The third alleged victim of teen fugitives Kam McLeod and Bryer Schmegelsky has been identified as a dedicated family man who was enjoying life after retiring from a lengthy career as a researcher and professor.
Leonard Dyck, 64, was found dead near a highway in the British Columbia community of Dease Lake last week.
The Vancouver father of two’s body was about a mile from a flaming truck the Royal Canadian Mounted Police later said had been driven by McLeod and Schmegelsky. The pair were at first considered missing persons before officials said they were suspected in the deaths of Australian Lucas Fowler and North Carolina native Chynna Deese, who were found fatally shot about 290 miles away.
Authorities on Wednesday announced they had identified Dyck’s body, and had charged McLeod and Schmegelsky with second-degree murder in his killing.
“We are truly heartbroken by the sudden and tragic loss of Len,” Dyck’s family said in a statement released by RCMP. “He was a loving husband and father. His death has created unthinkable grief and we are struggling to understand what has happened.”
Dyck was listed on the University of British Columbia as a sessional lecturer in botany. Those who knew him at the university were “shocked and saddened” to learn of his death, Sean Graham, the head of the university’s botany department, told CBC News.
“[He was] a hard worker, a person who liked to discuss some of the more esoteric aspects of biology, someone who liked to think deeply about biological problems,” Robert deWreede, a professor emeritus of botany at UBC, told the station.
Dyck and deWreede had been friends for 20 years, first meeting when deWreede taught Dyck as an undergraduate student. He then taught him as a master’s student, worked with Dyck on his Ph.D. and finally knew him as a peer.
Dyck loved surrounding himself with nature and could often be found camping, both with his family and by himself. He also enjoyed traveling to Northern British Columbia.
“I think it’s horrible, I don’t know what to say,” he said.
Anyone who may have spoken with Dyck during his travels in Northern British Columbia or had more information about his movements was asked to contact the RCMP at 1-877-543-4822 or 778-290-5291. Anyone with tips in the killings of Fowler and Deese can call those numbers as well.
Investigators Thursday were still searching for McLeod and Schmegelsky, whose father said he fears his son will be dead soon.
“He’s on a suicide mission,” Alan Schmegelsky said in an emotional interview with The Canadian Press. “He wants his pain to end. … He wants his hurt to end. They’re going to go out in a blaze of glory. Trust me on this.”
Bryer’s father said he was “very introverted” and in “very serious pain,” having struggled after his parents divorced when he was 5 in 2005. He and his mother moved to the Vancouver Island community of Port Alberni, where he met McLeod on elementary school.
The pair became inseparable and were “good kids,” Alan said.
Bryer had problems at home and briefly lived with his dad in Victoria when he was 16 before returning to Port Alberni to live with his grandmother, his father said.
“His influences haven’t been good; his influences have been YouTube and video games,” Alan said.
Lisa Lucas, a neighbor of Bryer’s grandmother, recalled how he used to play with other children in the area, but began losing friends when he showed them pictures of himself wearing a Nazi armband and telling them he imagined playing shooter games in reality.
“After a while he started making people feel uncomfortable,” Lucas told The Daily Mail.
But his behavior allegedly only escalated, according to a former schoolmate who said he threatened her and her friends with violence.
“[He] would tell us how he was going to cut our heads off,” Madison Hempstead said, according to the New Zealand Herald.
After graduating from high school, Bryer worked at a Walmart, but told his father he was disappointed with the job and said he and McLeod were going to travel to Alberta to look for work.
Before leaving, Bryer bought a black suit with the money he made at Walmart.
“Now I realize it’s his funeral suit,” his father told the Press.
“Basically he’s going to be dead today or tomorrow. I know that,” he added. “Rest in peace, Bryer. I love you. I’m so sorry all this had to happen.”
Law enforcement believed McLeod and Bryer may have been in the Manitoba area of Gillam and since Tuesday had reportedly concentrated their efforts to find the pair on a stretch of about 43 miles northwest of the town.
A police checkpoint was set up on the only road leading into Gillam and residents were remaining vigilant in locking their doors and paying close attention to the faces of passersby.
Chief Walter Spence of Fox Lake Cree Nation, which is located near the search area, said the First Nation reserve’s police were also patrolling in the hopes of finding McLeod and Bryer.
“If they are wandering around in the bush, they couldn’t have picked a worse time because the sandflies came out three days ago and they’re just voracious,” Gillam Deputy Mayor John McDonald told reporters Wednesday. “I’m quite sure they’ll be more than happy to have someone find them.”
McLeod and Bryer should be considered armed and dangerous. They may be using a different vehicle, be on foot or traveling separately, police said.
“If they are spotted, do not approach, call 911 or your local police immediately,” officials said.