Though they were used to talking daily, Chynna Deese had told her brother British that there might be days when she and her boyfriend, Lucas Fowler, didn’t have phone service and wouldn’t be able to communicate as often during their road trip through Canada.
The couple had seemingly been everywhere — North and South America, Europe. This trip was one of many they had taken together.
But Deese and Fowler were traveling through a remote area of northern British Columbia when the unthinkable happened.
British Deese was at his girlfriend’s house when he received the news. His mom called.
The two had been discovered along Highway 97 in an area home to prairie lands and snow forests and popular among outdoor enthusiasts.
“We’re not ever going to see her again,” British Deese told The Washington Post. “This is a brutal murder."
The American woman and her Australian boyfriend, who met overseas, planned to tour Canada’s national parks together. Now police are looking for clues to the couple’s slaying while their families are grieving.
The bodies of Deese, 24, of Charlotte, and Fowler, 23, were found by police July 15 about 12 miles south of Liard Hot Springs, according to Sgt. Janelle Shoihet of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Also found was a blue 1986 Chevrolet van.
“They had mapped out their route,” Sheila Deese, Chynna’s mother, told WSOC-TV. “And, to my understanding, the van broke down, and that’s where the tragedy happened.”
On Monday, Shoihet said the couple had been fatally shot. Authorities also said they are trying to identify a person depicted in a sketch who they believe talked to Lucas the evening before the couple died. They added that he is not a suspect.
Authorities also released video of the couple at a gas station on the evening of July 13. Police still don’t know if they were targeted or if it was a crime of opportunity.
The RCMP said they are also investigating the disappearance of Bryer Schmegelsky, 19, and Kam McLeod, 18. The vehicle in which they were traveling was found on fire about 30 miles south of Dease Lake in British Columbia.
Police also discovered a deceased body, which was neither Schmegelsky nor McLeod, nearby and are asking for help in identifying him. Authorities said it is unclear how, or if, the body is connected with the fire or the missing men.
Authorities said it’s possible the missing teens, the deceased man and the Deese and Fowler killings could be linked.
“It’s unusual to have two major investigations undergoing of this nature in northern B.C. at the same time.” Shoihet said. “And so we recognize that there is a possibility.”
Stephen Fowler, Lucas Fowler’s father, appealed to the public to come forward if they have information.
“We are just distraught,” Stephen Fowler said after a police news conference. “This has really torn two families apart. Our son Lucas was having the time of his life traveling the world. He met a beautiful young lady. And they teamed up, they were a great pair, and they fell in love.”
Fowler had been working on a ranch in Canada, and the pair had planned on staying there before visiting national parks around the country, the Charlotte Observer reported.
Fowler’s family, accompanied by members of the New South Wales police force in Australia, will be traveling to Canada. “To lose someone so young and vibrant, who was traveling the world and enjoying life to the full, is devastating,” Fowler’s family said in a statement Friday.
Canadian authorities are asking anyone who was in the area between July 14 and July 15 to speak with police. They are looking for dashboard-camera footage, information on the blue van, or anyone who might have seen the couple.
British said he woke multiple times throughout Friday night, amid panic attacks, watching his heart rate spike on his Apple Watch. He said he and his family are still trying to process the shock and horror.
He said he thinks about his sister’s “infectious personality.”
“She just brought new things, new experiences, new people, new friends, and everything to everyone she met,” he said.