Manhunt expert: Police will try to get into the minds of suspected killers

Manhunt expert: Police will try to get into the minds of suspected killers

VANCOUVER—An expert in tracking down fugitives says that investigators will likely be trying to get inside the heads of the two suspects linked to a string of homicides in B.C. who are on the run from Canadian authorities.

Lenny DePaul, a former commander with the U.S. Marshal Fugitive Task Force and a former host of the TV show Manhunters: Fugitive Task Force, said that investigators are likely taking a two-pronged approach to finding the accused killers: tracking them through the wilderness, while also doing a background search of their personal histories to better understand how they think.

“They want to get into their mind and tear their world upside down,” said DePaul. “They are connecting the dots and putting the puzzle together.”

On Friday, police were in the tiny northern Manitoba community of Gillam, searching the town and the surrounding area for Kam McLeod, 19, and Bryer Schmegelsky, 18, who have been charged with second-degree murder in the death of a Vancouver man and have been named as suspects in the double homicide of a couple in northern B.C. RCMP have been concentrating their search for the two in and around Gillam since Monday, when they found the burned-out Toyota RAV4 the two had been driving.

According to DePaul, who spent years leading searches for some of America’s most wanted criminals, the police conducting the ground search have an advantage over the two men who are likely “desperate” for food and water while on the run.

“At this point, human instincts turn into animal instincts,” he said. “They gotta eat, they gotta come out of the woods if they want to survive.”

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DePaul also said authorities are likely to be using a number of tactical supports fit for the harsh northern Manitoba terrain, including police dogs and aircraft.

Friday evening, Ralph Goodale, minister of public safety, tweeted that the RCMP had requested aircraft support from the Canadian Armed Forces and that the government would provide it.

DePaul also said investigators will be working in the background trying to understand what they two men are thinking. He said police will likely be trying to gather intelligence, using knowledge about their personal habits to inform their ground search.

“They will want to know everything — what do they do, what do they like?” he said. “We are creatures of habit; we like certain foods, going to a certain place for coffee — they will want to know everything about these people.”

He added that police will also be learning about the two by digging through their phone records and conversations they had online, with a focus on the five people they contacted the most.

It is likely the men would try to reach out to a trusted family member or friend while on the run, he said, adding investigators are also likely to be tracking financial records for credit card or banking activity.

On Wednesday, BC RCMP confirmed that a thorough search of McLeod and Schmegelsky’s digital histories is being conducted.

But as the search for the two continues, DePaul says the outlook isn’t good.

Kam McLeod, 19, and Bryer Schmegelsky, 18, from Port Alberni, B.C., are considered the main suspects in three deaths in northern B.C. earlier this month. RCMP are conducting a sweeping search of the northern Manitoba town of Gillam, Man., and surrounding areas.

“Everything is against these two, there’s nothing good in their favour. They are not going to survive, it’s a matter of time … and time is on the investigators’ side.”

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Cherise Seucharan is a Vancouver-based reporter covering crime and public safety. Follow her on Twitter: @CSeucharan

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