The manhunt for two teens suspected of killing a vacationing Charlotte woman and her boyfriend in British Columbia has led to two bodies found in dense brush near the Nelson River in Canada, according to Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
The bodies, found at 10 a.m. Wednesday, are believed to be those of homicide suspects Kam McLeod, 19, and Bryer Schmegelsky, 18, officials said in a tweet.
“The search is over,” said a tweet from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. “Manitoba RCMP officers located the bodies of two males, believed to be the BC suspects, near the shoreline of the Nelson River.”
Canadian police officials have not said how long the two teens might have been dead, or how they died. Authorities told the Winnipeg Free Press that the rough terrain and “very dense brush” could have kept the bodies hidden from searchers.
“I’m confident that it is them,” Assistant Commissioner Jane MacLatchy told CTV Vancouver.
Autopsies are scheduled for Thursday in Winnipeg to confirm their identities and determine their cause of death, Kevin Hackett, assistant commissioner of the British Columbia RCMP, said at a news conference on Wednesday night.
McLeod and Schmegelsky had been on the run for nearly a month in connection with the killings of three people in northern British Columbia, including Chynna Noelle Deese of Charlotte and her boyfriend Lucas Fowler of Australia.
Investigators said in a press release Tuesday that they had found an abandoned boat near the Nelson River on Aug. 2, along with some personal items linked to the two teens. A recovery team was sent Sunday to search the river, but it didn’t find bodies in the water, police said.
Royal Canadian Mounted Police said in a tweet that the discovery of the boat and the personal items on the shore “enabled officers to narrow down the search.” The two bodies were found less than a mile from the boat and personal items, officials said.
The mayor of Gillam, Dwayne Forman, says the river in that area is turbulent and deadly, CBC News reported.
“It would not be a river that many people would survive,” Forman told the news outlet. “It’s not something you would go swimming in.”
Authorities declined to give details on the other items found by the river “to ensure the integrity of the investigation,” said a release.
Chynna Deese, a 2013 Myers Park High School graduate, and Fowler were shot to death July 14 or 15 along the Alaska Highway in British Columbia, according to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
Days later, a pickup truck connected to the suspects was discovered burning beside the road, and the body of 64-year-old Leonard Dyck was located a mile away, said a release. Police charged the two teens in Dyck’s death.
Nothing indicates the victims were “targeted” for a particular reason, Hackett said.
The killings got international attention, in part because Fowler is the son of a ranking police official in New South Wales, Australia, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Fowler had recently gotten a job on a ranch in Canada, according to the Deese family.
Deese and Fowler had been a couple for three years, and were in Canada for a three-week road trip, her family told the Charlotte Observer.
Teams searched hundreds of miles of territory in Canada for McLeod and Schmegelsky and even came near a polar bear.
The damaged boat and personal items were found less than 6 miles from where the suspects’ burning pickup was discovered on July 19, officials said in the release.
The Deese family issued a statement about the latest discovery to The Charlotte Observer on Aug. 9, through family friend Cedric Lundy:
”First of all, we want to thank the Canadian authorities and their diligence in the pursuit of justice to bring these individuals to account. They have been not only professional, but extremely personable and compassionate in their interactions with our family. They have cared for our family through the entire process,” said the statement.
“We are all grieving in our own ways. This latest development has moved us into a new phase of our grief. Which much like the first phase is unpredictable and messy. We appreciate the support we have received from people in our community and everyone beyond.
“A terrible evil was visited upon Chynna and Lucas. An evil that has shaken us and others to core. It’s enough to make us want to just stay inside and not risk venturing out into the world. But there’s one thing I’m certain of amidst all of the unanswerable questions - Chynna and Lucas believed that this world is full of beauty and good that is so worth exploring.
“They wouldn’t want us to let fear keep us inside of the house. They’d want us to continue to believe that there is more beauty and good in this world than there is evil, and to not just take their word for it, but to go and see it for all the wonder and joy that it has to offer.”
“Our deepest thoughts, prayers and love are with the Fowler family through every moment of this process.”