National News

Trial of Winnipeg serial killer hears testimony from DNA expert

By The Canadian Press

Published 12:16 PDT, Tue May 14, 2024

The only evidence police have pointing to the identity of one victim of an admitted serial killer is a bit of DNA found on a jacket cuff, a Winnipeg judge heard Tuesday.

A forensics expert testified that multiple portions of a reversible jacket from designer Baby Phat were analyzed.

Police believe the DNA belonged to the unidentified victim Indigenous leaders have since named Mashkode Bizhiki'ikwe, or Buffalo Woman. 

"It was female in origin," Florence Célestin testified remotely from Ottawa, where she is based, at the trial of Jeremy Skibicki.

Célestin, who works at the RCMP's forensics laboratory, told court only one of the nine areas tested provided enough DNA to create a profile. 

Célestin said she's not able to confirm whether a person is alive or dead based off a DNA sample.

Investigators believe Buffalo Woman is an Indigenous woman in her mid-20s who was killed around March 15, 2022. 

The Crown has said Skibicki forcibly confined Buffalo Woman, choked and then drowned her. It is not known where her remains are. 

Skibicki told police he sold the Baby Phat jacket belonging to her on Facebook Marketplace. 

Police were later able to track it down. 

Skibicki, 37, is charged with first-degree murder for the slayings of Buffalo Woman and three others — Rebecca Contois, 24, Morgan Harris, 39, and Marcedes Myran, 26.

His lawyers have said he killed the four Indigenous women but is not criminally responsible due to mental illness.

Crown prosecutors say the killings were racially motivated and Skibicki preyed on the vulnerable women at homeless shelters. He assaulted the women, strangled or drowned them and disposed of their bodies in garbage bins. Two were dismembered. 

They previously presented video surveillance evidence of Skibicki with the three identified victims to paint a complete picture of the investigation into Skibicki's actions. 

Video evidence of him with Contois has not been played in court, as police originally arrested Skibicki after her partial remains were found in a garbage bin on May 16, 2022. 

Court has heard police collected about a dozen unknown female DNA samples from Skibicki's home.

Célestin said nothing else collected from Skibicki’s home matched the sample found on the Baby Phat jacket. 

In early 2023, police collected samples from the father and mother of Ashlee Shingoose, a First Nations woman who was last seen in downtown Winnipeg in March 2022, Crown prosecutor Chris Vanderhooft told court. 

Shingoose's DNA was found on a cigarette butt in Skibicki's apartment, but was not a match for the sample from the jacket.

Police still consider her missing.

Court also heard Skibicki was unable to identify Myran to police. In September 2022, her family reported her missing. 

Police collected DNA from Myran's mother and in November of that year Célestin was able to confirm it was a match to samples taken from Skibicki's home that belong to Myran. 

– Brittany Hobson, The Canadian Press 

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