Police should reconsider decision not to search landfill for remains: advocates
Posted December 4, 2022 11:01 am.
Last Updated December 6, 2022 3:59 pm.
EDITOR’S NOTE: A previous version of this story indicated additional remains were at Brady landfill. Police later clarified they were believed to be at Prairie Green landfill.
Community members are challenging the Winnipeg Police Service’s decision not to search a city landfill for the remains of three victims of an alleged serial killer.
Winnipeg police Chief Danny Smyth says there is no known starting point at the landfill, where bulldozers are constantly moving things around. Smyth adds too much time has passed.
His comments came after Jeremy Skibicki, 35, appeared briefly in court Friday.
Skibicki was taken into custody and charged May 18 with first-degree murder in the death of Rebecca Contois, 24. Her partial remains were found in a garbage bin near an apartment building. Police later found the rest of her remains in the Brady Road landfill in the city’s south end.
On Thursday, Skibicki was charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of Morgan Harris, 39, Marcedes Myran, 26, and an unidentified woman. Police believe the women were killed between March and May of this year
Smyth says the bodies, which have not been found, are believed to be at a landfill.
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Community advocates are challenging the decision not to search the landfill, saying the WPS must reconsider.
“I would ask the question: whose responsibility is it to keep our women safe? Indigenous women who were obviously targeted in our communities. If it’s not the police’s responsibility, then where does it lie?” asked Ryan Beardy, a co-coordinator with the Gang Action Inter-Agency Network in Winnipeg.
Beardy says if police don’t at least try to uncover the women’s remains, it’ll be sending a message to the Indigenous community in Winnipeg and right across Canada.
“I think it sends a strong message either way. Whatever decision is made sends a message of are the Winnipeg police prepared to take full responsibility for what they need to do, or are they going to show apathy? And that in itself, for me, was heartbreaking, to be honest.
“I see a lot, I understand a lot of this, and a lot of things don’t shock me anymore. But this honestly shocks me.”
Smyth acknowledged the families of the victims are frustrated. But he said investigators “caught a break” when they found Contois’ remains at the Brady landfill.
“We were able to take some action to isolate a very specific area of the landfill within hours of discovering her other remains at the scene of the crime. We don’t have that luxury with these other victims,” Chief Smyth told The Canadian Press.
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While Beardy is commending police for their work so far, he feels police should consider laying hate crime charges against Skibicki given his online presence – which allegedly included membership in a white supremacy group.
“White supremacy, misogyny and racism all have played a direct impact in enabling this tragedy and I would say a lot of other tragedies – big and small – in our society,” said Beardy. “And this is a glaring and unfortunate example as to why we need to address this now.”
Skibicki’s lawyer Leonard Tailleur says his client maintains his innocence. He says claims of white supremacy are false, calling for people to let the judicial process take its course.
Natalie Smith, who ran for city councillor in the Mynarski ward and currently resides in Winnipeg’s North End, is a community advocate in the city.
She says while the police claim they’re trying to build trust in the neighbourhood, this inaction is not the way, especially given Skibicki’s online presence.
“Four human beings – four family members were murdered – and for the police to just brush that aside, that is incredibly disheartening and it’s not working in a way to build trust in our neighbourhoods,” said Smith.
“As the police do get such a large percentage of the budget, we need to see them fulfilling their end of the deal.”
CityNews reached out to the Winnipeg police but a response was not immediately received.
The matter is set to go straight to trial, a date for which has not been set.