PORT ALBERNI — The blue sky and lush greenery surrounding the chalet-style home across the street from beautiful Sproat Lake belied the pain, confusion and fear that must have been felt by the people inside.
It’s the home of 19-year-old Kam McLeod, who with his friend, 18-year-old Bryer Schmegelsky, is the subject of a manhunt that has now moved to remote northeastern Manitoba, almost 3,000 kilometres from where the bodies of two tourists were found on July 15 that sparked a Canada-wide search.
Set in an idyllic, rural and recreational setting, Sproat Lake is a 20-minute drive from central Port Alberni.
Inside the home were McLeod’s parents and, judging by the number of vehicles parked outside the home, supportive family and friends. Phone calls to Keith McLeod, Kam’s dad, went unanswered and private-property signs warned unwanted visitors to stay away.
Keith McLeod had earlier issued a statement saying the family felt trapped in their home, worried about their son, trying to wrap their heads around the head-spinning developments of the past three days, and praying Kam would come home safely.
Even the FBI had visited, according to a friend of the McLeods, who asked not to be identified — 24-year-old Chynna Deese of North Carolina and her boyfriend, 23-year-old Lucas Fowler of Australia, were the first two victims of murder the RCMP have said two Port Alberni teens are wanted for.
A third victim was identified by police on Wednesday as Leonard Dyck of Vancouver. Police have formally charged the Port Alberni duo with his second-degree murder.
Phone calls to the home of Caroline Starkey, maternal grandmother to Schmegelsky and with whom the teen had been living for the past two years, went unanswered.
Three passing vehicles slowed down to look menacingly at a Postmedia reporter and photographer. “Leave them alone!” one elderly man who had stopped his pickup truck yelled.
“Everybody I’ve talked to is in shock,” said Susie Quinn, editor of the Alberni Valley News. “This went from being two kids who were missing, to overnight being suspects in three deaths, that’s the sense I get.”
A street poll of residents showed a community unsure of what to say or how to feel until the ordeal plays itself out.
“It could happen anywhere,” a cashier who said McLeod’s parents are regular customers said.
“They seem like nice people,” added her colleague. “I don’t know anything about their son.”
Employees at the high school the two attended (Alberni District Secondary), at School District 70 headquarters, and at Walmart (where the two boys briefly worked) had all been instructed to say nothing.
One waitress downtown said she had known Kam McLeod, but hadn’t seen him in at least two years.
“I remember him as a nice kid,” she said. “I’m shocked.”
Added a customer inside a fast-food-joint: “What can you do? I’m just glad they didn’t do it here.”