The sister of Chynna Deese — an American woman whose slaying led in part to a three-week manhunt of two B.C. men that ended in Manitoba — says her family forgives her sister’s killer.
Fugitives Kam McLeod and Bryer Schmegelsky were charged in the July 19 death of Leonard Dyck, a University of British Columbia lecturer. They were also deemed suspects in the July 15 shooting deaths of Deese and her Australian boyfriend Lucas Fowler.
"There was a one in a million chance that such tragedy would befall upon my family, but Chynna was a once in a lifetime soul," Kennedy Deese wrote in a statement on Facebook Saturday.
Kennedy went on about the pain her family has suffered since her sister’s murder.
She also appeared to criticize the father of one of the suspects, Alan Schmegelsky, who sent reporters Red Flagged, a self-published book in which Schmegelsky details the mental health challenges that affected his family.
He said he sent the book, a novelization of both actual events and fictionalized incidents, to highlight how a "broken system" shaped his family.
"We never play victim of a broken system," Kennedy wrote in her post.
The Deese family has experienced challenges, including divorce, mental health, poverty and violence, she said. But Chynna used those experiences "to find inner peace," she wrote, adding her sister was the first member of their family to go to university to earn a psychology degree because "she loved to support people."
The appropriate action when mistakes are made is taking responsibility, she said. "The proper public response would have been a genuine apology. But we still forgive you and have mercy."
She added that in honour of Chynna, her family plans to implement a program that teaches public school students about appropriate online interaction on social media and in video games.
Autopsies on the two men were scheduled in Winnipeg last week, and RCMP said an update on the results is expected Monday.
Manitoba RCMP also confirmed Saturday officers had located a new item in connection to the remains believed to be the 19-year-old homicide suspects.
On Friday, a team of officers completed a ground search around the areas where the bodies of two men and a burned-out Toyota RAV4 were found north of Gillam near Fox Lake Cree Nation.
"Our team did locate an item that may be of interest to the investigation but it will have to be examined to determine its relevance," RCMP spokesman Paul Manaigre said in a statement Saturday morning. He declined to identify the item.
The two men had been subjects of a nationwide manhunt for weeks — until Aug. 7, when an RCMP spokesperson announced authorities were "confident" that two bodies found near Gillam belonged to the men.
The remains were found earlier this week about eight kilometres from the stranded SUV, which was owned by one of the three victims.
The vehicle was located on July 22 in a ditch off Provincial Road 290, the last known location of the fugitives.
The finding triggered a massive search in northern Manitoba, where authorities searched roads, railways and waterways, as well as personal homes and cottages. Personnel and equipment from the Canadian Armed Forces were involved.
The RCMP received hundreds of tips about the suspects’ whereabouts.
At one point, armed officers and police canine units expanded the search to York Landing after a tip the suspects may have been spotted in the community roughly 90 kilometres from Gillam.
The manhunt was scaled down at the end of July due to the absence of fresh evidence. But RCMP announced the discovery of a "critical piece of evidence" along the Nelson River shore on Aug. 3, a turning point in the search.
As with the latest item, it has not been identified by RCMP.
However, RCMP assistant commissioner Jane MacLatchy told reporters the evidence allowed officers to narrow their search and send resources into the dense brush.
Earlier this week, MacLatchy said authorities knew they needed to find one piece of evidence that would move the investigation forward. The latest find could be another that leads to more answers.
— With files from The Canadian Press.
Maggie is a cub reporter who covers every beat in the newsroom. She appreciates alliteration, when newspaper ink stains her fingertips and, more importantly, tips on social and environmental equity issues.
Updated on Saturday, August 10, 2019 at 5:26 PM CDT: Adds statement made by Chynna Deese's family regarding the two B.C. fugitives and the investigation into her death.
9:59 PM: Updated and edited