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Canada Suspects in B.C. killings died from self-inflicted gunshot wounds, autopsies reveal

RCMP officers carry a metal box with the remains of one of the B.C. triple murder suspects Bryer Schmegelsky or Kam McLeod to waiting planes at the Gillam, Man. airport on Aug. 7, 2019. The bodies were found in Northern Manitoba last week, ending a two-week manhunt.

Melissa Tait/The Globe and Mail

The two men sought in the killings of three people in British Columbia died from what appears to be self-inflicted gunshot wounds, days before their bodies were found in the woods of Northern Manitoba, the RCMP said Monday after autopsies of the pair were concluded.

Police said two firearms were found with the remains of Bryer Schmegelsky and Kam McLeod and that forensic analysis is under way to determine whether these weapons were connected to the homicides that prompted the manhunt across five provinces that began on July 23.

In a statement, the RCMP said the exact timeline around their deaths is currently unclear.

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“However, there are strong indications that they had been alive for a few days since last seen in July, and during the extensive search efforts,” the statement said.

Mr. McLeod, 19, and Mr. Schmegelsky, 18, residents of Port Alberni, B.C., were charged in the death of University of B.C. lecturer Leonard Dyck, 64. No cause of death was released. They were subsequently named as suspects in the shooting deaths of American Chynna Deese, 24, and her 23-year-old Australian boyfriend Lucas Fowler. Police expected the men to be charged in the deaths of the latter two but were awaiting forensic evidence. All three victims were found in Northern B.C. in mid-July.

For a time, the two men were considered missing after travelling north to look for work.

Mr. Dyck’s burned-out vehicle was found near the Fox Lake Cree Nation, a community located more than 700 kilometres north of Winnipeg. Police launched a major search focused on the Fox Lake area and the nearby community of Gillam.

Last Wednesday, investigators located the bodies of the two men in a densely forested area near Fox Lake and about one kilometre from where police searchers had located several items directly linked to the two.

Investigators located the bodies last Wednesday morning in a densely forested area near Fox Lake Cree Nation, Man., about one kilometre from where police searchers had located several items directly linked to the two.

Melissa Tait

A professional tracker was used to help in the RCMP search and was with the officers when the bodies were found in the heavy brush near the shoreline of the Nelson River. The area became the focus of the search after the discovery of a damaged rowboat and items that belonged to the two suspects. Police don’t know if the pair used the boat.

Ms. Deese’s mother said Monday that the latest developments do not bring her family any peace. In responding to a Globe and Mail request for an interview, she pointed to a Facebook posting.

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“There is no closure, but an open wound greater than humanly possible to heal or comprehend,” Sheila Deese wrote on the social-media site.

“I have had a hard time referencing ‘the boys’ and saying their names. How do two people have the same agenda? The same destructive mind?"

Ms. Deese said her family and friends were divided on whether finding the pair alive and committing them to trial would have been a better outcome.

“I believed if they looked my beautiful girl in the face and ended her life, why would looking in my eyes have any impact or foster remorse?”

In an interview Monday, the director of communications for the RCMP in B.C. would not provide further details about the suicides, including the kind of firearms located with the two suspects.

But Dawn Roberts said investigators are trying to “tighten” the timeline around events.

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She said the RCMP is committed to releasing more details about what police believed happened within a few weeks.

“We want to provide the last, best picture of what is known and we’re committed to doing that,” she said.

There are many unanswered questions associated with the case, including motives, and how the two men came into contact with the victims in Northern B.C.

Police, said Ms. Roberts, are also committed to drawing lessons from the case though no formal review is planned.

“We’re constantly assessing and reviewing cases as they take place,” she said. “If there is anything that can be learned, we are ready to learn from it.”

Ms. Roberts said the police had done their best to find the men in a search that involved officers, police dogs, and aircraft from the Royal Canadian Air Force.

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“This was dense, thick terrain − not easy to see through,” she said. “I am mindful that these individuals chose not to be found. They were helped by the terrain they were in.”

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