Jury reverses coroner's decision on manner of Machiskinic's death

Jury reverses coroner's decision on manner of Machiskinic's death

The jury for the coroner's inquest into the death of a woman who fell down a Regina hotel laundry chute has concluded her manner of death is "undetermined."

That's contrary to the finding of a chief coroner, who concluded it was an accident.

"This raises more questions about my niece and how she died," said Delores Stevenson, who is calling police to re-open the investigation. 

Nadine Machiskinic, a 29-year-old mother of four, fell 10 storeys down a laundry chute at the Delta Hotel in early January 2015. But questions remain over how she got into the laundry chute.

Noah Evanchuk, the lawyer representing Stevenson, raised doubts that she could have got into the chute by herself.

Earlier this week, the forensic investigator who conducted the initial autopsy on Machiskinic, Dr. Shaun Ladham, said her injuries indicated that she went down the chute either feet first or head first while on her back.

It was the jury's job to establish the medical cause of death and the manner of death, which had been viewed as "accidental" before the inquest. 

"They obviously saw the same red flags that both myself, Ms. Stevenson and the family and anyone else who was watching," said Evanchuk. "This was a botched investigation from the very beginning."

Machiskinic was found at the bottom of the laundry chute the morning of Jan. 10. It took 60 hours before police were notified and arrived at the hotel. By then the scene where she had been found had been cleaned by hotel staff.

Later in the investigation, after an autopsy, samples were provided to police, who were meant to deliver them to a lab for toxicology testing. Due to a communication error between Const. Keith Malcolm and a colleague, the samples sat in storage for six months. 

To this day, men who were seen on camera at the front desk of the Delta Hotel the morning Machiskinic went down the chute have not been spoken to or found. Both men had been seen getting into an elevator with her minutes before she went down the chute.

During the investigation, the Delta Hotel gave police an incomplete list of guests for that night.

The Regina police have since admitted that an entire year passed before they started looking for the two men.

'Living a high-risk lifestyle'

In 2016, the coroner's office ruled that Machiskinic's death was an accident. This is despite a document from Ladham who found that Machiskinic had likely been too intoxicated to get into the chute on her own, given the cocktail of drugs found in her system. 

During the inquest, Ladham said no longer believes that Machiskinic was too intoxicated to get into the chute on her own. He now believes it's possible that despite her severe intoxication she could have done so on her own.

"I think we would have had answers to this case if Ms. Machiskinic had not been treated as a high-risk, poor Indigenous sex trade worker, and rather as any other human being who suffered a strange death," said Evanchuk.

For Machiskinic's aunt, the conclusion of the inquest offered little closure.

"This whole inquest was to find out the circumstances around her death and to get truth," said Stevenson. "I think we've uncovered a lot of truth in this whole week with regard to how the investigation was handled."

Even with Machiskinic's death now being ruled as undetermined, Stevenson recognizes the inquest only returns things to Square 1. She still hopes that the case will be reopened.

"A young Aboriginal woman found at the Delta Hotel — everybody's assumption is that she's drunk or she's passed out or she's overdosing on drugs. There's never the assumption that she could be critically injured," said Stevenson.

The jury also offered one recommendation: that all hotels should ensure service chutes are locked and inaccessible to the public.

Three days of testimony at the inquest into Machiskinic's death wrapped up on Wednesday afternoon.

"I think it raises more questions if anything," said Stevenson. "I'm not going to stop until those questions and concerns are raised and addressed."