Earrings, clothing belonging to victims found in serial killer's home, police officer testifies

Jeremy Skibicki was charged in December 2022 with first-degree murder in the deaths of Morgan Harris, Marcedes Myran and the woman who was later given the name Mashkode Bizhiki'ikwe, or Buffalo Woman. He was already in custody, having been charged with first-degree murder in the death of Rebecca Contois months earlier. (Jeremy Skibicki/Facebook - image credit)

WARNING: This story contains distressing details.

Items belonging to four slain women, including earrings and clothing, were found by Winnipeg police in the home of the man accused of first-degree murder in their deaths, his trial heard on Thursday.

Const. Jan de Vries, a 21-year veteran who was working in the Winnipeg Police Service's forensic identification unit at the time of the killings, testified Thursday at the trial of Jeremy Skibicki, 37.

Defence lawyers have said Skibicki admits to the 2022 killings of three First Nations women — Rebecca Contois, 24, Morgan Harris, 39, and Marcedes Myran, 26.

He's also admitted to killing the as-yet unidentified woman 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.

However, Skibicki's lawyers are arguing he should be found not criminally responsible for any of the killings because of a mental disorder.

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)

De Vries testified Thursday he was one of the officers called to the scene behind Edison Avenue in northeast Winnipeg in May 2022, after partial human remains were found in the back lane of a North Kildonan dumpster.

The remains were later identified as those of Rebecca Contois. Police also found partial human remains of Contois in the Brady Road landfill, in south Winnipeg, in 2022

De Vries, who said he was involved in collecting evidence from multiple crime scenes, outlined DNA and physical evidence found inside Skibicki's North Kildonan apartment suite.

That included items such as earrings and clothing that belonged to Contois, Harris and Myran, along with blood stains officers were able to match to the women.

DNA found on knife

He said bloodstains were also found in various spots in Skibicki's apartment, including in his bathroom — which investigators sprayed with a substance that makes blood stains light up even if they aren't visible to the naked eye.

"The bathtub was very fluorescent. So were the floor, the walls, the door — on the exterior side of the door, which implies that it was open when blood struck it," de Vries said.

He said police also found "biological material" on the hilt of a combat knife with a 7.5-inch (19-centimetre) blade that was found during their search. When tested, it came back positive for Myran's DNA.

Her grandmother sat in the courtroom with her hands clasped in front of her face during that testimony, and at times shook her head and looked up toward the ceiling.

Harris's name was also found printed on a Ziploc hospital bag in the apartment. Police also found a jacket which they have said belonged to Mashkode Bizhiki'ikwe. A DNA sample was taken from the left cuff of that jacket, but no match was ever found, court heard.

Several items that were tested for DNA came back as belonging to women other than the four who were killed, court heard. Some of those women have been identified, but the identities of some are still unknown.

Victims 'deserving of respect': premier

Police have previously said all four women Skibicki is accused of murdering were killed between mid-March and mid-May of 2022, and were living in Winnipeg at the time.

Contois was a member of O-Chi-Chak-Ko-Sipi First Nation, also known as Crane River, located on the western shore of Lake Manitoba. Harris and Myran were both members of Long Plain First Nation in south central Manitoba.

It's believed the remains of Harris and Myran are at Prairie Green landfill, a privately owned landfill north of Winnipeg.

Police have not said where they think the remains of Mashkode Bizhiki'ikwe are.

During a Thursday morning interview with CBC Manitoba, Premier Wab Kinew offered sympathies to the families of the four women, saying the province is working to support them throughout the trial.

"I think that we need to remember that each of these four women have and continue to inhabit a space of dignity. They are deserving of respect, they are deserving of value and we should always remember that," he said during his monthly interview with Information Radio.

"I do think it calls on us to act and it is a very, very strong and stark reminder that we need to do a lot more to help people in vulnerable positions."

Skibicki's judge-alone murder trial in Manitoba's Court of King's Bench before Chief Justice Glenn Joyal began hearing evidence on Wednesday. It is expected to continue until June 6.

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.