Family, friends and colleagues are remembering UBC botany lecturer Leonard “Len” Dyck as an enthusiastic scholar and a loving father.
Late Wednesday, the RCMP charged Kam McLeod, 19, and Bryer Schmegelsky, 18, with the second-degree murder of Dyck. His body was discovered near McLeod and Schmegelsky’s burned out truck near Dease Lake, B.C.
The accused are also suspects in the double homicide of Australian Lucas Fowler and his American girlfriend Chynna Deese in northern B.C., and have been the subject of a nationwide manhunt since earlier this week. The pair were last spotted in Gillam, Manitoba, about 1,000 km north of Winnipeg.
In a statement to the RCMP, Dyck’s family said his death has created “unthinkable grief.”
“We are truly heartbroken by the sudden and tragic loss of Len. He was a loving husband and father,” Dyck’s family wrote. “His death has created unthinkable grief and we are struggling to understand what has happened.”
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WATCH: Father of B.C. murder suspect says his son is in ‘serious pain’. Story continues below.
Dyck was known as an expert in B.C. seaweed research.
His entire academic career was at UBC, completing a bachelor of science degree in marine biology in 1978, then a master of science in botany in 1991 and finally a PhD in botany in 2004. All of his studies were at UBC and he began working for the university as a sessional lecturer in 2003.
“The UBC community is shocked and saddened by this news and we offer our deepest condolences to his family, friends and colleagues at the university,” UBC said in a statement following news of Dyck’s passing.
In a written statement, Dyck’s colleague at UBC Patrick Martone called him a “knowledgeable, trusted teacher and scholar who loved sharing his enthusiasm and curiosity and showing them how to uncover hidden gems in the natural world.”
“Mostly, I will miss Len’s laugh, which often followed some wry comment. It makes me tear up thinking that I won’t get to hear it again,” Martone wrote. “He held his cards close to his chest, but as soon as you realized how much passion he had for his work, he was so much fun and a joy to be around. It was obvious that he was doing what he loved. He was a really special man.”
Dyck’s past students have taken to the UBC subreddit to share their memories.
“He was a great person and this is so tragic. He was my lab coordinator just last term, and was so passionate and friendly. Can’t really wrap my head around this. So unfair,” one user wrote.
Another recalled how Dyck would bring ice cream to class, while many said they still couldn’t believe the news.
“He was so helpful at explaining things and such a friendly and approachable guy,” one user wrote.
RCMP have doubled down on their search efforts for McLeod and Schmegelsky in northern Manitoba. The pair are believed still to be in the Gillam area, and police are monitoring the one road in and out of the community, as well as the rail line.
“This is very challenging terrain, this is a large area, there’s a lot of dense bush, swampy areas,” Cpl. Julie Courchaine, media relations officer for the RCMP, told reporters at a news conference Friday. “The police officers that are up there are trained for these types of situations.”
The Globe and Mail previously reported that Schmegelsky and McLeod had links to far-right ideology online, including on YouTube, Twitch and Steam, a video-game distribution platform.