The mysterious double killings of a woman from Charlotte, North Carolina, and her Australian boyfriend last week has led to international attention on a remote part of British Columbia where investigators say multiple mysteries are playing out simultaneously.
Some involve disappearances., others involve murders — and all took place in the middle of nowhere.
On Monday, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police released a sketch of a person of interest in the killings of Chynna Deese, 24, of Charlotte and her boyfriend Lucas Fowler, 23. Investigators said in a press release that a bearded man was seen speaking to the couple on Highway 97 in British Columbia on July 14.
Some media outlets took to calling him the “mystery bearded man,” because little else has been released about his involvement in the case.
The killings of Deese and Fowler comes at a time when police have issued a succession of press releases on odd occurrences on a rural area in northern British Columbia, all of which appear to have baffled investigators.
Days after the couple were found shot, two teens went missing while traveling through northern British Columbia, a discovery made after their vehicle was found burning on July 19.
Stranger still: Police found a man’s body (described as 50 to 60 years old) while responding to the burning vehicle. Investigators have asked the public’s help in finding the teens and identifying the man, who was discovered about a mile from the vehicle fire, according to a press release.
Police have not said if the case of the missing teens is related to the unidentified body, or if either of those cases might be related to the deaths of Deese and Fowler
“This incident happened roughly 470 kilometres (292 miles) away from where a couple was found murdered on the Alaska Highway last week,” reported CTV News Vancouver. “Police said they ‘acknowledge there are growing community concerns about the ongoing homicide investigations in northern B.C.’,” the station said.
Investigators believe Deese and Fowler were likely killed between 4 p.m. July 14 and 8 a.m. the following day, McClatchy newsgroup reported.
A road worker said she saw a frustrated-looking man standing in the middle of the remote highway while the young couple were next to their van, according to 9 News in Australia.
“If you just get a bad feeling, and that’s what I had, you just don’t stop,” Alandra Hull said about the man she described for a police sketch artist, the TV station reported.
Police described the person in the sketch as a white man with dark skin and hair with a possible beard or glasses who is shorter than Fowler’s 6-foot-3 frame.
The man in the sketch might have been driving south in an old “Jeep Cherokee with a black stripe on the hood and a black light/bull bar with small, covered lights,” according to the news release.
Deese and Fowler’s deaths are considered homicides, and their bodies were found along the Alaska Highway, 12 miles south of Liard Hot Springs, a popular tourist attraction in British Columbia, police said. Parked nearby was Fowler’s blue minivan.
Deese, a North Carolina resident who graduated from Myers Park High School before getting a degree from Appalachian State, had just started an extended road trip in Canada with Fowler — her boyfriend since 2017, McClatchy newsgroup reported.
Deese’s brother, British Deese, told McClatchy newsgroup that his family has been led to believe the killings were “brutal” enough that an open casket won’t be allowed at his sister’s funeral.
Chynna Deese’s father, Dwayne Deese, told McClatchy newsgroup it took authorities three days to identify the bodies, which tells him the deaths were violent. It also suggests all forms of identification were taken, he said.
“They were deeply in love,” British Deese said in an interview with McClatchy newsgroup. “They met traveling and that’s just what they did — travel. He was working in Canada and they were planning an extensive road trip there for three weeks.”
The family has read stories of an alleged serial killer that prowls the Alaska Highway, but they don’t believe a double murder fits that scenario, British Deese said.
Police said there is no evidence to support claims of a serial killer.
Anyone with information on the deaths is asked to call 250-774-2700 as police cull through tips, surveillance footage and interview anyone who might have seen the couple.