As he stands near a van that he now calls home, Al Schmegelsky says his life is in tatters.
His prospects for a job and a semblance of a normal life, he says, evaporated after a nationwide manhunt for his son Bryer Schmegelsky and friend Kam McLeod, who allegedly killed three people while travelling through northern B.C. before turning their guns on themselves.
“I’m not worried about my reputation right now. I’m just surviving day to day,” he tells Global News.
WATCH: Extended interview with Al Schmegelsky
The young men, who had recently quit their jobs at Walmart and were believed to be travelling to the Yukon in search of work, were named as suspects in the deaths of American Chynna Deese and her Australian boyfriend Lucas Fowler and were charged with second-degree murder in the killing of Leonard Dyck, a university lecturer from Vancouver.
The discovery of their remains in a remote area of northern Manitoba ended a two-week-long manhunt that made international headlines.
Six weeks later, Schmegelsky has questions about the RCMP’s handling of the case, saying he doesn’t understand how two young men who had never travelled far beyond their hometown of Port Alberni, B.C. could have eluded police for so long.
“The boys got all the way to Manitoba,” he said. “Come on. The world knows they got halfway across the country. How many police officers were on this chase?
“There were thousands of Mounties on that chase. My son had never left the island before. How did they get halfway across the country with two Walmart paycheques? Where’d the guns come from?”
Schmegelsky says RCMP did little to get in touch with him during the investigation.
“It wasn’t until a week later that RCMP actually came and talked to me. Why? When I was the only one that loved my son.”
Schmegelsky says RCMP never asked him about Bryer’s cellphone — a pay-as-you go Samsung device that he bought for his son — which Bryer used only for text messaging while connected to WiFi.
“He didn’t pay into it, so the number was disconnected. But any phone is active to 911. And if it’s active to 911, it still can be tracked.
“How come they weren’t tracking the phone? How come they didn’t talk to me? Maybe I could’ve helped them, if they would have admitted that I exist.”
He says RCMP have shown him a video — described as a last will and testament — that Bryer recorded on a cellphone before dying by suicide.
Schmegelsky is among the next of kin who have viewed the video, but he’s signed a non-disclosure agreement surrounding its contents, which, in part, detail the suspects’ wishes for their remains.
Global News has learned the bodies of the suspects have now been released to relatives. RCMP aren’t providing any timeline on if, or when, they’ll release more information on the investigation.
Schmelgelsky describes his son as a troubled young man who endured a difficult childhood and was bullied in his special education school.
“He wanted a way out of Port Alberni so badly,” Schmegelsky said.
Schmegelsky has discussed his son’s troubled childhood in the past.
In August, he spoke to Australia’s 60 Minutes TV program, saying he won’t believe his son is a murderer until he gets facts, saying he knows how the families of the victims feel.
The interview prompted an angry response from the sister of Chynna Deese, who accused Schmegelsky of trying to play the victim.
“Your sorrow is for yourself. You cannot relate to us, as we had no doings in the cause of your pain, when you’ve played a part in the cause of our pain,” Kennedy Deese wrote.
Schmegelsky also faced criticism for writing a 132-page book titled Red Flagged, which he said is a novelization of actual events and fictionalizes some incidents.
Now living in a van in the Vancouver suburb of Burnaby, Schmegelsky insists he is speaking out because he wants others to avoid a similar fate — and he ultimately wants to see a federal public inquiry into the case.
“I just don’t want any other parent to have to go through this. I don’t want any other kid to have to decide his only option in life is to go on a trip like this. OK? I don’t want this to ever happen again.
“We have five deaths here. This is all preventable.”
— With files from The Canadian Press