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Winnipeg man admits to killing four women, argues he's not criminally responsible

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Defence lawyers of Jeremy Skibicki have admitted in court the accused killed four Indigenous women, but argues he is not criminally responsible for the deaths by way of mental disorder – this latest development has triggered a judge-alone trial rather than a jury trial.

“At this point, the accused is now admitting that he killed all four women, and that is a new development,” Crown prosecutor Chris Vanderhooft told Manitoba’s Court of King’s Bench Monday morning.

Skibicki is charged with four counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Rebecca Contois, Morgan Harris, Marcedes Myran, and an unidentified woman who Indigenous leaders have given the name Mashkode Bizhiki'ikwe or Buffalo Woman.

He has pleaded not guilty.

The partial remains of Contois were found in a garbage bin and Winnipeg's Brady Landfill in 2022. Police said they believe the remains of Myran and Harris are in the Prairie Green Landfill outside of Winnipeg. The remains of the fourth woman have not been found.

Chief Justice Glenn Joyal, who is presiding over the case, confirmed with Skibicki’s defence lawyer Leonard Tailleur.

“Am I correct in assuming that, for the record, that you – on behalf of Mr. Skibicki – Mr. Tailleur, are admitting that Skibicki caused the deaths of all four victims… and that he caused them unlawfully?” Joyal asked.

“Yes,” Tailleur responded.

Skibicki sat silently in the prisoner’s box during the proceedings that lasted less than 15 minutes. He was brought into the courtroom by two sheriffs, his hands and feet shackled.

Members of the victims’ families were also in the courtroom Monday, some holding eagle fans and feathers which the court heard previously represents love.

“Honestly, I don't even have any words. It was just kind of a shock, but we are so happy,” Melissa Robinson, the cousin of Morgan Harris, told reporters outside the courthouse Monday.

“It's been all about justice for my cousin, and we're going to get it. We're going to get it and we're going to get all four.”

While Skibicki has now admitted to the killings, the court has heard the accused’s defence team plan to argue he is not criminally responsible by way of mental disorder.

“It’s a matter to ensure that justice is done one or the other,” Tailleur told reporters outside the courthouse. “That’s what we’re concerned with.”

This all comes days after Joyal dismissed a constitutional question from Skibicki’s defence team and ruled the trial would go ahead with a jury.

Skibicki's defence had unsuccessfully argued the media coverage in the lead-up to the high-profile case may have prejudiced a jury – thereby violating Skibicki's right to a fair trial.

At the time, Crown prosecutors were opposed to having the trial heard by judge alone, but told the court on Monday that had changed given the recent developments.

"If we were required to prove that the accused killed all four women, this would still be a jury trial," Vanderhooft told the court. "However, in light of recent agreements and admissions… we are now prepared to provide our consent to proceed to trial by judge alone."

Joyal said the trial will now hinge on Skibicki’s mental capacity and intent in the killings.

The trial will proceed on Wednesday. Joyal said at that time, the jury that had been selected last month, will be dismissed.  

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