Jeremy Skibicki’s lawyers have argued that he should be found not criminally responsible for killing 4 women in 2022

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A police photo taken of Jeremy Skibicki in custody. He was arrested in 2022 and admitted to killing four women in a two-month period. (Manitoba King’s Bank Court)

WARNING: This story contains disturbing details.

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 an admitted serial killer.

Jeremy Skibicki’s lawyers argued that he was driven by schizophrenia-related delusions and hearing voices that made him believe he was on a mission from God, preventing him from realizing that his actions were morally wrong when he killed women for two months in 2022. .

However, prosecutors said Skibicki knew what he was doing, arguing that he preyed on vulnerable Indigenous women in 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 help draw where the line is” when mental health issues constitute “such an extreme ” that a person does not. know what they were doing or that it was wrong.

Skibicki 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 identified as Mashkode Bizhiki ‘ikwe, or Buffalo Woman. . Police said they believed she was indigenous and in her 20s.

Contois was a member of the O-Chi-Chak-Ko-Sipi First Nation, also known as Crane River. Harris and Myran were both members of the First Plain First Nation. All four women were killed in Winnipeg between mid-March and mid-May 2022.

STOP | Winnipeg serial killer seen with victim at shelter before dying:

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Surveillance video introduced into evidence at Jeremy Skibicki’s first-degree murder trial shows him eating a meal with Morgan Harris at a Winnipeg shelter before he died. Harris was one of four women Skibicki later admitted to killing. His lawyers argue that he should not be found criminally responsible because of his mental disorder. 3:40

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

They included surveillance footage, DNA evidence, computer history, testimony from Skibicki’s ex-wife, and texts and letters he sent after the murders.

It also includes a videotaped police confession from 2022, in which Skibicki surprised police officers when he suddenly admitted to killing all four women, performing sexual acts on their bodies, and he dumped the remains in bins near his flat in North Kildonan.

Both Crown and defense attorneys enlisted psychiatric experts to evaluate Skibicki. A prosecution expert testified

he believed that the accused made up his delusionsand that Skibicki was actually motivated by racism and a homicidal necrophilia, or a thrill to have sex with the people he killed.

If he is found not criminally responsible?

Under the Criminal Code of Canada, the rare verdict of not criminally responsible

requires two criteria: that a person had a mental disorder at the time of the offense and that this made him incapable of appreciating what he was doing or that it was wrong.

If the judge finds that this has been proven in this case, Skibicki would then be referred to the Criminal Code Review Commission.

Most people in that situation end up being held in a secure psychiatric facility — and usually the more serious the crime, the higher the security level, said Anita Szigeti, a longtime health care advocate. minds from Toronto.

These restrictions can be relaxed over time if a person’s risk to the public is lessened through treatment, and a person can also receive an absolute discharge if the review board finds that they no longer pose a significant risk to the public.

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

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

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The defense team in Jeremy Skibicki’s trial is arguing in a Winnipeg courtroom this week that he should be found not criminally responsible. But what does this mean and what are the consequences for the accused? CBC reporter Caitlyn Gowriluk explains. 5:02

“This is a rigorous, secure system that imposes 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, is working as intended,” she said.

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

If he is convicted of murder?

If the judge finds that Skibicki was criminally responsible for the murders and convicts him of first-degree murder, he will receive an automatic life sentence with no chance of parole for 25 years.

That period is the same regardless of how many felony charges he is convicted of

a Supreme Court decision in 2022said Law Professor Trask.

A court sketch shows Jeremy Skibicki sitting silently in the dock next to his lawyers during an April 29 hearing. (James Culleton)

There are other possibilities in this case, though they seem less likely, Trask said. Among them, Skibicki was found guilty of a lesser-included offense, such as second-degree murder, or found not criminally responsible for some of the crimes but not others.

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

And because the trial was heard by a single judge instead of a jury, everyone awaiting the decision will have the benefit of reading the reasoning behind the ruling — instead of speculating about the jury’s reasoning, Trask said.

“I think that’s actually going to be very helpful moving forward as a community, honestly,” he said.

Those written pleas could also be where Crown or defense attorneys seek a way to challenge 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 support and crisis support is 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, healthcare services such as mental health counselling, community support and cultural services, as well as some travel costs to see elders and traditional healers. Family members looking for information about a missing or murdered loved one can access Family Information Liaison Units.


Caitlyn Gowriluk


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 breaking news on COVID-19 vaccines. Contact her at [email protected].

With files from Karen Pauls