Brother of B.C. homicide victim says family may never know why she was killed

The eldest brother of homicide victim Chynna Deese says he’s not expecting the police investigation to provide a definitive answer as to why she was killed in such a seemingly random act.

The RCMP has promised to release details in the coming weeks of its investigative conclusions in the case that sparked a manhunt across Western Canada before two young suspects were found dead last week in Manitoba.

The Mounties have already said they believe Bryer Schmegelsky and Kam McLeod were suspects in the deaths of Chynna Deese and her Australian boyfriend Lucas Fowler, whose bodies were found off the Alaska Highway in northern B.C. in mid-July.

Police had also charged the teenagers from Port Alberni, B.C., with second-degree murder in the death of botany lecturer Leonard Dyck.

Stetson Deese, 30, said while more details may offer his family some clarity, they’re preparing for the possibility that they’ll be left with untestable theories about motive.

“We just don’t know why, and we may never know exactly why they were targeted,” he said in a phone interview from just outside New Orleans.

Chynna Deese, 24, was found dead in northern B.C. on July 15. She and her boyfriend, Lucas Fowler, 23, had been shot. (Supplied by RCMP)

Chynna Deese, 24, was the baby of the family as the youngest of four siblings growing up in Charlotte, N.C. Although they had the largest age gap among the siblings — more than five years — Stetson Deese said he shared his sister’s common curiosity for the world.

He was the first “adventurous one” in the family, rotating between seasonal jobs in national parks across the United States and fisheries in Alaska. But his sister had recently surpassed him, exploring Europe and South America before coming to Canada with Fowler.

“She took it to a whole new level, so she was a little more adventurous than me,” he said.

Mounties have maintained regular contact with the Deese family since Chynna’s death, her brother said, but the family primarily knows the same thing the public does about what happened.

Chynna Deese, right, with her mother Sheila Deese. (Sheila Deese)

So, Stetson often finds himself combing through posts online, reading theories unverified by police about what role accomplices may have played or whether other missing persons cases in the region could be linked. Chynna and Fowler were so affable that Stetson said he can’t possibly imagine they were targets of anger or hatred.

“We still have a lot of questions. It’s like, I think of a new one each day,” he said.

Surveillance footage caught Chynna Deese and her boyfriend, Lucas Fowler, sharing a hug and kiss at a gas station in northern B.C. days before their deaths:

Surveillance video recorded on July 13, 2019 that has been edited for brevity shows 23-year-old Lucas Fowler and 24-year-old Chynna Deese stopping at a gas station in Fort Nelson, B.C. In total, the pair spent just under 17 minutes at the station; nine of them inside it 1:04

His latest question is whether the van the couple were driving was found in working condition. He also heard that his sister was wearing a single shoe and speculated that perhaps that meant she was attacked at night.

“It can just give you headache, thinking of all kinds of different theories,” he said.

Mixed emotion over suspects’ deaths

Confirmation that the bodies of two suspects were found created mixed emotions for Stetson. It was a significant step toward closure, he said.

“If they were never found and nobody knew what happened to them, then we would really have some questions,” he said.

He believes the police theory that Schmegelsky and McLeod were responsible for the three killings. If that’s true, he said, he is happy to learn others in the region are now safe.

But the deaths of Schmegelsky and McLeod also mean they will never be interviewed by police, and investigators’ theories about what happened will never be tested in court.

Stetson said he believes the RCMP’s investigation will at least offer more resolution about why it happened.

The family isn’t in a rush to see the probe wrap up, he said. They all had to return to their jobs and could use a break for a few weeks, as they try to find moments of distraction from the tragedy.

“It’s been heavy lately. This whole month, the air has been really heavy. So, if it lightens up a little that would be nice and then maybe within another month or so we can hear something else.”

Chynna Deese kisses Lucas Fowler in this undated image from her sister’s Facebook page. The pair was found dead along the Alaska Highway on July 15, about 20 kilometres south of Liard Hot Springs in B.C. (NSW Police)

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