Jeremy Skibicki trial: Judge to rule Thursday

Jeremy Skibicki trial: Judge to rule Thursday
Jeremy Skibicki trial: Judge to rule Thursday

A judge is expected to decide this week whether a man who admitted killing four Indigenous women in Winnipeg did so because he was in the grip of a psychotic disorder or because he was driven by a rare form of perverse sexual interest.

The tragic 2022 case has renewed calls for governments and organizations to address the ongoing problem of missing and murdered indigenous women.

There were also nationwide protests demanding a landfill search for the remains of two of the victims, with the search expected to begin in the fall.

A judge is expected to rule Thursday in Jeremy Skibicki’s first-degree murder trial.

Skibicki has admitted to killing Morgan Harris (39), Marcedes Myran (26), Rebecca Contois (24) and an unidentified woman named Mashkode Bizhiki’ikwe (Buffalo Woman) by an indigenous community.

Defense attorneys have argued that Skibicki, 37, should not be held criminally liable because of a mental illness. A forensic psychiatrist for the defense testified that Skibicki suffered from schizophrenia at the time of the killings.

However, the prosecution alleges that Skibicki killed the women because he is a necrophiliac and knew what he was doing was wrong.

Homicidal necrophilia is not well understood or documented, some criminologists say. It is an unusual paraphilia in which individuals become aroused by having sex with someone they have murdered.

Eric Beauregard, a professor of criminology at Simon Fraser University, said there has been some research into homicidal necrophilia, but the research is not good.

“We are talking about something very serious here, which is also very rare,” he said.

One of the most famous cases is the American serial killer and sex offender Jeffrey Dahmer. Some of his murders involved necrophilia.

According to Michael Arntfield, a criminologist and professor at Western University, such cases in Canada can be counted on two hands.

Beauregard has studied patterns of necrophiliac behavior in sexual homicides. It is often associated with serial killers.

“It has to be recurring and intense. It’s not something that someone experiences once and then they get diagnosed,” Beauregard said.

The causes are unclear.

“That’s the big question that criminal profilers, criminal psychologists, psychiatrists and detectives have been trying to get to the heart of for years,” Arntfield said.

Research shows that perpetrators experienced a traumatic event in their youth.

Skibicki’s trial heard he had a history of mental illness, including depression, borderline personality disorder and suicidal thoughts. But there was no diagnosis of schizophrenia from a psychiatrist during his years of treatment.

Dr. Sohom Das, a forensic psychiatrist from the United Kingdom, who assessed Skibicki after the murders and testified for the defense, said he believes delusions and the psychotic symptoms caused by schizophrenia directly motivated the killings.

Das said Skibicki told him he felt compelled to kill the women because he was on a mission from God and heard hallucinations that prompted him to kill.

Prosecutors have argued otherwise. They have presented DNA, video surveillance and witness statements showing that Skibicki had the mental capacity and awareness to commit and cover up the murders.

They also allege that Skibicki targeted the women because they were indigenous.

In an unexpected confession to police, Skibicki said the killings were racially motivated and cited white supremacist beliefs.

Prosecutors allege that Skibicki exploited victims in homeless shelters, assaulting, strangling or drowning them before performing “despicable sexual acts” on their bodies.

During the trial he heard that he had dumped the bodies in garbage cans in his neighborhood. Myran and Contois were chopped up.

Dr. Gary Chaimowitz, a forensic psychiatrist appointed by the Crown, testified that Skibicki was likely a homicidal necrophiliac and that he wanted to kill the women because of his sexual interest in the dead.

Chaimowitz told the court that Skibicki had a history of necrophiliac interests dating back to his early teens. Chaimowitz said Skibicki told him he was aroused by people pretending to be dead or dead.

During the trial we also heard that Skibicki had sexually abused his ex-wife while she was sleeping. The ex-wife testified that Skibicki had a fetish for the fact that she was inanimate, and he showed her violent pornography and suggested that they act it out.

Research suggests that there are nine types of necrophilia. The first involves an element of role-playing that escalates.

“People are increasingly inquisitive and risk-taking,” Arntfield said.

“Once you get to that level of depravity, it’s very difficult to control it. There’s no kind of numbing replacement for what you’re doing to keep you fulfilled.”

According to Arntfield, paraphilias do not in themselves require psychiatric treatment.

“Necrophilia in itself does not make you criminally insane, for lack of a better word… those people can function just fine.”

According to Beauregard, the true prevalence of necrophilia is unknown, as researchers are not always familiar with the behavior.

“Sometimes it’s very easy to miss the sexual dynamics that were going on in the murder, which is why a lot of these cases aren’t labeled as sexual when in fact they are,” Beauregard said.

Arntfield said police should receive more training so they can recognize and classify behaviors associated with paraphilias.

The federal government has a helpline for people affected by the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls: 1-844-413-6649. The Hope for Wellness Helpline, with support in Cree, Ojibway and Inuktitut, is also available to all Indigenous people in Canada: 1-855-242-3310.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 9, 2024.