Teens thought missing now suspects in northern B.C. double murder, unidentified body
UPDATE: RCMP have launched a nationwide manhunt for the two teens. Read the update here.
There has been a dramatic new twist in a pair of related cases of serious crime in northern B.C.
Two Port Alberni teens who police had initially believed were missing from Highway 37 are now considered suspects in the murders of Chynna Deese and Lucas Fowler, who were found shot dead on Highway 97 on July 15.
INTERACTIVE: Timeline of B.C. multiple murder case
Kam McLeod, 19, and Bryer Schmegelsky, 18, are also wanted in connection with the death of a man found about two kilometres from their burning pickup truck on Highway 37 last Friday, the B.C. RCMP said Tuesday.
WATCH: The two Port Alberni teens first thought to be missing are now considered suspects in a double homicide investigation in northern B.C. and the death of an as-yet-unidentified man.
WATCH: New video shows couple days before their murders in northern B.C.
“If you spot Bryer or Kam, consider them dangerous. Do not approach. Take no action and call immediately 911,” RCMP Sgt. Janelle Shoihet said.
B.C. RCMP said McLeod and Schmegelsky have been spotted in northern Saskatchewan and released new images taken of the pair in the Prairie province.
They were last seen in a grey 2011 Toyota RAV 4. Police did not say when or specifically where the two were sighted.
Saskatchewan RCMP issued a warning Tuesday, describing McLeod and Schmegelsky as “armed and extremely dangerous.”
It said the two men were seen in Meadow Lake, Sask., on Sunday, July 21.
Mounties in Manitoba have also issued an alert warning the public that the suspects may have been seen in the Gillam area, about 270 kilometres south of Churchill, Man.
In a statement, Fox Lake Cree Nation Chief Walter Spence said police will be patrolling the community all night long as a precaution.
A vehicle was burned and discarded near their reserve of Bird on Tuesday, he said, although they haven’t confirmed that it was directly connected to the two suspects.
RCMP have not confirmed whether a burned vehicle had been located.
The Fox Lake Cree Nation is about 1,000 kilometres from Winnipeg.
Investigators said they are believed to still be travelling and may have changed their appearance or vehicle.
McLeod is described as six feet four inches tall and 169 pounds with dark hair and facial hair, and brown eyes. Schmegelsky is described as six feet four inches tall and 169 pounds with sandy hair.
On Tuesday, RCMP also began a grid search of a second crime scene associated with the suspicious death of the still-unidentified man who was found south of Dease Lake.
Officers said new evidence has led them to the second site, roughly 50 kilometres north of where the body was found.
WATCH: Shocking development in B.C. double murder investigation
Suspects sighted between deaths
Claudia Bunce, the co-owner-operator of the Jade City Store north of Dease Lake said the suspects stopped at her business on Thursday, July 18.
She said she believes the teens stopped to take advantage of the free coffee the shop offers to motorists, to keep them alert and safe on the region’s windy highways.
“It was a very, very busy day,” she said. “A lot was happening. We know that one of our staff may have potentially served them.”
“The people on this highway, we all take care of each other and we work together, so to have something like this happen is devastating and it takes away that safety thing that we believe in, but it also takes away the ability that we’re helpful … there’s a fear now, and it’s going to take a long time to get that trust back.”
Bunche said someone later recognized McLeod and Schmegelsky and the distinctive red pickup truck they were driving, and reported it to the RCMP. The shop also recorded surveillance video she said has now been turned over to police.
Keith McLeod, Kam’s father, released a statement Tuesday, pleading for privacy as the media spotlight turned to the suspects’ families.
“This is what I do know — Kam is a kind, considerate, caring young man [who] always has been concerned about other people’s feelings,” wrote McLeod.
“As we are trapped in our homes due to media people, we try to wrap our heads around what is happening and hope that Kam will come home to us safely so we can all get to the bottom of this story.”
The RCMP’s bombshell confirmation that the two investigations are, in fact, linked has highlighted many unanswered questions surrounding the case.
The identity of the man found on Highway 37, and the manner of his death remain unknown. On Tuesday, police were unwilling to confirm whether his death was a homicide or any details about how he died.
Police would also not speak to what had changed in the investigation that led investigators to decide the pair were now suspects.
WATCH: RCMP ask for help in finding two suspects in northern B.C. murders
“I understand the media’s need or want to get as much information as they possibly can. But in any homicide investigation, it takes time. The amount of time that’s passed since the onset of these investigations is relatively quick,” RCMP assistant commissioner Kevin Hackett said.
“We don’t make assumptions, we’re relying on evidence and facts. We also have to keep in mind the sensitivities around identifying the individual and contacting his family.”
Police would not comment on whether Schmegelsky or McLeod have criminal records. How or why the pair came into contact with Fowler and Deese also remains a mystery.
WATCH: RCMP warn public to be vigilant about safety in northern B.C.
—With files from Hannah Jackson and the Canadian Press
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