After a massive, two-week-long manhunt in the Canadian wilderness, bodies believed to belong to two teenagers suspected in at least three murders have been found, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police announced Wednesday.
“We believe these are the two bodies of the suspects connected to the homicides in northern [British Columbia],” RCMP Assistant Commissioner Jane MacLatchy said during a press conference, adding that officers located the bodies around 10 a.m. on Wednesday, near the shoreline of the Nelson River in Northern Canada.
Police suspect Kam McLeod, 19, and Bryer Schmegelsky, 18, are behind the slayings of Australian Lucas Fowler, 23, and his 24-year-old American girlfriend, Chynna Deese, whose bodies were discovered on July 15 off of the Alaska Highway, about 12 miles south of Liard Hot Springs.
The two teenagers are also suspected in the death of 64-year-old botanist Leonard Dyck, whose body was found next to their burned-out pickup truck on July 19.
On Wednesday, the two bodies were found near the shoreline of the Nelson River, almost three weeks after the teens were last seen in the Gillam area on July 22. Authorities previously said McLeod and Schmegelsky told their parents they were going to Alberta in search of “work” and would not have cell service.
“Our officers knew we needed just one piece of evidence to move the search forward & on Friday, August 2nd, the items found on the shoreline of the Nelson River & directly linked to the suspects, enabled officers to narrow down the search,” authorities said on Twitter.
Police said that after finding the items, specialized RCMP teams began searching “nearby high-probability areas,” where officers eventually found the bodies in a dense brush about a mile away.
Authorities did not release their cause of death and autopsies on both bodies are being scheduled in Winnipeg.
“The search is over,” police tweeted.
Fowler and Deese were killed while on a two-week road trip through Canada. The couple, who met while Deese was working at a hostel in Croatia, were last seen hugging at a gas station while waiting for their blue 1986 Chevrolet van to fill up, according to CCTV footage released earlier this month.
“Over the last two weeks our officers have worked tirelessly,” said MacLatchy. “While there were no confirmed sightings we never gave up. We knew we needed to find that one piece of evidence to move this investigation forward.”
British Deese, the 24-year-old’s brother, told NBC News the couple were experienced travelers who had visited several countries together. Canadian police have not yet confirmed the couple’s cause of death, but said they appeared to have been “shot.”
“It really must have been something to catch them off guard and some form of just terrible evil that should not exist in this world,” he told the news station. “I just hope they get caught, and I hope this never happens to anyone else like this.”
Stephen Fowler, Lucas’ father and a senior official in the New South Wales police force, traveled to British Columbia after the news and told reporters last week that his family is “distraught.”
“We are just distraught,” he said after a police news conference. “This has really torn two families apart. Our son Lucas was having the time of his life traveling the world. He met a beautiful young lady. And they teamed up, they were a great pair, and they fell in love.”
Four days after their bodies were found, RCMP discovered a burned-out pickup truck belonging to McLeod and Schmegelsky about 300 miles away. The suspects, who are both from Port Alberni, B.C, were officially declared missing on July 22.
While investigating the burning car, Canadian authorities found an unidentified man’s body nearby. That man was later identified as Dyck, a “cherished” botany lecturer at the University of British Columbia.
“We are truly heart broken by the sudden and tragic loss of Len. He was a loving husband and father,” a statement from Dyck’s family read. “His death has created unthinkable grief and we are struggling to understand what has happened.”
On July 23, RCMP named the fugitive teenagers as murder suspects and later charged them with one count of second-degree murder in connection to Dyck’s death. Nationwide arrest warrants were issued in Canada, kicking off a massive manhunt that spanned thousands of miles.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police revealed last month that a torched 2011 Toyota Rav 4 found in Gillam, Manitoba, was the second trashed car used by the teenagers. It was found about 2,000 miles from where the three bodies were located.
On Wednesday, authorities said the two teenager’s bodies were found about fives miles from the burned Toyota.
At one point, police concentrated their search efforts around the remote town of Gillam after receiving tips about possible sightings. RCMP Cpl. Julie Courchaine said the two possibly escaped from the small town by disguising themselves and getting help from an unwitting person.
“Kam McLeod & Bryer Schmegelsky MAY have changed their appearance & inadvertently been given assistance to leave the area by someone that was not aware of who they were,” the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Manitoba wrote on Twitter.
On July 28, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said they had sent multiple agents to York Landing—127 miles southwest of Gillam—after receiving another tip. The Canadian Air Force also provided two planes to aid in the search: one manned with trained search-and-rescue spotters, and another patrol plane equipped with infrared cameras and imaging radar.
Alan Schmegelsky, Bryer’s father, told the Canadian Press earlier this month, that his son was on “a suicide mission” and “wants his hurt to end.”
“A normal child doesn’t travel across the country killing people. A child in some very serious pain does,” Alan Schmegelsky told the Canadian news outlet. “He’s on a suicide mission. He wants his hurt to end. They’re going to go out in a blaze of glory. Trust me on this.”
A person who met Schmegelsky through online gaming provided The Globe and Mail with photographs of the teenager holding a replica rifle and wearing military fatigues. Another photo given to the newspaper shows the teen wearing a swastika armband—which the acquittance said speaks to his affinity for Hilter. Schmegelsky’s father told the CBC that his son was not a neo-Nazi, but did collect Nazi paraphernalia because he found it to be “cool.”