The RCMP said two teenage suspects charged with the murder of three individuals in British Columbia confessed to the killings via video recordings they left behind before shooting themselves.
The B.C. homicides sparked a massive manhunt across Western Canada over the summer that ended when the bodies of the suspects -- 19-year-old Kam McLeod and 18-year-old Bryer Schmegelsky -- were found on Aug. 7, some 3,000 km away in the Manitoba wilderness.
The RCMP, which released its investigative findings on Friday, said Schmegelsky and McLeod expressed no remorse and did not give a motive.
"They were cold, they were remorseless, matter-of-fact," said Assistant Commissioner Kevin Hackett at a press conference.
McLeod and Schmegelsky were charged in the deaths of a couple, American Chynna Deese, 24, and her Australian boyfriend Lucas Fowler, 23, as well as 64-year-old Leonard Dyck, a botany lecturer at the University of British Columbia.
The case shocked Canadians and drew international attention as authorities chased the suspects’ trail across remote parts of Western Canada.
Deese and Fowler were found early in the morning on July 15 along the Alaska Highway in northern B.C., while Dyck’s body was nearly 550 kilometres away from where Deese and Fowler were discovered.
Investigators believe McLeod and Schmegelsky came across Fowler’s van and targeted the couple for unknown reasons. They shot and killed them before continuing up to Yukon.
Fowler and Deese died from multiple gunshot wounds, with some of the shots coming from behind the victims, according to the pathologist’s report.
On July 19, RCMP responded to a vehicle fire near Dease Lake and found Dyck’s body about two kilometres south. He had head and body injuries, including bruises and burns, and a single bullet wound.
Spent casings found at both murder scenes were found to be the same.
The police eventually determined that the burnt-out pick-up truck belonged to McLeod and learned from family members that the two teenagers were on a trip to northern B.C. and Yukon to look for work. Their last contact with family was on July 17.
RCMP determined that the two suspects returned to B.C. days after killing Deese and Fowler, due to car trouble and came across Dyck, who was on an outdoor research trip. The suspects then burned their vehicle to hide evidence, before stealing Dyck’s car, money and other personal items.
The murder confessions were filmed on a digital camera belonging to Dyck.
The search concentrated around the northern Manitoba community of Gillam after Dyck’s burned out Toyota RAV4 was found in the area shortly after the police named them as suspects.
Schmegelsky and McLeod, who were initially reported as missing and possible victims, died from self-inflicted gunshot wounds and were already dead for several days when their bodies were discovered after an exhaustive and challenging search through difficult terrain, police said.
McLeod likely shot Schmegelsky before shooting himself in a suicide pact, Hackett said.
Two rifles found nearby were determined to be the same weapons that killed the three victims as well as the two suspects themselves.
The murders appear to be random crimes of opportunity with no known motive, Hackett said, and authorities have no reason to believe there are other suspects or victims.
Six videos and three still images were found on the camera. The first video, just under a minute long, showed Schmegelsky confessing to the three murders. Schmegelsky said in a second video that they may have to commit suicide, and again took responsibility for Fowler, Deese and Dyck’s deaths without expressing any remorse.
The suspects said in another video they were preparing for their own deaths, but were planning to kill more people. In their final video, which they called their last will and testament, they expressed their wish to be cremated.
The RCMP will not release the videos, Hackett said, due to concerns they could inspire copycat murders. The videos may have been made for notoriety, and the release of the video would sensationalize their actions and be disrespectful to the victims’ families, he added.
Up to 160 police officers worked extended shifts on the investigation, sifting through thousands of hours of CCTV videos, 1,500 calls from the public, and extensive trail of evidence, but found no indication the murders were premeditated and no clues that could shed light on the killers’ motivations.
The RCMP said they ensured the families were always made aware of any information that would be released to the public, including those in Friday’s report.
"We respect that the answers have not reduced the trauma and the grief experienced by the families of Lucas Fowler, Chynna Deese, and Leonard Dyck," Hackett said.
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