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Family of victim of admitted serial killer reflects on plan to search landfill

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Donna Bartlett says she was overcome with emotion when standing earlier this week at the landfill where her granddaughter's remains were dumped more than two years ago.

It was Bartlett's second time to the site where Marcedes Myran’s remains are believed to be, and the first time she says she felt hopeful.

"It was emotional...to see it again and to know where she is, which area,” Bartlett told reporters Thursday, two days after she visited the site with Manitoba Premier Wab Kinew and his cabinet.

"It was hard, but I was just thinking, 'OK, we're going to get you home my girl, we're going to get you home.'

"Our family is elated that the process has started. We are going to search the landfill."

Bartlett says since the death of Myran in 2022, she and her family have been fighting to give Myran a proper resting place -- one not heaping with trash.

On Tuesday, Kinew announced his NDP government would move forward with searching the Prairie Green Landfill, north of Winnipeg, for the remains of Myran, 26, and another First Nations woman, Morgan Harris, 39.

The premier took part in a ceremony at the site before granting environmental approval to move the search forward.

The family learned site preparations were started weeks ago after the provincial and federal governments pledged a combined $40 million for the search.

Kinew said the province has begun setting up the search facility and ensuring health and safety protocols are in place.

When the physical search could start has yet to be determined, but Kinew has said it could run until early 2026.

Bartlett said based on conversations with Kinew, she is hopeful it can begin by summer’s end.

Jeremy Skibicki has admitted to killing Harris, Myran and two other Indigenous women: Rebecca Contois, 24, whose remains were found in a different landfill; and an unidentified woman an Indigenous grassroots community has named Mashkode Bizhiki'ikwe, or Buffalo Woman.

The remains of Buffalo Woman have not been located.

Skibicki's first-degree murder trial wrapped up Monday with closing arguments. The judge has reserved his decision until next month.

Defence lawyers have argued Skibicki should be found not criminally responsible due to mental illness.

Bartlett sat in court every day during the month-long trial. She said it was "hard and hurtful" to hear the gruesome details of her granddaughter's killing.

Court heard Skibicki preyed on vulnerable Indigenous women at homeless shelters before he assaulted them, strangled or drowned them and disposed of their bodies in his neighbourhood. Myran and Contois were dismembered.

"I can't wait till the judge comes back. I am praying to God that he sentences him to life in prison. That's where he belongs," said Bartlett.

Bartlett's family and friends sat with her each day of the trial.

One of them, Kelly Ross, is a non-Indigenous woman helped Myran's family when they set up a camp in her honour outside the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

"They need someone behind them. They need someone sticking up for them," Ross said.

The camp educated passersby and schools on the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. It also pressed the government to search the landfill when police said they wouldn't due to safety reasons.

"I wish the police would have fulfilled their obligations as police when they knew the women were initially in the landfill. It's two years later and the province now is going to get things done. That's fantastic," Ross said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 13, 2024.

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