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‘It’s going to take awhile:’ Manitoba town still on edge, searching for answers

The RCMP Underwater Recovery Team completes their work following the discovery of a boat on the shore of the Nelson River, northeast of Gillam, Man. in this handout photo provided August 5, 2019. RCMP say they will no longer be searching a river in northern Manitoba for two murder suspects.THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, RCMP

GILLAM, Man. — The deputy mayor of a northern Manitoba town at the centre of a massive manhunt said it will be a long time before things in the community return to normal.

“We were still locking everything up, you know. We kept the door locked during the day when we were in the house and same with the vehicles,” John McDonald of Gillam said Thursday.

“It’s going to take awhile.”

Community leaders and the chief of nearby Fox Lake Cree Nation held a meeting Wednesday night with locals after RCMP announced they believe the bodies of two murder suspects from British Columbia have been found after a two-week search in the remote area.

“There was a sense of gladness that the search was over,” McDonald said. “And a lot of sadness for the victims, for the families of the victims, for the families of these two guys.”

The bodies were discovered Wednesday morning in dense brush near the shoreline of the Nelson River, within a kilometre from where several items linked to the two young men were found last week.

Autopsies are being conducted in Winnipeg to confirm the remains are of Kam McLeod, 19, and Bryer Schmegelsky, 18, from Port Alberni, B.C.

The teens were suspects in killings of Leonard Dyck, a university lecturer from Vancouver, and American tourist Chynna Deese and her Australian boyfriend, Lucas Fowler. The bodies of the three were found in mid-July near highways in northern B.C.

The search for McLeod and Schmegelsky, considered armed and dangerous, stretched across the Prairies but was narrowed to the unforgiving terrain near Gillam after Dyck’s burned-out vehicle was discovered there.

Armed police, helicopters and military aircraft descended on the region and residents were advised to stay inside and lock their doors.

The hunt was winding down when police received an important break last Friday when they found items connected to the suspects near the river, about eight kilometres from where the burned vehicle was located.

It was a stressful time, McDonald said. And now that the search is over, the community has a lot of questions, but not a lot of answers.

He said people are wondering if whether the fugitives had planned their route to Gillam or got lost while on the run.

“Did they run here because they didn’t look at a map and made the wrong turn? Or did they come here on purpose to do exactly what they did?” McDonald said.

“If they didn’t leave some kind of message, then we are never going to know.”

Kelly Geraldine Malone, The Canadian Press

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