GILLAM, Manitoba (NEWS 1130) – As the nation-wide manhunt continues in the search for the two Vancouver Island men wanted in connection with three deaths in northern B.C., the Manitoba RCMP says it has found the vehicle the two were travelling in.
A woman who works near Gillam, Manitoba also says she spoke with them.
On Tuesday, the RCMP said they had “reason to believe” Bryer Schmegelsky, 18, and Kam McLeod, 19, had been spotted in the rural community in that province’s north. At a news conference on Wednesday, Cpl. Julie Courchaine said the grey 2011 Toyota RAV 4 the suspects had been travelling in was found burned near Gillam on Monday night.
“Based on this information, we have sent a number of resources to the Gillam area,” she said. “There will be a heavier police presence in the community.”
Mychelle Keeper, who works at a gas station in Split Lake just outside Gillam, said the two Port Alberni men bought gas from her on Monday.
"There’s a big sign at the truck stop there, no bootleggers or drug dealers, he was asking about that. I said ‘no, it’s not allowed here because it’s a dry community.’ That’s it. They paid for their gas and they left," adds Keeper, who says they didn't seem suspicious. @NEWS1130
— Monika Gul (@MonikaGul) July 24, 2019
“They both stopped in, and they came to my till and he just asked to gas up $20,” Keeper said. “And that Bryer guy, he asked me ‘Is alcohol allowed here in the community?’ because there’s a big sign at the truck stop there, ‘No bootleggers or drug dealers,’ he was asking about that. I said ‘No, it’s not allowed here because it’s a dry community.’ That’s it. They paid for their gas and they left.”
She said they didn’t seem suspicious and added it wasn’t until Tuesday, when Schmegelsky and McLeod were named suspects in the deaths of two tourists and an unidentified man in northern B.C., that she realized she’d had a brush with accused killers.
“After I realized that it was them, I felt really scared,” Keeper said.
Lucas Robertson Fowler and Chynna Noelle Deese were found dead by the side of a highway in northeaster B.C. on Monday, July 15, 2019. (Source: B.C. RCMP)
The pair is wanted for questioning in connection with the double homicide of Australian Lucas Fowler and his American girlfriend Chynna Deese, whose bodies were found alongside the Alaska Highway near Liard Hot Springs in northern B.C. on Monday, July 15. The RCMP says the couple had been shot.
They are also wanted for questioning in connection with the suspicious death of an unidentified man, whose body was found near the suspects’ burned-out vehicle around Dease Lake, about 470 kilometres from where Fowler and Deese’s bodies were found.
Mounties have released a composite sketch of an unidentified man found dead in northern B.C. near the burned out vehicle of suspects Bryer Schmegelsky, 18, and Kam McLeod, 19. The RCMP is hoping the public can help identify him. (Source: B.C. RCMP)
A burned-out vehicle was later found near Gillam, on the territory of the Fox Lake Cree Nation, shortly after Mounties in Manitoba reported a possible sighting of the pair. At the press conference on Wednesday afternoon, Courchaine confirmed it was the RAV 4 McLeod and Schmegelsky had been travelling in. Officers recovered the vehicle after receiving reports of a car on fire near the reserve.
“Many community members may be aware of a Canada wide warrant issued by the RCMP regarding two individuals who may be in the Gillam area,” Chief Walter Spence said in an emailed statement. “A vehicle was burned and discarded near our reserve of Bird today. An all night patrol for the community has been prepared as a caution. The RCMP are carefully conducting their work with a large presence and I would like to ask all community members to report anything of concern directly to RCMP.”
Suspects would ‘stand out’, mayor of Gillam says
Boasting a population of just over 1,000 people, Gillam, Manitoba is one of the last communities before the northbound highway ends.
Gillam Mayor Dwayne Forman told NEWS 1130 when he heard Schmegelsky and McLeod may have been in the small town, he was “more or less” confused.
“I don’t know why anyone – if they were coming this way, why would they come to Gillam?” he said. “It’s a dead end road. Doesn’t make sense.”
Forman asked that locals take precautions, like locking doors, on the “chance that they are in the area.”
“Through social media, there’s been definitely a lot of expression of fear and the fear is understandable,” he said. “I too want to take the same steps. I want everybody in this community to be safe, I want everyone in Fox Lake to be safe.”
He said locals know one another, and the pair would stand out.
“We only have approximately 1,100 people in the area,” Forman said. “We all know each other. For the most part, anyone that’s new to the area stands out, and we’d be able to identify if somebody was walking around the community.”
Gillam, the town where the duo were apparently last seen in is about an 11 hour drive north of Winnipeg. Very remote area with hundreds of km's separating communities and the odd gas stations. I used to live in nearby Thompson and this is most of the drive up north. @NEWS1130 pic.twitter.com/SoH4YcBA9r
— Monika Gul (@MonikaGul) July 24, 2019
The area around Gillam and the Fox Lake Cree Nation, about 1,000 kilometres north of Winnipeg, is surrounded by hundreds of kilometres of deep forest and small bodies of water.
Since the sighting was confirmed, Manitoba RCMP have set up informational check-points and have increased the police presence in the area.
Forman hopes the two men are caught soon, and that they aren’t in the area of his community.
Suspects considered extremely dangerous
Schmegelsky and McLeod, first reported missing this week, are considered extremely dangerous, and the RCMP is urging anyone who sees them not to approach but to call 9-1-1 immediately.
McLeod is described as being 6’4″ tall, weighs about 169 lbs, has dark hair and facial hair, and brown eyes. Schmegelsky is also 6’4″ tall, weighs about 169 lbs, and has sandy brown hair.
“This investigation is very complex and ever evolving,” B.C. RCMP Sgt. Janelle Shoihet said Tuesday, and investigators continue to receive new information from the public.