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Justice (25-42)

Judgment in unusual trial of admitted Winnipeg serial killer coming Thursday

July 11, 2024

Lawyers for Jeremy Skibicki argued he should be found not criminally responsible for killing 4 women in 2022

A side profile of a bald man.
A police photograph taken of Jeremy Skibicki in custody. He was arrested in 2022 and admitted to killing four women over a two-month period. (Manitoba Court of King’s Bench)

WARNING: This story contains distressing details.

CBC News: The fate of a Winnipeg man who has confessed to killing four women but denies criminal responsibility will be decided Thursday after an unusual trial for the admitted serial killer. 

Jeremy Skibicki’s lawyers argued he was driven by delusions linked to schizophrenia and hearing voices that made him believe he was on a mission from God, which prevented him from realizing his actions were morally wrong when he killed the women over a two-month period in 2022.

However, prosecutors said Skibicki knew what he was doing, arguing he preyed on vulnerable Indigenous women at Winnipeg homeless shelters before committing four deliberate and racially motivated murders.

Brandon Trask, an assistant professor who teaches mental health and criminal law at the University of Manitoba, said the case will likely “help essentially situate where the line is” for when mental health concerns constitute “such an extreme” that a person doesn’t know what they were doing or that it was wrong.

Skibicki has pleaded not guilty to four counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Rebecca Contois, 24, Morgan Harris, 39, Marcedes Myran, 26, and an unidentified woman community leaders have given the name Mashkode Bizhiki’ikwe, or Buffalo Woman. Police have said they believe she was Indigenous and in her 20s. 

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. All four women were killed in Winnipeg between mid-March and mid-May of 2022.

Winnipeg serial killer seen with victim at shelter before she died

WATCH | Winnipeg serial killer seen with victim at shelter before she died: 2 months ago, Duration 3:40

Surveillance video shown as evidence at Jeremy Skibicki’s first-degree murder trial shows him having a meal with Morgan Harris at a Winnipeg shelter before she died. Harris was one of the four women Skibicki later admitted to killing. His lawyers argue he should be found not criminally responsible due to mental disorder.

Click on the following link to view the video:

Manitoba Court of King’s Bench Chief Justice Glenn Joyal is scheduled to deliver his ruling at 10 a.m. after hearing weeks of evidence in the high-profile trial, which took place in May and early June.

That included surveillance footage, DNA evidence, computer history, testimony from Skibicki’s ex-wife, and messages and letters he sent after the killings.

It also included a videotaped police confession from 2022, where Skibicki surprised police officers when he suddenly admitted to killing all four women, performing sex acts on their bodies and disposing of their remains in garbage bins near his North Kildonan apartment.

Both Crown and defence lawyers enlisted psychiatric experts to assess Skibicki. An expert for the prosecution testified he believed the accused made up his delusions, and that Skibicki was actually motivated by racism and a homicidal necrophilia, or an arousal to having sex with people he’s killed.

What if he’s found not criminally responsible?

Under Canada’s Criminal Code, the rare verdict of not criminally responsible requires two criteria: that a person had a mental disorder at the time of an offence, and that it made them unable to appreciate what they were doing or that it was wrong.

If the judge finds that was proven in this case, Skibicki would then be diverted to the Criminal Code Review Board.

Most people in that situation end up detained in a secure psychiatric facility — and typically the more serious the crime, the higher the security level, said Anita Szigeti, a longtime mental health litigator in Toronto.

Those restrictions can be loosened over time if a person’s risk to the public is diminished through treatment, and a person can also be given an absolute discharge if the review board finds they no longer pose a significant risk to the public. 

But in cases where that happens, Szigeti said it generally takes years — and it’s far from a “get out of jail free” card.

What does it mean when someone is found not criminally responsible in a trial?

WATCH | What does it mean when someone is found not criminally responsible in a trial? 1 month ago, Duration 5:02

The defence team in the trial of Jeremy Skibicki are arguing in a Winnipeg courtroom this week that he should be found not criminally responsible. But what does that mean and what are the consequences for the accused? CBC reporter Caitlyn Gowriluk explains.

Click on the following link to view the video:

“This is a rigorous, secure system that puts a lot of obligations on the accused for a long time, and it’s a difficult road for them. The public should have confidence that the system, generally speaking, works as intended,” she said.

However, considering some of the details in Skibicki’s case — including that he admitted to killing the women over a long period of time — Szigeti said it would be “very atypical” for him to be found not criminally responsible. 

What if he’s convicted of murder?

If the judge finds Skibicki was criminally responsible for the killings and convicts him of first-degree murder, he’ll face an automatic life sentence with no chance of parole for 25 years.

That period is the same no matter how many counts of murder he’s convicted of, after a Supreme Court decision in 2022, said law professor Trask.

A courtroom sketch shows a bald man with a beard and glasses in the accused box, with a sheriff sitting in a chair on one side of him and his lawyers on the other side. In front of them, a judge listens from the bench.
A court sketch shows Jeremy Skibicki sitting silently in the accused box near his lawyers during a hearing on April 29. (James Culleton)

There are also other possibilities in this case, though they seem less likely, Trask said. They include Skibicki being found guilty of a lesser included offence, like second-degree murder, or being found not criminally responsible for some of the killings but not others.

But considering the evidence presented during the trial, Trask said it seems most likely Skibicki will either be found guilty of first-degree murder or not criminally responsible on all counts.

And because the trial was heard by a judge alone instead of a jury, everyone waiting for the decision will have the benefit of reading the reasons behind the judgment — instead of speculating about a jury’s reasoning, Trask said. 

“I think that will actually be very helpful in moving forward as a community, frankly,” he said.

Those written reasons could also be where Crown or defence lawyers look for a pathway to appeal the ruling, depending on how it turns out, Trask said.

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.


Caitlyn Gowriluk, Reporter

Caitlyn Gowriluk has been writing for CBC Manitoba since 2019. Her work has also appeared in the Winnipeg Free Press, and in 2021 she was part of an award-winning team recognized by the Radio Television Digital News Association for its breaking news coverage of COVID-19 vaccines. Get in touch with her at

With files from Karen Pauls