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Police give update on northern B.C. murder investigations

Statement by RCMP Assistant Commissioner Kevin Hackett regarding Fort Nelson and Dease Lake homicides:

Thank you all for attending today. My name is Kevin Hackett I am the Assistant Commissioner and Criminal Operations Officer in charge of Federal, Investigative Services and Organized Crime in British Columbia.

As per the commitment made six weeks ago, I am here today to provide an overview of the triple homicide investigation in northern B.C., and the subsequent search for the accused suspects.

From the time we first received the call about the suspicious deaths of two individuals south of Liard River Hot Springs on July 15 to the day we located the two deceased suspects almost 3,000 kilometres away in Manitoba 23 days later, significant work has been done to answer the many questions that we the police, the families of the deceased, and many members of the public had.

Over the course of the investigation and search for the two accused, the B.C. RCMP dedicated a large number of resources and specialized units to this complex and fast moving investigation. There were up to 160 police officers working extended shifts on this investigation until the deceased suspects were ultimately located. The RCMP received over 1,500 tips from the public through the dedicated phone tip line, reports to 911 call centres, front counter reports to police detachments and Crime Stoppers. Between July 16 and August 4, 19 judicial authorizations were executed to further the investigation. An extensive amount of CCTV video was collected during the investigation and thousands of hours of recordings were reviewed and analyzed.

During the investigation a number of partner agencies assisted the RCMP. This included American and Australian Police Agencies, the BC Prosecution Service, the Canadian Border Services Agency, the Coroner Services in British Columbia and Manitoba, Conservation Officers, Search and Rescue and the Canadian Military.

We have taken the totality of the investigative findings – including a review of all digital and physical evidence, statements, tips and forensic examination reports – and have compiled a public report that we are issuing today.

While we have been able to gain greater clarity on the movements and actions of the two accused, we respect that the answers have not reduced the trauma and grief experienced by the families of Lucas Fowler, Chynna Deese and Leonard Dyck. We ensured that the victims’ families were made aware of the information that we would be releasing publicly and we continue to provide them with support. We also continue to support the families of the accused.

The report does address a number of areas and specifics in greater detail, but I would like to highlight and confirm the following:

  • We uncovered no information that predicted or forecasted the homicides that took place in northern B.C. Based on the firearms lab results, crime scene examination, timelines of suspects and suspect recorded admissions, we believe that no other suspects are responsible for the three homicides or are involved in anyway. The murders appear to be random and crimes of opportunity.
  • The investigative theory is that McLeod and Schmegelsky came across Lucas Fowler’s van and targeted Lucas Fowler and Chynna Deese for unknown reasons. They shot and killed the couple before continuing up into the Yukon.
  • The two returned to B.C. days later because they were having vehicle issues and came across Leonard Dyck outside of Dease Lake and shot and killed him.
  • The suspects then burned their vehicle to cover up evidence and delay police before stealing Mr. Dyck’s vehicle, money and a number of personal items – all of which facilitated further escape ultimately toward eastern Canada.
  • Once they reached Manitoba they again burned the stolen vehicle and attempted to continue foot, before they realized their efforts were failing. It is believed that McLeod shot Schmegelsky before shooting himself in a suicide pact. 
  • Two rifles were found with the two deceased suspects. These rifles were examined by the firearms lab and were determined to be the same weapons used in the Fort Nelson and Dease Lake homicides, as well as their own deaths. One of the two guns was determined to be same gun legally purchased by the suspects at Cabela’s, outdoor equipment store, in Nanaimo on July 12.
  • A digital camera belonging to Mr. Dyck was also discovered. It contained six videos and three still images. In the videos, the suspects took responsibility for all three murders. They indicated no remorse for their actions and their intentions to potentially kill others. They also described their intent to commit suicide and their wish to be cremated.
  • These videos do not contain any information regarding the motive behind their actions nor do they provide specifics regarding the murders.

While a number of additional facts and findings are being released today, the RCMP has chosen not to release the videos recovered.

The RCMP Behavioural Analysis Unit (BAU) conducted a review of the videos and was concerned with a behaviour called “identification”, which is considered a “warning behaviour” in the context of a threat assessment.

The videos may influence or inspire other individuals to carry out a targeted act of violence, essentially creating copycat killers. In BAU’s experience, those who commit mass casualty attacks or similar acts of violence are heavily inspired by previous attackers and their behaviours.

It is believed that the suspects may have made the video recordings for notoriety. Releasing them would not only be disrespectful to the families of the deceased – who are also concerned about the impacts of the release – and it could sensationalize the actions of the suspects. By not releasing the videos we want to mitigate the potential of other individuals being inspired to commit similar acts of violence. For these reasons, the videos will not be released to the public by the RCMP.

I would like to thank our RCMP colleagues in B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba for their support as well as all of the other Law enforcement agencies that offered assistance. In particular, I would like to once again acknowledge the RCMP in Manitoba who lead an exhaustive and challenging search in that province. I would also like to thank the public, whether it was the hundreds of individuals who came forward with information, the individuals, businesses or agencies who assisted our investigators on the ground in Northern BC and the other communities that were directly impacted. We would like to also acknowledge and thank the greater Canadian public at large who showed vigilance and patience as we worked diligently to advance the investigation.

We know this file had impacts provincially, nationally and internationally. Many have been affected, but none more so than the grieving Fowler, Deese and Dyck families. We are hopeful that the release of the public report and our investigative findings provides greater clarity into this investigation and search. 

Thank you.

Deese Family Statement

No one ever wants to be a victim or wishes that for their loved one. Our beloved Chynna was a ray of sun shine, and for her to be taken has made the world feel a bit darker. The impact of such horrendous crimes was felt rippling throughout many communities and we would like to express sincere gratitude to the general public for their empathy and aid during the investigation and manhunt. Many thanks to the men and women of uniform for their tireless efforts as a piece of justice has been served in knowing the conclusion of this case. The overwhelming contribution of time and resources offered over the past few months is a testament to the dedication to service of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

The loss we continue to endure is shattering, but Chynna’s memories are a benediction to her genuine happiness and intense love of life. Throughout this tragedy, along with the help of many, they serve as our reminder of the good nature and peace humanity has the capacity to show. We hope Chynna’s legacy continues to grow and her spark allows us to build each other up. We also politely ask that media respect our privacy at this time.

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