Judge weighs confessed serial killer’s motives before making decision

Warning: This article contains details of sexual assault and violence.

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

The killings in 2022 prompted renewed efforts by governments and organizations to address the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women.

Nationwide protests have also been held to demand a search of the landfill for the remains of the two victims. The search is expected to begin in the fall.

A judge is scheduled to issue a ruling Thursday in the first-degree murder trial of Jeremy Skibicki.

Skibicki confessed to the murders of Morgan Harris, 39, Marcedes Myran, 26, Rebecca Contois, 24, and an unidentified woman named Mashkode Bizhiki’ikwe, or Buffalo Woman, by the indigenous community.

Morgan Harris, left, Marcedes Myran, center, and Rebecca Contois were killed by Jeremy Skibicki. He also confessed to killing a fourth woman. (Reported by Winnipeg Police and Darryl Contois)

Defense attorneys argued that Skibicki, 37, should be found not guilty by reason of mental illness. A defense psychiatrist testified that Skibicki suffered from schizophrenia at the time of the killings.

However, the prosecutor claims Skibicki killed the women because he is a murderous necrophiliac and knew what he was doing was wrong.

Homicidal necrophilia is not well understood or documented, some criminologists say. It is a rare paraphilia in which people are aroused by sex with someone they have killed.

Eric Beauregard, a professor of criminology at Simon Fraser University, said there are some studies on homicidal necrophilia but they are not well documented.

“We are talking about something very serious and at the same time very rare,” he said.

WATCH | Court hears video evidence from Jeremy Skibicki’s statement to Winnipeg police:

Court hears video evidence from Jeremy Skibicki’s statement to Winnipeg police

A lengthy audio recording of Jeremy Skibicki’s police interrogation has been released. The 37-year-old is on trial for first-degree murder in connection with the deaths of three First Nations women and a fourth woman, who has not been identified but police believe was Indigenous. WARNING: This story contains disturbing details.

One of the most notorious cases is that of American serial killer and sex offender Jeffrey Dahmer. Some of his murders were linked to necrophilia.

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

Beauregard studied patterns of necrophilic behavior in sexual homicides. It is often associated with serial offenders.

“It has to be recurrent and intense. It’s not something someone experiences once and then gets a diagnosis,” Beauregard said.

The reasons are not clear.

“That’s the million-dollar question that criminal profilers, criminal psychologists, psychiatrists and investigators are trying to answer,” Arntfield said.

History of mental illness

Research indicates that offenders experienced a traumatic event in childhood.

During Skibicki’s trial, it was noted that he had a history of mental illness, including depression, borderline personality disorder and suicidal thoughts. However, during his years of treatment, a psychiatrist failed to diagnose him with schizophrenia.

Dr. Sohom Das, a forensic psychiatrist from the U.K., evaluated Skibicki after the killings and testified for the defense. He said he believed delusions and psychotic symptoms brought on by schizophrenia directly motivated the killings.

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

Prosecutors argued the opposite, presenting DNA, surveillance footage and witness statements to show that Skibicki had the mental capacity and awareness to commit the killings and cover them up.

They also claim Skibicki targeted the women because they were Native Americans.

Skibicki, giving a spontaneous statement to police, said the killings were racially motivated and cited white supremacist beliefs.

Prosecutors said Skibicki attacked victims in homeless shelters, then assaulted them, strangled them or drowned them, then performed “disgusting sexual acts” on their bodies.

During the trial, it was determined that he had disposed of the bodies in garbage cans in his neighborhood. Myran and Contois were dismembered.

Dr. Gary Chaimowitz, a forensic psychiatrist appointed by the Crown, testified that Skibicki was likely a homicidal necrophiliac who decided to kill the women because he was interested in sexually arousing interest in the dead.

Chaimowitz told the court that Skibicki had a history of necrophilia dating back to his early youth. Chaimowitz said Skibicki told him that he was aroused by people who played dead or were dead.

The trial also heard that Skibicki sexually assaulted his ex-wife while she was sleeping. The ex-wife testified that Skibicki had a fetish for her inertia, showed her violent pornography and suggested they play it.

“Difficult to control”

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

“People are becoming more and more exploratory and risk-taking,” Arntfield said. “Once you get to that level of depravity, it’s very difficult to control. There’s no mitigating factor that replaces what you do to feel fulfilled.”

However, paraphilias themselves do not require psychiatric treatment, Arntfield said.

“Necrophilia in and of itself doesn’t make you criminally insane, for lack of a better word… such people are capable of functioning perfectly well.”

Beauregard said the true extent of necrophilia is unknown because investigators do not always have knowledge of the behavior.

“Sometimes it’s very easy to miss the sexual dynamics that are going on in a homicide. That’s why a lot of these cases are not labeled as sexual when they are,” Beauregard said.

Arntfield said police should receive more training to help them recognize and classify behaviors associated with paraphilia.

Help is available to anyone affected by these reports and the issue of missing and murdered indigenous people. Immediate emotional support and crisis support is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week through the national hotline at 1-844-413-6649.

You can also access, through the Government of Canada, health support services such as mental health counseling, community support and cultural services, as well as some travel costs to visit elders and traditional healers. Family members seeking information about a missing or murdered loved one can access Family Information Liaison Units.