A Winnipeg man has been charged with first-degree murder in the death of an Indigenous woman, after partial human remains were found in a North Kildonan dumpster — and police believe there could be more victims.

A Winnipeg man has been charged with first-degree murder in the death of an Indigenous woman, after partial human remains were found in a North Kildonan dumpster — and police believe there could be more victims.

A source told the Free Press investigators had found a severed human head and leg in the bin near an apartment block at 253 Edison Ave.

On Monday, city police said they were investigating what was "believed to be a homicide" in the area between Henderson Highway and Roch Street, after a passerby spotted the remains and phoned law enforcement.

<p>RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p>
<p>Since May 16, 2022, detectives from the Winnipeg Homicide Unit have been investigating partial human remains discovered behind an apartment building in the 200 block of Edison Ave. On May 18, investigators arrested and charged Jeremy Anthony Michael Skibicki, 35, with first degree for the homicide of Rebecca Contois.</p>

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Since May 16, 2022, detectives from the Winnipeg Homicide Unit have been investigating partial human remains discovered behind an apartment building in the 200 block of Edison Ave. On May 18, investigators arrested and charged Jeremy Anthony Michael Skibicki, 35, with first degree for the homicide of Rebecca Contois.

On Thursday, the Winnipeg Police Service publicly identified the remains as Rebecca Contois, 24, and announced an arrest in the case.

Const. Rob Carver called the slaying a "tragedy for the entire community and for the city."

Social media presence

A review of the accused’s social media accounts — confirmed to be those of Jeremy Anthony Michael Skibicki, 35, through court documents — reveal posts on far-right politics, including references to the white genocide conspiracy theory and antisemitic content.

The conspiracy, which was cited as a motivation for the recent mass shooting and hate crime in Buffalo, N.Y., claims without evidence the white race is being subjected to an ongoing genocide through mass immigration to the west.

In one photograph, the accused is wearing a skull mask, which is commonly associated with militant neo-Nazi groups. Another photograph shows the accused with an Iron Cross, which was German military insignia during the first and second World Wars.

The Iron Cross is now commonly used by Neo-Nazi groups..

A post on Skibicki’s Facebook page last month quoted the Bible: “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.”

Angie Tuesday, WPS family resource and support advocate, said she has been in contact with Contois’s family. "They are going through an intense period of grieving right now. This was their loved one, this was their girl… This is not just something awful that happened —this is something awful that’s happening to them at this time."

Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Grand Chief Garrison Settee offered his condolences to the family and the victim’s loved ones.

"Women are sacred and should be treated as such. I’m extremely concerned to hear of the violent passing of Rebecca Contois and my prayers are with her loved ones and her entire community at this time," Settee said in a statement.

Jeremy Anthony Michael Skibicki, 35, was arrested Wednesday and charged with first-degree murder.

The charge indicates the Crown attorney’s office believes "without question, there was a level of absolute pre-meditation," Carver told the Free Press.

<p>FACEBOOK </p>
Police have identified the victim as Rebecca Contois, 24.

FACEBOOK

Police have identified the victim as Rebecca Contois, 24.

Carver confirmed the accused and victim knew each other, but would not elaborate further. Police believe the homicide occurred in the area, likely on or around May 16.

"Somebody in the area had spotted something that was of concern and called us," Carver said of the discovery of human remains, without elaboration. "It is a horrifically grisly scene."

Ryan Jarvis, 41, lives on Edison Avenue across from the scene. He witnessed police pulling evidence from the dumpster around 8:30 a.m. Monday.

"The van pulls up, two cops got out. They took a ladder to the garbage can, walked up (it)… took pictures and pulled (something) out and put it in a bag… Then crime scene investigators pulled up in their big truck," Jarvis said, adding officers then went up and down the alley, searching other bins.

<p>RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Forensic officers were on scene behind an Edison Ave. Apartment block investigating the discovery of partial human remains Thursday.</p>

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Forensic officers were on scene behind an Edison Ave. Apartment block investigating the discovery of partial human remains Thursday.

On Thursday afternoon, a police presence, including a forensics truck, remained at the four-plex apartment where the accused lived on McKay Street, one block north of Edison Street.

Eight evidence markers, lettered A through H, were placed on single-family city garbage bins in the backyard, which was cordoned off with yellow police tape.

Adolf and Rahel Reimer live on Arby Bay directly across the lane from the accused’s apartment, and first saw officers at the site Wednesday morning.

"It’s always been very quiet," Adolf, 62, said of the four-plex.

Carver said police have identified another potential scene at the Brady Road landfill, where officers have been investigating since Monday.

Thursday night vigil

Around 50 mourners braved the cold rain to remember Rebecca Contois at a vigil Thursday night outside of the Edison Avenue building where the 24-year-old woman’s partial remains were found this week.

Volunteers handed out rain ponchos, candles and care packages, while others smudged visitors. Signs reading ‘Never to be Forgotten’ and ‘RIP Rebecca Contois’ dotted the small crowd.

Among those gathered was Jeff Cohan, who lives and works in the McKay Avenue apartment below the man accused in the slaying: Jeremy Anthony Michael Skibicki, 35.

Around 50 mourners braved the cold rain to remember Rebecca Contois at a vigil Thursday night outside of the Edison Avenue building where the 24-year-old woman’s partial remains were found this week.

Volunteers handed out rain ponchos, candles and care packages, while others smudged visitors. Signs reading ‘Never to be Forgotten’ and ‘RIP Rebecca Contois’ dotted the small crowd.

Among those gathered was Jeff Cohan, who lives and works in the McKay Avenue apartment below the man accused in the slaying: Jeremy Anthony Michael Skibicki, 35.

Cohan described the accused as someone who was “up at all hours… I didn’t really know a whole lot about him… He stuck mostly to himself, that’s all I can really say about him.”

Another mourner, Jessica Courchene, called the slaying “barbaric.”

“For the fact that not only was she so young, but in the matter that she was taken, there’s no excuse,” she said.

She hoped the Indigenous community (of which Courchene is a member) would take time to heal and remember Contois for who she was, not for what happened to her. “It hits home. It’s a tragedy all around, both culturally and societally.”

Darryl Contois (no relation to the slain woman) organized the vigil. He said he was part of street searches for Rebecca Contois twice when she had previously gone missing. The third time, he didn’t find her.

“Make sure that no one’s following you, and if someone’s following you, take a picture,” he told the gathering before a prayer was held.

In the background stood members of Contois’s family, including her mother, Maureen. The family asked to not be approached by media.

— Malak Abas

Asked what led police to the landfill, the WPS spokesman said: "We were looking at a facility next to the apartment block, it was a garbage dump — the rest, you’re going to have to connect the dots."

Police have since established a large, general scene at the south Winnipeg landfill, but an actual search has not yet begun, Carver told the Free Press.

The long and intensive grid search will include "all of the resources" at police disposal, likely including drones, the WPS helicopter and police dogs. Carver noted a search of such a site is as "difficult as it could possibly be."

Homicide detectives have not ruled out the possibility of more victims "due to the nature of the circumstances" of the investigation, Carver said.

He would not elaborate on what led investigators to that conclusion.

<p>Facebook photo</p><p>The accused Jeremy Anthony Michael Skibicki.</p>

Facebook photo

The accused Jeremy Anthony Michael Skibicki.

"I’m not going to be able to answer that in detail… or give you any answer, at this point… I just can’t," he told reporters at police headquarters.

"But there are things that are leading investigators to look at that as a potential possibility, for sure."

Asked whether the accused is known to police, Carver said: "Not really."

Deborah Hastings, 59, lives on McKay Street, across the back lane from the Edison Avenue apartment. Police arrived at about 6 a.m. Monday, and stayed in the area until at least 9 p.m., she said, adding patrol cars have been making regular rounds since.

"I won’t go out in my backyard now when it’s a little bit dark," Hastings said, having learned the accused lived on her street. "I don’t care if it’s isolated (incident), it just takes something sketchy to happen and you happen to witness it. Next thing you know, they’re after you."

<p>RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p> Edison Avenue resident Deborah Hastings reacts to news of the homicide in her neighbourhood.</p>

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Edison Avenue resident Deborah Hastings reacts to news of the homicide in her neighbourhood.

Hastings told the Free Press she recognized a photo of Contois as a woman she had past seen walking in the area with a group of friends in the winter.

According to court documents, Skibicki’s ex-wife was granted a three-year protection order against him Sept. 4, 2019.

In a transcript of a hearing before a judicial justice of the peace, the woman said she was "under the influence" when they got married, in what she described as a "shotgun wedding."

<p>RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p> Family resource and support advocate Angie Tuesday speaks to the media at Winnipeg Police headquarters Thursday.</p>

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Family resource and support advocate Angie Tuesday speaks to the media at Winnipeg Police headquarters Thursday.

The woman alleged Skibicki restricted her access to her cellphone, didn’t allow her to leave their apartment without his consent, monitored her movements electronically, and forced her to take her "bed meds," after which he would sexually assault her as she slept.

"He has threatened my family… He has threatened to harm me. And I take that very seriously," she said. "I’m a possession to him; I’m not a wife. I should have never got married."

The woman said both she and Skibicki had been methamphetamine users.

In messages to the woman provided to court, Skibicki described himself as a "holy crusader," and said if he is killed he will be remembered as a "martyr of Jesus Christ."

"I believe the fear that you have is real," a judicial justice of the peace said in granting the woman’s protection order.

<p>RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Winnipeg Police spokesman Cst. Rob Carver called the slaying a "tragedy for the entire community and for the city."</p>

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Winnipeg Police spokesman Cst. Rob Carver called the slaying a "tragedy for the entire community and for the city."

In December, Skibicki was found not guilty after trial of breaching a no-contact order with the woman and one count of disobeying a court order.

In 2015, a second woman filed a protection order against Skibicki, but it was dismissed by the court. According to court documents, Skibicki and the woman had been living together for a year and were expecting a child.

The woman wrote in an application for the protection order Skibicki allegedly threatened on Facebook to "set (her) up" on criminal charges.

"He is going to make up lies about me to try get me in trouble because I am going to be having my child soon," she wrote. "He is extremely jealous and is afraid I will find a new partner once my baby is born."

The woman alleged Skibicki held a knife to her stomach and threatened to kill her unborn child and then jump out her apartment window and kill himself.

The woman said Skibicki assaulted her while pregnant in June 2015. Court records show he pleaded guilty Aug. 26, 2015, to one count of assault causing bodily harm and was sentenced to 66 days time served and two years supervised probation.

As in the case of Skibicki’s ex-wife, the woman alleged Skibicki forced her to take medication that rendered her unconscious and then sexually assaulted her.

erik.pindera@freepress.mb.ca

dean.pritchard@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @erik_pindera

Erik Pindera

Erik Pindera
Reporter

Erik Pindera reports for the city desk, with a particular focus on crime and justice. 

Dean Pritchard

Dean Pritchard
Courts reporter

Someone once said a journalist is just a reporter in a good suit. Dean Pritchard doesn’t own a good suit. But he knows a good lawsuit.