The man charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of four Indigenous women in Winnipeg is expected to plead not guilty to all charges.
Jeremy Skibicki, 35, appeared in a Manitoba court Friday afternoon where he is being directly indicted on four counts of first-degree murder.
His lawyer, Leonard Tailleur, has told Global News Skibicki will plead not guilty to all counts in the indictment, although no plea was made Friday.
Skibicki, with a shaved head and beard and mustache, was expressionless as he entered the court room Friday. He was wearing a grey T-shirt with a rip in it and grey sweatpants for the brief appearance before a judge.
He said only “correct” when asked by a judge to confirm his identity.
On Thursday, police announced Skibicki was charged with three counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Morgan Harris, 39, Marcedes Myran, 26, and an unidentified woman.
He was initially charged with first-degree murder on May 18 and kept in custody after the partial remains of Rebecca Contois, 24, were found in a garbage bin near an apartment building. Police later found the rest of her remains in a Winnipeg landfill.
Contois, Harris and Myran are Indigenous and police said they believe the fourth victim is Indigenous as well.
Member’s of Contois’ family were in court Friday, many wearing shirts with her face on them.
In a statement, a spokesperson for the Contois family said the last few months have been “incredibly exhausting.”
“We have experienced paralyzing grief. Pure devastation,” the statement reads.
“I don’t think we have ever cried buckets of tears, painful wake-you-up-in-the-middle-of-the-night-anxiety, a type of grief never experienced before, deep, deep sadness.
“We also continue to think of the other families. Our deepest condolences to them.”
The bodies of the three victims announced Thursday haven’t been recovered, but Winnipeg police Chief Danny Smyth said police have enough evidence to charge him with their deaths.
Insp. Shawn Pike said DNA helped in their investigation, but refused to go into specifics.
A direct indictment — which means there will be no preliminary hearing — is not common with murder charges.
Manitoba Department of Justice Prosecutions policy states that “normally a preliminary inquiry should be held and a direct indictment should not be considered unless exceptional circumstances exist that outweigh the benefits of holding a preliminary inquiry.”
According to the policy, “overriding the right to a preliminary inquiry by preferring direct indictment is an extraordinary step.”
Under the current policy, the Crown can press for direct indictment if:
- There is danger of harm, trauma or intimidation to witnesses or their families.
- Reasonable basis to believe that witnesses will attempt to subvert court process.
- The age or health of victims and witnesses is factor.
- A lengthy court process creates a substantial inconvenience to witnesses.
- The need to protect ongoing police work.
Tailleur says a trial is still a long way off as he has just received a large volume of evidence from the Crown and expects more.
Skibicki remains in custody.
–With files from Shane Gibson and The Canadian Press