PORT ALBERNI, B.C.—The RCMP are urging the public to “remain vigilant nationally” as the manhunt unfolds for two young men suspected in the grisly slaying of a pair of tourists in northern B.C. and in the suspicious death of another unidentified man.
The last reported possible sighting of Kam McLeod, 19, and Bryer Schmegelsky, 18, was in Gillam, Man., on Tuesday, where a burned-out vehicle was found that resembled the one they had been seen driving in Saskatchewan.
Cpl. Chris Manseau told the Star on Wednesday that police do not want people to focus on where the teens were last seen, adding they could be miles away by now.
“If they’re on the move, if they’ve got another vehicle, they could truly be anywhere,” said Manseau.
“They’ve obviously travelled some great distances over the last couple of days, so where they’re headed, we don’t know.”
The deaths of Australian Lucas Fowler, 23, and American Chynna Noelle Deese, 24, made international headlines after they were found shot to death on the side of the Alaska Highway south of the B.C.-Yukon border last Monday, July 15.
Four days later, RCMP responded to reports of a burning truck south of Stikine River Bridge on Highway 37, near Dease Lake, B.C. While investigating the vehicle fire, police discovered the body of an unidentified man at a highway pullout about two kilometres away.
RCMP have not disclosed how the unidentified man died, but they released a composite drawing of the heavy-set, middle-aged man with a bushy beard in an attempt to identify him. The burning truck was last seen being driven by McLeod and Schmegelsky in Dease Lake, which is located about a seven-hour drive from where Fowler and Deese were killed.
On Tuesday, RCMP announced that Schmegelsky and McLeod — who had previously been reported to be missing — were now considered suspects.
The ensuing cross-Canada manhunt is long way from where they started. The Vancouver Island mill town of Port Alberni, with a population of about 20,000, is where both boys grew up. Friends since elementary school, and recently co-workers at the town’s Walmart, the pair set off this month on a road trip, reportedly to look for work in the Yukon.
That McLeod and Schmegelsky have been connected to both incidents has sent shock waves through their hometown.
Family members of Kam McLeod’s were visibly upset at their Port Alberni property on Tuesday. Signs reading “no trespassing, privacy please” were posted outside the home, and a woman and man shouted their refusal to speak to media.
A woman at the home of McLeod’s grandparents said, “We are totally stressed, it’s a nightmare, and we do not want to talk.”
There was no answer Tuesday at the modest home where Schmegelsky reportedly lived with his grandmother in town. Neighbours who knew the families remained tight lipped as the families asked for privacy.
The mood around town was one of shock and unease.
With only one high school and few regular town hangouts for young people, Port Alberni’s teenagers all know — or know of — one another. One teen who declined to give her name said Schmegelsky and McLeod were one year ahead of her at the high school. She said she didn’t know them well and the pair kept a low profile.
“They definitely weren’t popular, they didn’t play hockey,” she said. “You have to play hockey in this town to be popular.”
When they found out Schmegelsky and McLeod were missing, Port Alberni’s teenagers found it really “weird,” she said. “Things like this don’t often happen in Port Alberni.”
The RCMP have been in contact with both teens’ families to ask for help in finding them, said Sgt. Janelle Shoihet.
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RCMP describe Schmegelsky as six-foot-four, about 169 pounds, with sandy brown hair. McLeod is described as six-foot-four, approximately 169 pounds, with brown eyes, dark brown hair and facial hair. Police are warning the public not to approach them and to take no action other than to call 911.