Surprise plea: Jeremy Skibicki admits to killing 4 Indigenous women

Defence will now argue a mental disorder played role in the murders

Winnipeg murders

(L to R) Rebecca Contois, Morgan Harris, Marcedes Myran and an image representing 'Buffalo Woman'. Photo illustration: APTN News

Warning: This story contains disturbing details. Please read with care.

In a surprise move, the man accused of killing four Indigenous women in Winnipeg and disposing of their bodies two years ago now admits he committed the crimes.

Crown attorney Christian Vanderhooft announced the major development in the Manitoba Court of King’s Bench trial of Jeremy Anthony Michael Skibicki Monday.

“At this point, the accused is now admitting that he killed all four women,” Vanderhooft told Chief Judge Glenn Joyal.

There was no reaction in the courtroom from family members of homicide victims Rebecca Stacey Contois, 24, Marcedes Myran, 26, Morgan Beatrice Harris, 39, and an unidentified victim in her 20s gifted the Ojibwe spirit name Mashkode Bizhiki’ikwe or Buffalo Woman.

Skibicki, who was arrested by city police on May 17, 2o22, had originally pleaded not guilty to four counts of first-degree murder.

His lawyer Leonard Tailleur confirmed Skibicki was now admitting to committing the crimes “unlawfully.” He asked the court to find his client not criminally responsible due to a mental disorder – a plea known as NCR.

The outside of the Law Courts building in downtown Winnipeg. Photo: APTN file

Outside court, Harris’s cousin Melissa Robinson was beaming.

“Really good news, right?” she told reporters. “We’re super ecstatic. [It’s] exactly what we wanted.”

The long-awaited trial is scheduled to run until June 6.

Joyal was scheduled to hear a similar fact motion in a closed hearing Monday and Tuesday before the jury began hearing evidence on Wednesday.

But after Skibicki’s plea, Vanderhooft agreed to drop the jury.

Jeremy Skibicki surprised a courtroom Monday by admitting he murdered four Indigenous women in Winnipeg in 2022. Photo: APTN file

Prosecutors have said Skibicki sexually assaulted and killed the women, had sex with their bodies – pathologically known as necrophilia – and dumped their remains in the garbage near his home.

The partial remains of Contois, an Oji-Cree woman from Crane River First Nation in northern Manitoba, were discovered in a garbage bin near Skibicki’s apartment in the city’s North Kildonan neighbourhood on May 16, 2022, court has heard.

More of her remains were located in Winnipeg’s Brady Road landfill after a two-week police search.

Police believe the remains of Myran, Harris and Buffalo Woman are in the Prairie Green landfill outside Winnipeg – a privately owned facility that collects some city waste. But they refused to mount a search citing safety and other concerns.

Police said Harris was murdered on or about May 1, 2022, while Myran was murdered on or about May 4, 2022. Both women were from the Ojibwe-Dakota community of Long Plain First Nation, about an hour west of Winnipeg.

Police said Buffalo Woman, whom police have said was Indigenous, was killed on or about March 15, 2022.

The Crown has said the victims were relying on homeless shelters in Winnipeg when they encountered Skibicki.

Morgan Harris’s cousin Melissa Robinson addresses a rally at the Manitoba Legislature. Photo: APTN file

“It’s been all about justice for my cousin and we’re going to get it,” Robinson told reporters. “We’re going to get it, and we’re going to get [it for] all four.

“Honestly, I really don’t have any words. [His admission] was kind of a shock. But we’re so happy; our whole family is so happy.”

Some members of Harris’s family have been wearing traditional First Nations ribbon skirts and ribbons shirts to court and carrying eagle feathers and eagle fans, which represent truth.

The Crown’s move to toss the jury comes after successfully defeating two defence motions for a judge-alone trial.

Vanderhooft told court he received a phone call from Tailleur the night before giving notice of the surprise admission.

“We are no longer concerned with proving the accused has committed these offences, but rather whether he is criminally responsible,” said Crown attorney said.

He noted the arguments around NCR were complex.

Investigators say Buffalo Woman wore a jacket with an inside lining like this. Photo: Winnipeg Police Service

The Crown must now prove Skibicki had the intent and mental capacity to commit the crimes in order to convict him of four counts of murder.

Both sides have announced they plan to call psychiatric experts in the trial.

Robinson said her family wasn’t worried.

“The doctor they’ve got to claim that he’s [not criminally responsible] is from the [United Kingdom], so that goes to show, why couldn’t you get a doctor here in Canada or in the [United] States to state that?” she told reporters. “You had to go that far away to find someone to say you’re not guilty?”

She also said it’s no problem not having a jury.

“We’re OK with it,” she said. “Convincing 12 [people] versus our judge? Either way, we were pretty confident. We sat down many times with the Crown; they explained everything to us ahead of time, so either way we were confident.

“As you sit in the courtroom you see [the judge is] having no patience with the defence, whatsoever,” she added. “This man has [admitted he] killed four of our women, and he will be held responsible.”

A verdict of NCR means a mental disorder made it impossible for the accused to understand the nature and quality of what he did, and whether it was morally wrong.

Tailleur suggested his client’s plea would expedite the trial.

“It’s a matter to ensure that justice is done one way or the other, right?” he told reporters afterwards. “That’s what we are concerned with.”

Meanwhile, Joyal said he’d like to thank the jurors in person Wednesday before discharging them.

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.

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