Jeremy Skibicki acted out of hatred when he killed 4 Indigenous women, Crown argues as trial begins

The trial for Jeremy Skibicki, who is charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of four women, began on Wednesday.  (Jeremy Skibicki/Facebook - image credit)
The trial for Jeremy Skibicki, who is charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of four women, began on Wednesday. (Jeremy Skibicki/Facebook - image credit)

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 Renee Lagimodiere told court on Wednesday morning, the first day of Skibicki's weeks-long murder trial at Manitoba Court of King's Bench.

"This case is about a man's hate-filled and cruel acts perpetrated against four vulnerable Indigenous women," she said.

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 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.

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.

Left to right: Morgan Beatrice Harris, Marcedes Myran and Rebecca Contois. Winnipeg police said on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022, they have charged Jeremy Skibicki with first-degree murder in the deaths of all three women, as well as a fourth, whom community members have named  Mashkode Bizhiki'ikwe, or Buffalo Woman, because police do not know her identity.

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)

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

Lagimodiere 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."

"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. His actions were intentional, purposeful and racially motivated," she said, as the grandmother of one of the victims sat in the courtroom with her face in her hands.

DNA evidence

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 by a man who, while looking through dumpsters for copper and clothing to salvage, found what at that point were the recently disposed partial remains of Rebecca Contois inside a bag in a garbage bin near Skibicki's apartment.

He removed the bag because he was worried a garbage truck would soon come to empty the bin, court heard.

The partial remains of Contois were found in a garbage bin in May 2022, police have previously said. More of her remains were found after a search at the city-run Brady Road landfill in June 2022.

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

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

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.

'I killed 4 people': police interview video

The large marble courtroom in Winnipeg's downtown courthouse was packed Wednesday with some of the victims' family members and their supporters, some of whom got up and left as the prosecutor laid out details of what evidence is expected to be called during trial and exactly what they're arguing Skibicki did to the women.

Upcoming evidence will include letters Lagimodiere said Skibicki wrote and sent to another inmate in prison, the contents of which will be relevant in assessing his mental capacity, she said.

Court also heard the beginning of a shortened version of Skibicki's videotaped police interview, following his arrest in Contois's death, where he suddenly admitted to killing four people while being questioned about Contois.

Police Det. Greg Allan, one of the officers in the video with Skibicki, was briefly questioned by prosecutors in court before the video began playing.

The accused is heard asking to speak to an Orthodox priest to "confess [his] sins" before offering the information that he'd killed Contois and three other people.

"At this point, I want to express that you've done a very good job," Skibicki is heard telling police in the video. "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."

Contois's mother and family left the courtroom as that video played, while Myran's grandmother sat crying, holding her head in her hands and at times closing her eyes as she listened.

The hours-long video is expected to continue being played Wednesday afternoon.

Court of King's Bench Chief Justice Glenn Joyal is presiding over the judge-only trial.

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.