What to Know About the Canada Highway Murders of Chynna Deese, Lucas Fowler and Leonard Dyck
Chynna Deese, 24, and Lucas Fowler, 23, were murdered in an attack that later led investigators to Leonard Dyck's body hundreds of miles away.
Like many young couples in love and in the spirit for adventure, Chynna Deese and Lucas Fowler only wanted to have a good time when they set out on a trip across Canada.
But instead, Deese, 24, and Fowler, 23, were shot dead under “what can only be described as horrific circumstances” in an attack that would lead investigators to the body of 64-year-old Leonard Dyck hundreds of miles away and on a hunt for two teens feared responsible for the killing spree.
On Aug. 7, the two teens were found dead.
A timeline below shows how the case unfolded:
Saturday, July 13
Deese and Fowler stopped at a gas station in Fort Nelson and shared a sweet embrace as they waited for their 1986 Chevrolet van to fill up. It was a moment of affection not uncommon for a couple who wanted to make the most of the time they had together.
Avid travelers, the pair met in 2017 at a hostel in Croatia, loved ones later said. Though Deese was from the U.S. and Fowler was from Australia, distance meant little to the committed couple.
Deese’s family immediately accepted Fowler into the fold and welcomed him into their North Carolina home, where he spent three months in the States, and celebrated Thanksgiving and Christmas.
“He was part of our family immediately,” Deese’s mother told CBC News. “They were a kindred spirit.”
Deese planned to one day travel to Australia to meet Fowler’s family as well, but this summer only had to travel to Canada to be with her boyfriend.
Fowler had secured work on a ranch in Northern British Columbia and during Deese’s trip to visit him, they planned a three-week road trip that would take them to several national parks in the region.
They embarked on their journey that Saturday.
Sunday, July 14
Deese and Fowler experienced car trouble that left them stranded alongside the road only one day into their journey, according to a witness.
Sandra Broughton and her husband, a mechanic, were traveling on the Alaska Highway 97 when they spotted the couple’s camper van pulled over with its hood up about 3:30 p.m. Sunday, CBC News reported.
The young couple was sitting in chairs alongside their van and eating when Broughton and her husband offered to help.
Fowler said the van’s engine was flooded and they were waiting it out, Broughton said.
“The guy knew what he was doing and he was confident they would be OK,” she told CBC News. “They didn’t seem in distress. They seemed like a young couple in love, just on their road trip in their van going north.”
By the next day, Broughton would hear the news that would leave her questioning her and her husband’s decision to continue on their way.
Monday, July 15
Deese and Fowler’s bodies were found in a ditch not far from their van, which a witness told CTV had its window blown out.
“He had no shoes; the young lady had one,” highway worker Trevor Pierre told CTV, saying the scene was grisly.
Police in Fowler’s hometown echoed Pierre’s assessment of the scene. Assistant Commissioner Mark Jones with the New South Wales police force, where Fowler’s own father serves as an officer, said he was told the couple was killed under “what can only be described as horrific circumstances.”
Officials in Canada at first would not say how the couple was killed, but said their deaths were being investigated as homicides.
Sunday, July 18
Police officially identified the bodies of Fowler and Deese.
Deese’s father, Dwayne Deese, later told The Charlotte Observer he believed the amount of time it took to identify the bodies of his daughter and her boyfriend spoke to the violent end they met. He said this also led him to believe all forms of identification immediately accessible were taken, the newspaper reported.
Investigators eventually found Chynna’s passport hidden in the van, said her brother, British Deese.
Though he shot down the theory the couple were victims of a serial killer, Dwayne said: “What worries us is that person is still on the loose and they have a head start. This is going to happen again.”
Friday, July 19
Chynna’s brother took to social media to express the pain he and his family was experiencing.
“[Twenty-four hours] ago I found out why my little sis didn’t text me back,” British wrote on Facebook. “She’s is so deeply woven as a piece of my childhood and everyday life. I am forever indebted to her for being such an amazing life companion and giving me SO many reasons to smile.
“Life throws curveballs and you made every one easier to handle,” he continued. “This is a curveball I did not expect. Losing you is going to hurt so much.”
Fowler’s family also spoke out that, saying in a statement released through the New South Wales police force that the loss they were suffering was “devastating.”
“We have lost our dear Lucas Fowler, son, brother, grandson and friend in the most terrible of circumstances,” the family said. “To know his beautiful girlfriend … also lost her life in this violent event is too cruel.”
Police in Canada appealed to the public to help them establish a timeline leading up to the killings of Chynna and Fowler.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police asked to speak with anyone who may have been traveling in the area of Liard Hot Springs, including any camping areas, and on the Alaska Highway 97 between 4 p.m. July 14 and 8 a.m. July 15.
“We are particularly interested in speaking with anyone who may have dashcam footage,” RCMP said.
They announced Fowler’s family, as well as several officers with the New South Wales police force, were traveling to Canada to be closer to their son.
“These investigators are here in support of the Fowler family and will not form part of our investigative team here in Canada,” the RCMP said.
Investigators in Canada are also working with the FBI in the U.S., who assisted them in notifying Chynna’s family of her murder.
“We recognize this news is troubling for the entire community and absolutely appreciate there are concerns for safety, in an area that is popular with nature enthusiasts and tourists,” the RCMP said. “This investigation is in its very infancy and it is not yet clear whether Lucas and Chynna were targeted or is this was a crime of opportunity.
“At this point, we have nothing to indicate that their deaths are linked to any other active and ongoing investigations in the area, or if there is a heightened risk to public safety,” they continued. “Our investigators will consider any and all information carefully as the investigation progresses.”
It appeared authorities spoke too soon, as that same day, the body of a third person was found not far from a flaming vehicle of two men soon discovered to be missing.
It had been several days since the families of Kam McLeod, 19, and Bryer Schmegelsky, 18, had heard from the young men when investigators discovered their pickup truck ablaze south of the Stikine River Bridge on Highway 37.
The young men, both from Port Alberni in British Columbia, were believed to have been traveling to Whitehorse in the Yukon Territory to look for work and may have been without cellphone service for portions of the trip, officials said.
Investigators could find no signs of McLeod or Schmegelsky near the scene, but the body of a third unidentified male was discovered a little over a mile away at a nearby highway pullout.
Though both Fowler and Chynna’s murders and the incident involving McLeod, Schmegelsky and the unidentified body occurred in the same region, they were about 290 miles apart from each other and officials at the time said it was not immediately clear if the cases were connected.
Sunday, July 21
Another witness who said they saw Fowler and Chynna alive Sunday described a tense scene that something in her gut told her to avoid getting involved.
Alandra Hull said she saw a bearded man who appeared to be arguing with the couple along the remote stretch of highway hours before they were found dead.
“To me he kind of looked frustrated or something,” Hull said of the man to 9News. “Like he was just kind of standing like this and just looking at them.”
Hull said Fowler and Chynna looked bothered by the man and the interaction gave her a bad feeling.
“If you just get a bad feeling, and that’s what I had, you just don’t stop,” she told the television station.
Hull said police asked her to work with a composite sketch artist to create a likeness of the man she said she saw speaking with the couple.
That same day, Chynna’s mother spoke about her daughter and the way in which her death was haunting her.
“While I want to know the detail, it’s not going to change my outcome at all,” Sheila Deese told CBC News. “My outcome is I have one less child.”
Chynna was an avid traveler who also loved to volunteer and give back to those in need, her mom said.
"I'm trying to hold on to my memories and really not let my mind get much past that,” she said.
Monday, July 22
The RCMP confirmed Fowler and Chynna were fatally shot.
They said in a statement investigators were “working through a number of tips and tasks, including interviews with individuals who saw or spoke with the couple, analyzing forensic and digital evidence along with reviewing hours of CCTV and dashcam video footage. The number and types of specialized services and investigators continues to fluctuate based on investigative needs.”
RCMP released that day footage of Fowler and Chynna stopping at the gas station July 13. The video shows the couple arriving in their van at 7:30 p.m. and departing the gas station at 7:47 p.m., officials said.
Authorities also released a sketch of a man who they said was seen speaking with Fowler on Highway 97 the evening of July 14.
He was described as Caucasian with darker skin and dark hair, standing shorter than Fowler, who was 6-foot-3. He appeared to have a beard and was wearing glasses. He was possibly traveling south in an older model Jeep Cherokee with a black stripe on the hood.
A sketch of the man whose body was discovered near McLeod and Schmegelsky’s burning van was also released Monday.
Police described the man as being white and between 5-foot-8 and 5-foot-10. He had a heavy build, a gray beard and gray hair, and was between the ages of 50 and 60, CTV reported.
By Monday, the Fowler family had met several times with police in Canada, while the Deeses continued to receive regular updates, RCMP said.
Acknowledging they had “two major investigations underway within northern BC,” RCMP asked travelers and campers in the area to be aware of their surroundings and remain vigilant where their safety was concerned.
“In addition, general safety precautions continue to apply: make sure family or friends are aware of your travel plans, establish check-in times to provide updates and make sure that if your plans change you let someone know,” RCMP said.
“Police are once again appealing to the public to come forward and speak with investigators about any interactions, conversations or observations involving Lucas and Chynna, or their travels in the blue van,” RCMP said. “We have seen many accounts on social and mainstream media from people who have information relating to Chynna and Lucas. It is imperative that before you give details to anyone else that you contact our investigators to provide the first account.”
Fowler’s father, Stephen Fowler, also appealed to the public for help.
“It’s a love story that’s ended tragically," he said at a press conference Monday. "It’s the worst-ever love story because we now have two young people who had everything ahead of them tragically murdered."
Tuesday, July 23
McLeod and Schmegelsky were named suspects in the killings of Fowler, Chynna and the unknown third man whose body was discovered near the missing pair’s flaming van.
They had last been seen in Meadow Lake, a city in the boreal forest of northwestern Saskatchewan two days earlier, RCMP there said.
"We believe they are continuing to travel," RCMP Saskatchewan tweeted.
Photos taken July 21 of McLeod and Schmegelsky were shared on social media, but officials said it was important to note the pair may have changed their appearance in the time since.
RCMP in Manitoba tweeted at 5:43 p.m. they believed the pair may be in the province.
"We have reasons to believe they were recently in the Gillam area," RCMP Manitoba tweeted.
The men are considered extremely dangerous.
"If you see these individuals, do NOT take action and do NOT approach," RCMP wrote. "Call 911 immediately."
Wednesday, July 24
The third alleged victim was identified as 64-year-old Leonard Dyck, a dedicated family man who was enjoying life after retiring from a lengthy career as a researcher and professor.
Authorities on Wednesday announced they 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.
The search in Manitoba for McLeod and Schmegelsky continued, as RCMP there announced they had sent a number of resources to the Manitoba town of Gillam and set up an informational checkpoint on Manitoba Provincial Roads 280 and 290.
RCMP confirmed Wednesday a vehicle they recovered while responding to a report of a vehicle fire in the Gillam area Monday was what McLeod and Schmegelsky were traveling in.
"Manitoba RCMP are following up on numerous tips regarding these two suspects. Please continue to be vigilant and report anything suspicious IMMEDIATELY to police," officials said.
Residents were told to stay indoors and avoid traveling alone as police continued their search for Schmegelsky and McLeod.
That same day, McLeod's father released a written statement calling his son "a kind, considerate, caring young man [who] always has been concerned about other people's feelings."
"I'm sitting at home worrying about my son," McLeod's father said, according to CBC News. "As we are trapped in our homes due to media people, we try to wrap our heads around what is happening and hope that Kam will come home to us safely so we can all get to the bottom of this story."
Schmegelsky's father also spoke out, saying in an emotional interview that he fears his son will be dead soon.
“He’s on a suicide mission,” dad 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.”
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.”
Friday, July 26
McLeod and Bryer were believed to be on foot as they continued to evade authorities in Canada.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police were using dogs and drones in the search, which includes extremely rough terrain.
"There’s lots of dense bush, forest, swampy area, so it is very challenging," RCMP Cpl. Julie Courchaine said, according to USA Today.
Authorities said the two are believed to be hiding out in the wilderness because they initially were spotted in the Gillam area and there have been no reports of stolen cars.
Monday, July 29
McLeod and Bryer remained missing as officers admitted that the teens were questioned by police and unwittingly sent on their way a week earlier.
Local officers near Split Lake, Manitoba, stopped the pair on July 22 for a routine alcohol check. The pair were allowed to leave after authorities in the dry county found they were not carrying liquor.
"We weren't aware of their statues, of them being wanted," Constable Nathan Neckoway told Global News. "Apparently, after they came to our community, that's when they sent out that wanted [status]."
Friday, Aug. 2
The hunt for Bryer and McLeod extended to the water as authorities in Canada discovered a damaged boat that some fear the pair tried using to evade capture.
A dive team was dispatched to search the Nelson River near the Manitoba town of Gillam after officers in a helicopter Friday spotted an aluminum rowboat on the shore, Royal Canadian Mounted Police said.
Saturday, Aug. 3
Five members of the RCMP Underwater Recovery Team on Saturday conducted “a thorough underwater search of significant areas of interest” in the Nelson River, which is about 400 miles long and stretches between Lake Winnipeg and Hudson Bay.
Monday, Aug. 5
It was not immediately clear what, if anything, was found during the search, which by Monday police announced had been completed.
“They will not be conducting any additional dives,” RCMP Manitoba tweeted.
Bryer and McLeod’s last known whereabouts were about a week ago.
“Everything is possible at this stage,” RCMP Assistant Commissioner Jane MacLatchy told reporters the week prior, noting it's possible they may have had assistance leaving the area and that they could also be dead.
“The north part of the province is a very unforgiving place,” MacLatchy said. “We are keeping all possibilities in mind as we go forward.”
Wednesday, Aug. 7
Authorities in Canada announced Bryer and McLeod’s bodies had been found.
“The search is over,” RCMP Manitoba tweeted.
Officers discovered the remains at 10 a.m. local time near the shoreline of the Nelson River, about 5 miles from a burned vehicle they are believed to have used in their attempts to evade capture.
Police said on Twitter Wednesday a discovery made Friday was instrumental in locating of McLeod and Bryer's bodies.
“Our officers knew we needed just one piece of evidence to move the search forward & on Friday, August 2nd, the items found on the shoreline of the Nelson River & directly linked to the suspects, enables officers to narrow down the search,” RCMP wrote on Twitter.
“Specialized RCMP teams begin searching nearby high-probability areas, leading officers to the discovery of the two male bodies, in the dense brush, within 1 km [or a little over half a mile] from where the items were found,” they continued.
Residents in Gillam and surrounding areas, including the Fox Lake Cree Nation, Ilford War Lake First Nation and York Landing, had been on high alert in case they spotted an unknown vehicle or persons, vigilance which RCMP Manitoba acknowledged Wednesday.
"Your lives have been disrupted, many of you lived with uncertainty and fear, but throughout, you were resilient and helped our officers get the job done," RCMP tweeted. "It was a search that could only be successful if we had strong public engagement and support."
Monday, Aug. 12
Police revealed that McLeod and Bryer died by suicide by gunfire. The Manitoba Medical Examiner also confirmed the identities of the remains.
Police said the teens had been dead "for a number of days" before their bodies were discovered. However, police said, an exact time and date of their deaths was not clear.
Tuesday, Aug. 20
The teen fugitives may have shared their motives in a video on one of their mobile phones, according to a report.
McLeod and Bryer left a “last will and testament” video message before taking their own lives, a family member of one of the suspects told the Toronto Star.
The two teenagers reportedly said goodbye and gave instructions on what to do with their remains in the approximately 30 seconds of footage investigators shared with loved ones by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
The RCMP were believed to be in possession of the full video recording, which was longer than what was shared with the suspects’ relatives. The video could be the key to explaining what led the teens to brutally murder Deese, Fowler and Dyck.
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