Actions of man who killed 4 Indigenous women ‘purposeful and racially motivated,’ Crown argues as trial begins

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WARNING: This story contains distressing details.

Prosecutors say a confessed serial killer preyed on vulnerable Indigenous women at Winnipeg homeless shelters before killing four in 2022 and throwing their remains in the garbage.

They’re alleging Jeremy Skibicki “devised a calculated scheme where he carefully thought out what he would do to the victims and then did those things,” Crown attorney Renée Lagimodière told court on Wednesday morning, the first day of Skibicki’s weeks-long judge-alone murder trial in Manitoba’s Court of King’s Bench before Chief Justice Glenn Joyal.

“This case is about a man’s hate-filled and cruel acts perpetrated against four vulnerable Indigenous women.”

Skibicki is accused of four counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of three First Nations women — Rebecca Contois, 24, Morgan Harris, 39, and Marcedes Myran, 26 — as well as the death of an as-yet unidentified women who has been given the name Mashkode Bizhiki’ikwe, or Buffalo Woman, by community leaders. Police have said they believe she was in her 20s and was Indigenous.

All four women were killed in Winnipeg between mid-March and mid-May of 2022, police have previously said. Contois was a member of O-Chi-Chak-Ko-Sipi First Nation, also known as Crane River. Harris and Myran were both members of Long Plain First Nation.

Defence lawyers say Skibicki admits to the killings, but should be found not criminally responsible because of a mental disorder.

The faces of three First Nations women are pictured side by side.
Skibicki has admitted to killing, from left, Morgan Beatrice Harris, Marcedes Myran and Rebecca Contois, as well as a fourth woman whom community members have named Mashkode Bizhiki’ikwe (Buffalo Woman), because police do not know her identity. (Submitted by Cambria Harris, Donna Bartlett and Darryl Contois)

Lagimodière said the Crown is arguing Skibicki found the women at homeless shelters and invited them back to his apartment, where he assaulted and choked, smothered or drowned them in a bathtub before he “engaged in vile sexual acts with their bodies” and “disposed of the women as though they were garbage.”

Some people in the gallery wiped tears from their eyes as the prosecutor laid out the Crown’s arguments — including that Skibicki also dismembered some of the women’s bodies before throwing out their remains.

“The Crown expects that the evidence will show that Jeremy Skibicki, acting out of hatred, carefully calculated and considered how to kill the victims, and then did just what he set out to do,” she said, as Myran’s grandmother sat in the gallery with her face in her hands.

“His actions were intentional, purposeful and racially motivated.”

‘I killed 4 people’: police interview video

Skibicki was initially arrested in May 2022 in connection with the death of Contois — the last of the four women killed. Later that year, police charged him in connection with the deaths of the other three women as well.

Victims’ family members and their supporters packed the large marble courtroom in Winnipeg’s downtown courthouse for the first day of the trial, which largely focused on video of Skibicki’s confession to police following his May 2022 arrest.

Some relatives of the victims, including Contois’s family, got up and left the room during that portion.

During the police interview, Skibicki was questioned for hours before asking to “confess [his] sins” to an Orthodox priest and suddenly telling police he killed four people, providing graphic details about the women’s deaths.

“At this point, I want to express that you’ve done a very good job,” Skibicki is heard telling police in the video, where he appeared clean shaven — in contrast to the long grey goatee he had in court Wednesday. 

“You guys are obviously not stupid. I really just wanted to see how far, you know, I could take things, because the criminal justice system is a joke,” he said in the video.

“The world that we’re living in is sick. I was driven to do stuff like this because I was so spent emotionally. I killed four people.”

A group of people walk together,  many wearing ribbon skirts.
The families and supporters of some of the women Skibicki has admitted to killing entered the downtown Winnipeg courthouse together on Wednesday morning. (John Woods/The Canadian Press)

He said at times he felt like “a lion … with prey in its mouth” and that until he killed Contois, he thought he was going to get away with the other killings — “but then I guess I got sloppy,” Skibicki told police in the video.

“I wasn’t really concerned about getting caught. In general, it was like, I felt like eventually I would be. But I’m not sure when,” he said. 

When asked if he thought he would have stopped, Skibicki sighed and said no. 

“I wanted to,” he said, “but I don’t think I could have.”

He told police he was coming off doing mushrooms at the time of one of the killings, and was on methamphetamine for the other three. Skibicki also said he kept items from some of the women after he killed them — including a watch belonging to Contois he was wearing when he was arrested in her death.

Skibicki also at times made racist and antisemitic comments during his police interview, including saying he believes the Holocaust was made up and that “extremely desperate measures need to be taken for the survival of my people.”

Women’s DNA found

Court heard through an agreed statement of facts that the DNA of the three identified women was found on various items in and outside Skibicki’s apartment, including on a bloodstained pillow, a cigarette butt, a combat knife and a bra.

Court also heard audio of a 911 call made in May 2022 by a man who, while looking through dumpsters for copper and clothing to salvage, found what at that point were Contois’s recently disposed partial remains inside a bag in a garbage bin near Skibicki’s apartment.

The man told the 911 operator he had removed the bag because he was worried a garbage truck would soon come to empty the bin, court heard.

Police arrived and found the bag and remains the man had called about, but more of Contois’s remains weren’t found until the following month, after a search at the city-run Brady Road landfill.

Police believe the remains of Harris and Myran are at the Prairie Green landfill, a privately owned facility just north of Winnipeg, but the location of Mashkode Bizhiki’ikwe’s remains is unknown.

WATCH | Difficult details emerge at Jeremy Skibicki’s murder trial: 

Interrogation video reveals Winnipeg serial killer’s confession in court

A Winnipeg court heard Jeremy Skibicki’s surprise confession to killing four women during a police interrogation. The serial killer has pleaded not guilty and his lawyers argue he’s not criminally responsible due to a mental disorder.

Earlier this year, the federal and provincial governments each committed $20 million toward searching Prairie Green for Harris’s and Myran’s remains.

The search will not start until after Skibicki’s trial, which is expected to continue until June 6.

Police Det. Greg Allan, one of the officers who did Skibicki’s police interview, was also briefly questioned on Wednesday about his involvement in the case.

Allan testified Skibicki was “quite calm” and “very composed” during his arrest, and never raised any concerns that he had any kind of mental illness.

A man with a shaved head and grey beard is depicted in a courtroom sketch.
Skibicki was silent in the accused box in court on Monday, as prosecutors said they’d agreed to allow his trial to be heard by a judge alone instead of a jury. (James Culleton)

The accused never said anything about being driven to kill the women because he was hearing voices or being controlled by an outside source, Allan testified.

Under cross-examination, Allan said Skibicki did tell police during his interview that he suffered from borderline personality disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder, and said he never asked Skibicki if he’d been hearing voices, since that wasn’t a concern for him based on their conversation, he said.

Upcoming evidence in the trial is expected to include testimony about letters that prosecutor Lagimodière said Skibicki wrote and sent to another inmate in prison, the contents of which will be relevant in assessing his mental capacity, she said.

The trial continues Thursday, when court will hear from forensic identification police who will describe what they found in 2022 inside Skibicki’s apartment and in nearby back lanes.

Support is available for anyone affected by these reports and the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous people. Immediate emotional assistance and crisis support are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week through a national hotline at 1-844-413-6649. You can also access, through the government of Canada, health support services such as mental health counselling, community-based support and cultural services, and some travel costs to see elders and traditional healers. Family members seeking information about a missing or murdered loved one can access Family Information Liaison Units.


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