Northern B.C. murders: Suspects continue to elude national manhunt

Two teens wanted for three murders in northern B.C. continue to elude a national manhunt led by RCMP and the Canadian military in Manitoba after a possible yesterday (July 28).

Cpl. Julie Courchaine had said Monday morning (July 29) that RCMP are not yet in a position to confirm whether the sighting was of McLeod and Schmegelsky, though they did match the descriptions of the pair. By the afternoon, Manitoba Mounties tweeted that “after a thorough & exhaustive search, #rcmpmb has not been able to substantiate the tip in York Landing. RCMP resources will continue to be in the York Landing & Gillam areas.”

The community is accessible only by air, or a two-hour ferry crossing in the summer from Split Lake. A rail line also runs 25 kilometres south of the community, Courchaine said.

RCMP are in York Landing with a helicopter, police dogs and emergency response team members. The air force will be helping with aerial searches of the area.

Police closed in on the community Sunday around 5 p.m. after security patrollers saw two men scavenging at the local dump on Sunday afternoon. 

McLeod and Schmegelsky are charged with second-degree murder in the death of 64-year-old Leonard Dyck of Vancouver. Dyck’s body was found at a highway pullout two kilometres from where the teens’ burned-out Dodge pickup truck was found on Highway 37 near Dease Lake on July 19.

The pair are also suspects in the killings of 23-year-old Lucas Fowler of Sydney, Australia, and 24-year-old Chynna Deese of Charlotte, North Carolina. Their bodies were discovered July 15 beside the Alaska Highway, 20 kilometres south of Liard Hot Springs. No charges have yet been announced in that investigation.

Bear Patrol Inc. executive director James Favel said his company had been asked to send staff in to assist communities in the search area when patrollers saw two young men with no weapons or backpacks at the dump. All they had were the clothes they were wearing from what the team could see.

When the pair saw the security team, “they bolted,” Favel said. The pair ran for trees and the patrol called police.

“All hell is breaking loose and the town is locked down,” Favel said.

He said the team weren’t worried as they initially thought the pair might be a work crew. It was the absence of a work truck that made them suspicious, he said.

“The adrenaline hit,” he said.

York Landing resident John Kalenchuk said helicopters and police in fatigues had been patrolling the area since about 6 p.m local time, just over an hour after the security team spotted the suspicious pair.

“They’re flying around lots looking for those two characters,” he said. “There’s patrols on foot with dogs.”

Kalenhcuk said the pair would be trapped if they hadn’t managed to escape the dump area. Their choice to escape, he said, would be to take a winter road back out of the area or swim from island to island in the Hayes River which enters Hudson Bay not far to the northeast.

RCMP, with the help of police dogs and the military, had spent the last week searching homes, cottages, cabins, abandoned buildings, rail lines, and waterways around Gillam for the teens.

Their efforts were bolstered on Saturday when a Canadian Air Force CC-130H Hercules airplane landed in Gillam along with military personnel.

The two were confirmed to have been seen in Split Lake before the SUV they were last seen travelling in was found on fire north of Gillam, Courchaine said.

This is a developing story.

– Alaska Highway News

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