They were just two small-town teens from rural Vancouver Island who bonded over video games and anime. But then something went sideways, and their interests morphed into shared fantasies featuring Nazis, guns, and animated pornography.
This week, they became the objects of a national manhunt in Canada, accused of murdering a couple of young tourists and a man who lectured on botany at the University of Victoria in rural British Columbia—and yet another vivid reminder of the toxic and lethal results of the recruitment of “red-pilled” young white men into white nationalist ideology.
Bryer Schmegelsky, 18, and Kam McLeod, 19, were charged this week by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in the murders of two tourists—Chynna Deese, 24, of Charlotte, North Carolina, and her boyfriend, Lucas Fowler, 23, of Sydney, Australia—and a 64-year-old man from Victoria named Leonard Dyck, whose body was found near the two teenagers’ burned-out truck.
Deese and Fowler had been traveling up the remote Alaskan Highway route through western British Columbia. Their bodies were discovered in a ditch not far from their broken-down Chevy van on July 14. Dyck’s body was found on July 19 in the vicinity of British Columbia’s Dease Lake, about a six-hour drive from where the first two bodies were found.
The two teens were later seen two days’ drive away from those locations, near Gillam, a remote town in northeastern Manitoba, in an area known mostly for being frozen tundra in the wintertime, which becomes nearly uninhabitable in midsummers due to the presence of huge numbers of biting midges, or sandflies, which bite mammals endlessly and are not even vaguely deterred by insect repellent.
Schmegelsky and McLeod both grew up in Port Alberni, a small town at the end of Alberni Inlet on Vancouver Island’s western coast. According to friends and family, the boys—who met in elementary school and were close friends for years—appeared to be normal and healthy, although Schmegelsky’s father says his son was deeply troubled.
Their path to radicalization is a familiar one that has been seen many times in recent years, with similarly violent and tragic outcomes: Obsessed with video games, they reportedly began encountering hateful far-right ideologies on video game chat platforms such as Twitch and Steam. They created their own Facebook page, titled “Illusive Gameing,” which began featuring posts extolling a bizarre mix of far-right politics, Russian Communist iconography, a survivalist video game, and hentai, a pornographic version of anime.
Schmegelsky began developing a fetish for Nazi paraphernalia, including swastikas and battle knives, and displaying photographs of them. His father claims he was “not a neo-Nazi,” but his YouTube and Steam posts indicating an affinity for far-right politics, including Russian authoritarianism under Vladimir Putin, suggest otherwise, as does his frequent praise for Adolf Hitler. He also posed with an Airsoft replica gun, and posted photos of swastika flags and Nazi paraphernalia.
The two took their interest in survivalism offline and into the real world, too: Schmegelsky’s father told reporters that they had trained in the woods and had camouflaged themselves while “playing war.”
That training may not work so well in northeastern Manitoba, however. “If they are wandering around in the bush, they couldn’t have picked a worse time because the sandflies came out three days ago and they’re just voracious,” Gillam Deputy Mayor John McDonald told the Toronto Sun.
Published with permission of Daily Kos