I’ve written before about the phenomenon of folie à deux, where two people share a kind of delusion that can drive them to murder. Sometimes these duos are couples; sometimes they share a kind of twisted father-son relationship. But sometimes, the pair are brothers — either by blood or by choice. I’ll be profiling some of these bloodthirsty brothers throughout April.
When, in July of last year, friends Kam McLeod, 19, and Bryer Schmegelsky, 18, told their families they were leaving to go look for work in the Yukon Territory, none of them saw any reason to worry. McLeod and Schmegelsky had been friends since they were children growing up in the town of Port Alberni, British Columbia. Everyone described the young men as very quiet; McLeod was known for being kind and considerate, and Schmegelsky, despite not finishing high school, was considered a “smart kid.” Neither was into drugs or any other kind of trouble.
But lately, friends and classmates said Schmegelsky had begun to give off a “weird vibe.” His father, Alan Schmegelsky, said his son “was raised by YouTube and video games,” and lately, had become “obsessed” with especially violent video games. The younger Schmegelsky had wondered aloud with neighbors and classmates about what if the games were real. He openly fantasized about committing horrific murders, beheading people, and committing suicide by shotgun. But no one seemed to take him seriously; many thought that he was just joking. Nevertheless, his friends and classmates begin to draw away from him.
Schmegelsky had made some online friends through various gaming platforms and chat apps, where he frequently spoke of his admiration for Hitler, Putin, and Trump. He posted selfies wearing swastikas and other Nazi accoutrements. Thanks to this alignment with the alt-right, his online friends began to distance themselves from him as well.
But not his longtime friend, McLeod. The two had recently gotten a job at a local Wal-Mart and had even arranged to work the same shift so they could be together more. However, they both expressed to their families that they were dissatisfied with that job. That was why they were going to go up to the Yukon, perhaps near Whitehorse, to look for more work. So on July 12, the two packed their bags and piled into McLeod’s Dodge Ram pickup, which was outfitted with a camper shell. Before leaving town, they stopped at a local sporting-goods store, where they bought a Soviet SKS carbine, along with two magazines and 20 rounds of ammunition.
On July 15, police were called to a remote section of Highway 97, the Alaska Highway, in northeastern British Columbia. There, just south of Liard Hot Springs, police found the bodies of Lucas Fowler, 23, and Chynna Deese, 24. They were found lying face-down in a ditch about 5 feet apart; both had been shot multiple times from an SKS semi-automatic rifle. Their van, a 1986 blue Chevy, was found only about 10 feet away, the doors open and the rear window shot through.
Two days later and almost 500 miles away, a man named Ken Albertsen pulled over on a quiet stretch of the Alaska Highway. He had just driven for 15 hours straight, heading home to Alaska from a family trip to Montana, and needed to get some sleep.
Albertsen said he was just beginning to doze off when something made him suspicious. He said a truck with a camper shell drove by him extremely slowly, and then stopped just ahead of his car. He said he saw the passenger door open and someone get out carrying a long gun. He saw that person creep into the tree line and begin slowly advancing toward his car, still holding that long gun at the ready “in a tactical or hunting stance.” The truck was also moving closer, positioning itself so that Albertsen’s car would be boxed in.
Albertson said he got scared, so he flew up over the seat, got behind the wheel, and “roared off.” Not knowing exactly what he had just encountered, Albertsen didn’t think to contact the police at the time. But within a few days, he would come to understand that he had just escaped with his life.
Two days after that, on July 19, police were called to a road near Dease Lake, also in northern British Columbia, where a vehicle was on fire. Once they extinguished the fire, police saw that the vehicle was a Dodge Ram pickup truck.
Soon they found something even worse: a body. The man, who looked to be in his 60s, had several injuries and had been shot with an SKS semi-automatic rifle. Shell casings left at the scene matched those found at the Fowler-Deese murder scene.
At first police didn’t know the man’s identity, but within a couple of days of releasing a sketch to the public, he was identified as Leonard Dyck, a botany lecturer and researcher with the University of British Columbia. The truck that had been burning nearby was not his; it was in fact registered to Kam McLeod. Dyck’s vehicle, a grey 2011 Toyota RAV4, was missing.
Since she hadn’t heard from her grandson in days, and now having learned that McLeod’s truck was found burning near the scene of a murder, Schmegelsky’s grandmother reported the two as missing.
But the day after they were declared missing, on July 23, they were named by the RCMP as suspects in the murders of Fowler, Deese, and Dyck. Surveillance cameras had caught the two purchasing the rifle in Port Alberni. Their truck had been spotted traveling north of where the bodies of Deese and Fowler were found, not long after their estimated time of death. And not only was their truck found at the site of Dyck’s murder, the two were spotted in Dyck’s RAV4 at a gas station the morning of his murder.
Sightings of the fugitives began to trickle in. On July 21, in Cold Lake, Alberta, a man reported helping two young men get their grey RAV4 out of some mud. Only afterwards did he see their faces in a “Canada’s Most Wanted” notice. Later they were spotted in La Ronge and Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan, driving a grey RAV4.
The day before the RCMP issued their statement declaring McLeod and Schmegelsky fugitives, provincial police in northern Manitoba had been called out to the small town of Gillam. There, a 2011 Toyota RAV4 was burning in a remote area near the Fox Lake First Nation. Earlier that day, the two had apparently been pulled over by a different First Nation police force in nearby Split Lake for a routine alcohol check, but had been released.
Based on these sightings, the RCMP, aided by several other law enforcement agencies including the Canadian military and the Bear Clan Patrol, executed one of the largest manhunts in Canadian history. They ran down every tip — which were all dead ends — and canvassed every home and building in and around Gillam. The search would cover over 6,800 square miles, most of it in nearly impassable terrain — swampy, dense with undergrowth, infested with mosquitoes, and home to grizzly bears.
With no luck, by the end of July, the RCMP announced they were going to “dial down” their presence in and around Gillam.
Then, on Aug. 1, an outdoors guide spotted a damaged rowboat on the shores of the Nelson River. He reported it to the police, who found some items near the boat: a backpack containing a wallet, clothing, and unspent ammunition belonging to McLeod.
The search was ramped back up, now narrowed considerably, thanks to this recent find.
A week later, on Aug. 7, searchers came upon the bodies of two young men in dense brush on the shore of the Nelson River. Autopsies would later confirm they were McLeod and Schmegelsky. They had died of gunshot wounds; evidence suggests that McLeod shot Schmegelsky, then himself. The guns found with their bodies were the same weapons used in the killings.
The two left six videos on a camera they had stolen from Dyck. In them, they take responsibility for the three murders, though they express no remorse or motivation. In one, they say they are going to turn around and kill more people; in another, they say their plan is to drive to Hudson Bay and hijack a ship to Europe or Africa.
The last two videos are essentially suicide notes. They speak of their suicide pact and express their wishes to be cremated.
The RCMP isn’t releasing the videos out of fear they will grant the killers “notoriety” and encourage copy-cats.