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Canadian police say 2 bodies found, believed to be fugitives

TORONTO (AP) — Canadian police said Wednesday they believe two fugitives suspected of killing a North Carolina woman and her Australian boyfriend as well as another man have been found dead in dense bush in northern Manitoba.

Authorities located two male bodies and are confident they are 19-year-old Kam McLeod and 18-year-old Bryan Schmegelsky, said Royal Canadian Mounted Police Assistant Commissioner Jane MacLatchy. She said an autopsy will confirm their identities and causes of death.

Critical evidence was found last week when police discovered items directly linked to the suspects located on the shoreline of the Nelson River, MacLatchy said. Following that discovery, authorities were able to narrow down the search.

Police sent in specialized teams and began searching high-probability areas. On Wednesday morning, police located the two bodies within 1 kilometer (0.6 miles) from where the items were found and approximately 9 kilometers (5.6 miles) from where they left a burnt-out vehicle on July 22.

“We are confident that these are the bodies of the two suspects wanted in connection with the homicides in British Columbia,” MacLatchy said.

McLeod and Schmegelsky were charged with second-degree murder in the death of Leonard Dyck, a University of British Columbia lecturer whose body was found July 19 along a highway in British Columbia.

They were also suspects in the fatal shootings of Australian Lucas Fowler and Chynna Deese of Charlotte, North Carolina, whose bodies were found July 15 along the Alaska Highway about 300 miles (500 kilometers) from where Dyck was killed.

A manhunt for the pair had spread across three provinces. The suspects had not been seen since the burnt-out car was found on July 22.

The bodies were found near Gillam, Manitoba — more than 2,000 miles (3,200 kilometers) from northern British Columbia.

Police had said Tuesday they were investigating all possibilities including the possibility that the suspects might have drowned.

A police helicopter initially spotted a damaged boat along the Nelson River last week and a follow-up search in the area uncovered the items directly linked to the two in what authorities described as very challenging terrain.

“It is very tough terrain,” MacLatchy said.

MacLatchy said there is a sense of relief for families of the victims involved and the communities in the area.

“It’s huge to be able to hopefully give some people the opportunity to exhale and to hopefully go back to being normal and not be afraid of who is out in the woods,” she said.

Deese’s brother, British Deese, said the family needed time to process the news that the suspects’ bodies were apparently found.

“We are speechless,” British Deese said in a text message, declining further comment.

The separate discoveries of three bodies and burning cars shook rural northern British Columbia and Manitoba.

Schmegelsky’s father, Alan Schmegelsky, said last month that he expected the nationwide manhunt to end in the death of his son, who he said was on “a suicide mission.”

McLeod and Schmegelsky grew up together on Vancouver Island and worked together at a local Walmart before they set off together on what their parents thought was a trip to Yukon for work.

McLeod and Schmegelsky themselves were originally considered missing persons and only became suspects later.

Police were investigating a photograph of Nazi paraphernalia allegedly sent online by one of the suspects. Schmegelsky allegedly sent photographs of a swastika armband and a Hitler Youth knife to an online friend on the video-game network Steam.

Alan Schmegelsky had said his son took him to an army surplus store about eight months ago in his small Vancouver Island hometown of Port Alberni, where his son was excited about the Nazi artifacts.

Alan Schmegelsky said he didn’t believe that his son identified as a neo-Nazi, but that he did think the memorabilia was “cool.”

Fowler and Deese were found shot dead along the Alaska Highway near Liard Hot Springs, British Columbia.

Fowler, the son of a chief inspector with the New South Wales Police Department, was living in British Columbia and Deese was visiting him.

The couple had met at a hostel in Croatia and their romance blossomed as they adventured across the U.S., Mexico, Peru and elsewhere, the woman’s older brother said.

British Deese said the couple was on a trip to visit Canadian national parks when they were killed. He said the family believes they must have had engine trouble in their van.

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Hamilton County’s ‘Wellness Unit’ part of nationwide effort to improve mental health among officers

NOBLESVILLE, Ind. (WISH) — An initiative to improve employee well-being at the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office is among a spate of efforts across the nation to address mental health concerns among officers.

Sheriff Dennis Quakenbush announced the department’s new “Wellness Unit”  — devoted to the physical, mental and spiritual health of its deputies, correctional officers and civilian employees — Friday in a Facebook post.

“Our guys really care about the public,” he said Monday in an interview with News 8. “When you see somebody who’s injured or victimized, it really impacts us… We’re only human.”

The Wellness Unit launched in January with funding approved by county council members and commissioners.

Appointments are held off-site at undisclosed locations to protect the privacy of employees. Supervisors are not briefed on which employees seek counseling or what they discuss during sessions.

Information gathered during counseling sessions will not be used to demote or discipline employees, and will only be disclosed if required by law, including when somebody poses an immediate danger to themselves or others.

The department’s entire staff will receive training related to suicide prevention, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, critical incidents, addiction, mindfulness and officer wellness, the sheriff said.

Nearly 1 in 4 police officers has thoughts of suicide at some point in their life, according to the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI); the suicide rate for police officers is four times higher than the rate for firefighters.

Years of daily exposure to stress, trauma and tragedy can have other devastating consequences if appropriate coping skills are not developed, according to Susan Sherer-Vincent, a licensed clinical social worker, certified alcoholism counselor and licensed marriage and family therapist involved in launching the Wellness Unit.

“Think of the hurricanes that come in, in Florida, and think of the palm trees where they bend,” she explained. “But then, what happens afterwards? They go back up. That’s called resilience. We want our officers to bend, not break.”

Until approximately 3 to 5 years ago, officers were often conditioned to “pull [themselves] up by the bootstraps and go to the next call” instead of addressing personal struggles, Sherer-Vincent said.

Cultivating resiliency can be difficult within a law enforcement culture that equates mental health challenges with “weakness,” she said.

“[Officers] are trained to have the warrior mentality,” Sherer-Vincent told News 8. “Truly, they would have been made fun of [in the past for seeking counseling].”

She compared strong, silent officers with underdeveloped coping skills to California’s famed redwood trees.

“They’re pretty sturdy. But what would happen if you took an ax and hit those every single day, day after day, for years? They would eventually fall,” she said.

Quakenbush credits his wife, church and non-law enforcement friends with providing “a really good support system.”

“But sometimes, you need a professional,” he said, urging employees to “talk through” negative emotions instead of turning to alcohol and other substances for temporary relief.

Several internal cases that resulted in disciplinary action during his year-long tenure as sheriff may have been prevented with wellness-focused intervention, Quakenbush said.

He was unable to comment on personnel matters. 

Sources within the department indicated some of the cases involved employees with substance abuse issues that had escalated over time, possibly as a result of work-related stress that had gone unaddressed. 

“I wouldn’t say that [disciplinary action] was happening often,” Quakenbush told News 8. “But seeing it happen and knowing that we probably could have done something about it made it impactful and something that we wanted to make a priority.”

Hamilton County announced its Wellness Unit days after New York City police officials revealed plans to hire a team of psychologists to combat a spike in officer suicides.

On Feb. 13, Indianapolis police officials said they planned to swear in the department’s first full-time therapy dog by the end of March.

  • FIND SUPPORT: Learn more about supporting law enforcement wellness on NAMI.org

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