Family of an American woman killed in B.C. is denouncing comments from the father of one of two men suspected in connection with her death and two others.
Alan Schmegelsky, father of Bryer Schmegelsky, wrote a book and granted an interview to Australia's 60 Minutes to speak about his son, who is one of two suspects in the death of Chynna Deese and her boyfriend on a B.C. highway, as well as another man.
The elder Schmegelsky told Australian journalist Sarah Abo he's grieving and in disbelief about the accusations against his son.
"It hurts a lot. He was my only child. I never get to hug him again. I never get to tease him again. I never get to spend a minute with him again," he said. "A lot of parents know how I feel right now."
But Deese's sister, Kennedy Deese, wrote in a statement on Facebook Saturday that "The proper public response would have been a genuine apology."
Deese described her sister as loving and compassionate in life and said she and her family forgive the suspects and their families. "But we still forgive you and have mercy," she wrote.
Bryer Schmegelsky and friend Kam McLeod, 19, from Port Alberni, B.C., were the subjects of an intensive, three-week police search that ended on Aug. 7 after police recovered two bodies, believed to be Schmegelsky and McLeod, on the Nelson River in northern Manitoba.
The pair is charged with second-degree murder in the death of botanist Leonard Dyck. The 64-year-old was found dead July 19 in northern B.C. They are also suspected in the deaths of Chynna Deese, 24, and her boyfriend, Australian Lucas Fowler, 23.
Alan Schmegelsky said in the 60 Minutes interview there's no clarity about the circumstances that led to the deaths, and what his son's involvement may have been.
"I'm so sorry for what's happened, OK? Whether it's my son or whether it's something else, we don't know," he said. "I have just lost my son. I know exactly how you feel … I know they're hurt, and from our country to the families, I'm so sorry."
Schmegelsky distributed copies to media of a self-published book, Red Flagged, that described challenges in his son's upbringing and mental health.
'She was building a beautiful life'
In her Facebook post, Kennedy Deese rejected some of his words, writing, "We are not cut from the same cloth, as you play the victim and don't acknowledge your hand in your child's upbringing and ultimate demise."
Deese described her sister as a compassionate woman full of love and emotional intelligence. Chynna Deese had earned a degree in psychology, "because she loved to support people and wanted them to know they are not alone," she wrote.
Her family hopes to memorialize Chynna Deese's legacy in a public school program to educate students on proper online interaction, she wrote, whether it's over social media or through video games.
"There was a one-in-a-million chance that such tragedy would befall upon my family, but Chynna was a once-in-a-lifetime soul," she wrote.
"She was building a beautiful life with a future full of love and hope and adventure. She wanted children of her own. And she would have raised them to have eyes that were open to all the wonderful things this world has to offer."