VANCOUVER—The father of a suspected killer says knowing his son’s last wishes would help him find closure, but experts say RCMP is under no obligation to release the video containing those details to anyone at this point.
“The RCMP, unfortunately, their role is not to provide closure,” said Kyla Lee, a defence lawyer with Acumen Law who is not involved in the case.
“Their role is to investigate criminal events. People still want answers about (victims) Chynna Deese and Lucas Fowler, and the RCMP are still investigating whether these two (suspects) are responsible.”
Bryer Schmegelsky, 18, and Kam McLeod, 19, were the targets of a dramatic cross-country manhunt this summer, triggered by the killings of three people in British Columbia: tourists Deese and Fowler as well as botanist Leonard Dyck.
After two weeks of searching, Schmegelsky’s and McLeod’s bodies were discovered on Aug. 7 in the northern Manitoba wilderness. RCMP later revealed the two young men had recorded a video shortly before they died by gunshot.
Sarah Leamon, attorney for Bryer Schmegelsky’s father, Al, said the video details Bryer’s last wishes.
“My client obviously wants to seek some closure in these very difficult circumstances and he feels that this video will give him the closure he is looking for,” Leamon said, adding that she has been in contact with the RCMP, trying to gain access to the video.
The video explains what Bryer Schmegelsky wanted done with his body after he died, according to an email exchange between the RCMP and Leamon, obtained by The Canadian Press.
In the email, an RCMP officer writes that information about Bryer’s wishes was passed on to his mother, who is next of kin. Leamon said the RCMP told her the force won’t give the video to her client because the investigation is ongoing.
Lee said it is likely premature for Al Schmegelsky to demand the video from RCMP.
“We don’t know what other information is out there and whether there are potentially any other suspects or other layers to this or whether other people may be charged. We don’t know whether there was some element of assistance offered by any individuals,” Lee said, stressing that she was speaking entirely theoretically with no special knowledge of this police investigation.
According to Al Schmegelsky’s memoir, which he sent to Star Vancouver, his then wife left him in 2005, taking their four-year-old son with her. The elder Schmegelsky said he did not see his son from the ages of eight to 16, at which point his son briefly lived with him. They worked in construction together for a summer. Schmegelsky said he is currently homeless and has been primarily living in Victoria.
The Mounties are likely erring on the side of caution because this is such an unusual case, said Rob Gordon, a criminology professor at Simon Fraser University.
“They don’t want to be keeping the family … out there for a long period of time, because it’s painful. But at the same time, the police have a duty to try and get to the bottom of what happened,” said Gordon.
Kevin Bryan, a retired homicide investigator, agreed.
The police don’t have any legal obligation to show the video to anyone at this point of the investigation, said Bryan. It is completely in the police’s discretion whether they show it to McLeod’s or Schmegelsky’s family, he said.
He added that, in fact, it may not make sense for RCMP to release the video — ever.
“You don’t want to put out a version of events that come from the two suspects or the two murderers when the victims didn’t get a chance to tell their story,” he said.
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Bryan worked with York Regional Police for 30 years and now teaches forensics at Seneca College. He said he has seen his fair share of what he calls “self-serving” homicide explanations in these kinds of “suicide notes.”
“I’ve read these notes, and they are absolutely contradictory to the cause of death. I don’t think that is fair to the victims’ families,” he said.
In an emailed statement, B.C. RCMP spokesperson Staff Sgt. Janelle Shoihet said: “We understand and respect the inquiry, however the RCMP will not be discussing any private communications or discussions we have had with families connected with this file.”