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Relief and closure for victims' families in wake of Winnipeg serial killer's conviction

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A celebration erupted from a Winnipeg courtroom, spilled onto the front steps of the courthouse and throughout downtown minutes after a judge found serial killer Jeremy Skibicki guilty.

On Thursday morning, Manitoba Chief Justice Glenn Joyal convicted Skibicki of four counts of first-degree murder in the horrific and gruesome killings of Morgan Harris, Marcedes Myran, Rebecca Contois and an unidentified victim given the name Mashkode Bizhiki'ikwe or Buffalo Woman.

READ MORE: 'Justice was served today': Winnipeg serial killer Jeremy Skibicki convicted on four counts of first-degree murder

“I wanted to cry,” Marcedes’ sister Jorden Myran told reporters outside the courthouse. “We fought for this for so long.”

She was joined by other members of the victims’ family, including Rebecca’s brother Jeremy who said he hopes this decision brings closure.

“She was a loving mother, loving sister, a daughter, a friend,” he said of his 24-year-old sister. “It caught us all by surprise basically, because we literally saw her two days before it happened. We were celebrating a birthday.”

Jeremy Contois, the brother of Rebecca Contois, speaks with media outside of the Winnipeg Court of King's Bench following the guilty verdict of serial killer Jeremy Skibicki on July 11, 2024. (Scott Andersson/CTV News Winnipeg)

Contois was among four Indigenous women Skibicki preyed on at homeless shelters and murdered between March and May 2022.

On Thursday, songs of honour and healing could be heard throughout downtown as family members and friends marched to Portage and Main and held a round dance celebrating the verdict.

“A little bit of mixed emotions – a sense of relief, gratitude, but ultimately hopefully it brings closure,” said Jeremy Contois.

Cambria Harris, the daughter of Morgan Harris, spoke during a news conference at the Assembly of First Nations conference in Montreal.

“Today we found out the man that took my mom’s life and the three other women was found guilty on all four counts of first-degree murder and criminally responsible,” she said. “He knew exactly what he was doing at the time when he committed those acts… He preyed on these women at shelters, he took them home, and he took their life and disposed of them in a landfill.”

She said the past year-and-a-half has been a rollercoaster for her and her family.

“It was hard watching the turmoil that it caused and the stress it put on my family,” she said. “It was hard watching the tears drop and having to be strong for them when they couldn’t. I had to be strong for my siblings, I had to be strong for my family, I had to be strong for my ancestors.”

Members of Morgan Harris' family, including cousin Melissa Robinson (right), daughter Cambria Harris and daughter Elle Harris (left) speak to the media Thursday, July 11, 2024 in Montreal. Jeremy Skibicki has been found guilty of first-degree murder in the deaths of Morgan Harris and three other indigenous women in Manitoba. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

Skibicki’s conviction not a surprise, law professor says

Skibicki’s conviction Thursday wasn’t a surprise to Brandon Trask, a law professor at the University of Manitoba.

“The verdict overall was unsurprising, given the totality of evidence,” Trask told CTV News.

Skibicki’s defence had been arguing he should be found not criminally responsible for the killings due to a mental illness. Joyal rejected the defence, ruling Skibicki was not suffering from any mental disorder when he killed the women.

Families and supporters of four murdered women celebrate at Portage and Main after the guilty verdict of serial killer Jeremy Skibicki was read in a courtroom in Winnipeg on Thursday, July 11, 2024. Skibicki plead guilty, but not criminally responsible due to mental illness, to the murders of Marcedes Myran, 26, Morgan Harris, 39, and Rebecca Contois, 24 and a fourth, unidentified woman. A judge determined Skibicki is guilty of killing all four women. (John Woods/The Canadian Press)

Trask said that the defence was an uphill battle, specifically because the killings took place over two months and were premeditated.

“When you’ve got that combination of multiple victims and a long period of time, that’s very challenging to establish that the accused should be found (not criminally responsible).”

First-degree murder convictions carry an automatic life sentence with no parole for 25 years. No date has been set yet for Skibicki’s sentencing hearing.

Action now turns to landfill search, Manitoba premier says

Manitoba Premier Wab Kinew said he spoke with the families to offer support following the verdict.

“Today is a significant day in the history of Manitoba,” he said. “Women are sacred and what the admitted serial killer has been found guilty of represents a dark violation of the way our society is supposed to function and of the basic dignity to which each person is entitled.”

Kinew said the action must now turn to searching the Prairie Green Landfill north of Winnipeg to find the remains of Morgan Harris and Marcedes Myran.

“Everything will be towards searching the landfill now,” Jorden said following the verdict. “That's the next chapter, just to bring my sister's remains home – the last bit of closure that we need.”

The process to prepare for the search of the landfill has already been started, while the actual search is expected to start this fall. 

Supporters gather for a round dance at Portage and Main following the guilty verdict of Jeremy Skibicki on July 11, 2024. (Scott Andersson/CTV News Winnipeg)

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