The murder of a North Carolina woman and her Australian boyfriend could be connected to the disappearance of two Canadian teens, whose burning vehicle was found abandoned just about a mile away from another dead body.
“We recognize the possibility that these could be linked,” Royal Canadian Mounted Police spokesperson Janelle Shoihet said at a press conference, according to The New York Post.
According to Shoihet, although the two incidents took place almost 300 miles apart from one another it is “unusual” to have two major investigations “of this nature” taking place around the same time in northern British Columbia and investigators are considering whether there may be a connection between two.
The bodies of Chynna Deese, 24, and Lucas Fowler, 23, were discovered along Highway 97 just outside of Liard Hot Springs on July 15. The couple had been shot to death in an apparent double homicide; their blue 1986 Chevrolet van was left at the scene.
The couple had been taking a two-week-long road trip across Canada and were seen by a witness the night before their bodies were discovered in a heated exchange with a bearded man who “looked frustrated” as they stood beside their van along the highway, according to Australian station 9News. Other witnesses have reported the couple’s van may have broken down before they were killed.
Authorities released a composite sketch of the man who was seen speaking with Fowler Monday. He is described as a Caucasian male with a possible beard and/or glasses, with darker skin and darker hair. Investigators believe the man is shorter than Fowler, who stood at 6’3.”
“The man may be associated to an older model Jeep Cherokee with a black stripe on the hood and a black light/bull bar with small, covered lights,” a statement from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said.
Investigators have not described the man as a suspect but have said they are hoping to speak with him.
Police believe the couple was killed sometime between 4 p.m. on July 14 and 7 a.m. the next morning, the BBC reports.
Royal Canadian Mounted Police also released surveillance footage of the couple as they stopped to get gas in Fort Nelson on July 13. The footage shows the couple arriving in the van at the gas station just after 7:30 p.m. Fowler, a native of Australia, can be seen standing near the gas pump while Deese cleaned off the van’s windows before they lovingly embraced one another.
Fowler’s father, Stephen Fowler, described the pair as a “love story that ended tragically,” according to the BBC. The two met in a hostel in Croatia in 2017 and had been traveling throughout the world before they were killed.
“Our son Lucas was having the time of his life traveling the world,” Stephen Fowler, a member of the New South Wales Police Force said. “He met a beautiful young lady and they teamed up, they were a great pair and they fell in love.”
Nearly 300 miles away from where the slain couple was found, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police stumbled across another unusual scene just four days later.
Police were called to a vehicle fire along Highway 37 Friday near Dease Lake, but the drivers of the burnt-out camper van, 19-year-old Kam McLeod and 18-year-old Bryer Schmegelsky, have not been found. The pair had reportedly been looking for work in the Yukon Territory before they disappeared.
A dead body was discovered just over a mile away from the fire—although investigators have confirmed the body does not belong to either McLeod or Schmegelsky.
It appears to be the body of a man in his 50s or 60s and is described as being a Caucasian male with a heavy build, grey hair and a grey bushy beard. Investigators released a sketch of the man on Monday as they try to confirm his identity and determine whether he may be connected to the missing teens.
“It is unclear at this time how this deceased male might be connected with [the] vehicle fire or the two missing men,” police said in a statement.
Investigators have not released the man’s cause of death.
As the investigations continue, police have asked the public to remain vigilant.
“With respect to the public safety, we share the concerns being raised given the tragic and unusual nature of the two investigations we have underway,” they said. “We would like to stress the important of heightened vigilance and awareness for anyone traveling in the area.”
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