on July 19 confirmed that Fowler and Deese died of multiple gunshot wounds and it appears that the shooter or shooters stood behind the victims for at least some of the shots.
Also, on July 19, a burned truck registered to McLeod was found about 60 kilometres south of Dease Lake. Dyck’s body was found about two kilometres away but was unidentified at that time and police released a composite sketch.
Dyck suffered injuries to his head and body, including bruises and burn marks, and it was only when his body was moved the next day that a single bullet wound was found, police said.
The families of McLeod and Schmegelsky said they were good kids who had left on a trip to northern B.C. and Yukon to look for work, and the pair had limited police interaction and no criminal records, so the RCMP treated them as missing persons.
A search warrant of McLeod’s truck found spent rounds matching those at the first crime scene.
On July 22, the RCMP received information that a witness had come forward and stated they knew McLeod and Schmegelsky and believed the boys may have been involved in the murders. The Mounties declined to provide any more information about the witness.
Later that day, Helen Dyck called the police and reported that she believed the composite sketch showed her husband.
The RCMP publicly identified Schmegelsky and McLeod as suspects in the three murders the next day.
The two young men legally purchased a SKS semi-automatic rifle and a box of ammunition using McLeod’s gun licence at a store in Nanaimo on July 12, the same day they left their hometown of Port Alberni, the Mounties said.
After killing Fowler and Deese, the pair headed north to Yukon but ran into vehicle trouble that forced them to return to B.C. before they killed Dyck, police added.
The manhunt for McLeod and Schmegelsky led to Gillam, Man., where Dyck’s Toyota Rav 4 was found burned. Officers converged on the area to begin what would be a two-week search.
On Aug. 1, McLeod’s backpack was found containing a full box of ammunition, his wallet and clothing. On Aug. 7, the suspects’ bodies were found with two firearms, one of which was the same gun purchased at the Nanaimo store.
Based on the evidence, police said no other suspects are responsible for the three homicides and there are no other victims in the case.
Police have faced questions about their decisions on which information to release and when.
They initially described Fowler and Deese’s deaths as “suspicious,” and did not call them a double homicide until four days later, the same day Dyck’s body was found.
However, Hackett responded that crime scenes in remote areas are difficult to examine. Sometimes it will take days until police can determine what has happened and that’s just a “normal way of doing police work,” he said.
In a statement provided through the RCMP, the Deese family said ”Chynna was a ray of sunshine, and for her to be taken has made the world feel a bit darker.”
“The impact of such horrendous crimes was felt rippling throughout many communities and we would like to express sincere gratitude to the general public for their empathy and aid during the investigation and manhunt.”
It also thanks the police for ”their tireless efforts as a piece of justice has been served in knowing the conclusion of this case.”