By Maham AbediNational Online Journalist, Breaking News Global News
Manitoba RCMP said officers located two male bodies, believed to belong to the suspects, near the shoreline of the Nelson River. The discovery was made at 10 a.m. Wednesday morning.
Assistant Commissioner Jane MacLatchy said at a press conference that she is “confident” the bodies belong to the suspects, but cannot confirm until autopsy results are determined.
MacLatchy said the two bodies were found in a “dense bush” area, roughly eight kilometres from where a burnt vehicle was found days earlier.
She explained that RCMP found a “critical piece of evidence” on Friday that allowed them to focus on certain areas and carry out a search on foot.
“Following this discovery, we were at last able to narrow down the search. We immediately sent in specialized RCMP teams to begin searching nearby high probability areas,” MacLatchy said.
On Saturday, RCMP had said they found “several items” directly linked to the suspects along the banks of the Nelson River but did not provide details on what the items were.
In an interview with Global News on Wednesday, MacLatchy said now that bodies believed to be the suspects have been located, homicide investigators will work to try to understand exactly what took place.
“Here in Manitoba we have forensic identification specialists who are on the scene and will be going over it very carefully to collect whatever evidence they can that would be of help in that homicide investigation,” she said. “And the bodies we found will be sent to Winnipeg for autopsy where we can officially confirm identity and cause of death.”
Schmegelsky and McLeod, both aged 19, were charged with second-degree murder in the death of Vancouver man Leonard Dyck. They were also suspects in the shooting deaths of Australian Lucas Fowler and Chynna Deese of North Carolina.
News of the suspects’ possible deaths ended the cross-country manhunt, which had involved the RCMP, local police forces and the Canadian military.
Police had originally described Schmegelsky and McLeod as missing persons before naming them as suspects in the murders on Tuesday, July 23. They were wanted on a Canada-wide warrant.
At a press conference Wednesday afternoon, B.C. RCMP Assistant Commissioner Kevin Hackett said while officers continue to investigate, it will be “extremely difficult” to determine what the motive was.
“Regarding the motive, it is going to be extremely difficult for us to ascertain definitively what the motive was,” he said. “Obviously we will not have the opportunity to speak with these individuals
“And again, the examination of the area where they were located today is still being dealt with and searched, so there may be additional items that could help in that regard – identifying a motive, et cetera, but we don’t have that information yet.”
“This is early days for the recovery of the two suspects,” he said. “We want to bring back all of the information and all of the evidence that we have — our investigators will go through that meticulously — and we will be in a better position perhaps in the future, in the near future to talk about all of the linkages, perhaps, that existed.”
However, according to Hackett, there is no evidence suggesting a link between the suspects and victims.
Police briefly shifted focus to the remote community of York Landing, which is about 200 kilometres southwest of Gillam, on July 28 after receiving a tip. But the lead was later determined to be unsubstantiated.
During Wednesday’s press conference, MacLatchy said she hopes the communities affected by the manhunt can rest a little easier.
“I know it has been so very difficult and I hope today’s announcement can begin to bring some closure,” she said.
She also thanked RCMP and police officers, and military members involved in the search.
“This was a search that could not have been successfully achieved without the help of our partners and Canadian Armed Forces — from RCMP employees who came in from across the country and multiple private partners.”
Forman says he is hopeful the community can now return to a feeling of normalcy.
“Growing up here I never locked the doors and I never needed to or felt the need to,” he said. “I’m hoping that everyone can feel that sense of security come back to the community in a short time. I’m hoping now that the suspects are theoretically found, I hope that brings a sense of relief in the community and we can move on.”
-With files from Hannah Jackson
© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.