Daughter of alleged serial killer's victim wants search of landfill because 'my mother deserves to come home'
Remains of 1 victim were found at Brady Road site, but police don't plan to search there for others
WARNING: This story contains distressing details.
Cambria Harris's voice was heavy with sorrow as she spoke about her mother at a vigil on Thursday evening, hours after the missing woman was identified as the victim of an alleged serial killer in Winnipeg.
"I want her to be remembered as happy-go-lucky as she was. She was silly, she was fun. People loved to be around her," said Harris, 21.
"When we were searching for her, there wasn't a single person that did not know who she was — and no one had a bad thing to say."
Morgan Harris, 39, was one of four women who police allege was killed by Jeremy Skibicki between March and May of this year, though police have only found the remains of one. Skibicki, 35, is charged with four counts of first-degree murder.
The vigil was held outside a residence in North Kildonan where Harris said police told her they found evidence that connected Skibicki to her mother and one of the other victims, 26-year-old Marcedes Myran.
She said she finds some closure in knowing what happened to her mother after months of looking for her. But at the same time, she doesn't have much — because police haven't found her body.
The partial remains of another of Skibicki's alleged victims, 24-year-old Rebecca Contois, were discovered at Winnipeg's Brady Road landfill in June after an extensive search prompted by the discovery of remains a month earlier in a North Kildonan back lane garbage bin.
At the news conference Thursday where police announced the other victims — which included an Indigenous woman in her 20s who police haven't been able to identify — Winnipeg Police Service Chief Danny Smyth said he doesn't "foresee an additional search of the landfill" for the other remains.
Harris — who's hoping for closure, along with her four siblings and daughter — said she's frustrated by that news.
"To not search it is not going to do anything. I think that's disgusting," she said.
WATCH | Cambria Harris's speaks about her mother, Morgan:
"My mother deserves to come home. We deserve to have her remains, and so do the other families."
Nahanni Fontaine, house leader for Manitoba's Opposition NDP, said it was devastating to see the heartbreak in Harris's family as she sat with them on Thursday morning.
She was emotional as she spoke at the Manitoba legislature following question period, pausing often to collect herself.
"What we learned today is why we ask people, why we ask governments, why we ask politicians of every stripe to protect Indigenous women and girls and two-spirited [people], to give the resources to that social service infrastructure that helps protect [them]," she said.
"There are deadly consequences when we don't."
Fontaine thanked police for the work that led to charges in the women's deaths and urged anyone with information about the fourth unidentified homicide victim to come forward.
Accused seemed 'unstable … aggressive'
Darryl Contois, who helped search for Morgan Harris earlier this year, said he remembers meeting a man he believes was Skibicki at a homeless encampment near the Disraeli Freeway in Winnipeg.
"[He was] unstable. He seemed to be aggressive in nature," Contois said at the vigil. "He talked about harming somebody or doing that."
Sandra DeLaronde, a longtime advocate for missing and murdered Indigenous people, said she wonders why the accused wasn't also charged with hate offences, since the women whose deaths he's charged in are Indigenous.
In a news release, Southern Chiefs' Organization Grand Chief Jerry Daniels also called for Skibicki to be charged with committing hate crimes against Indigenous women, and for his online presence to be investigated.
CBC News has previously reported that posts on a Facebook page linked to Skibicki, dated before his arrest, were rife with violent sentiments, and antisemitic, misogynistic and white supremacist material.
Police wouldn't speak to a possible motive in the crimes on Thursday or say whether they believe Indigenous women were targeted.
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"What I can tell you is that when our homicide unit put their package together in consultation with the Crowns at Manitoba Justice, the charges that came back were the three additional first-degree murder charges with obviously the first one for Rebecca Contois," Insp. Shawn Pike of the major crimes division said at the police news conference.
Contois was a member of O-Chi-Chak-Ko-Sipi First Nation, also known as Crane River, on the western shore of Lake Manitoba. The other two victims whose identities are known, Harris and Myran, were members of Long Plain First Nation in south central Manitoba.
'A systemic problem'
Long Plain Chief Kyra Wilson said leaders there are working to make sure mental health supports and ceremonies are available for people who need them.
"We're all family in Long Plain First Nation as well as [in] all of our First Nations communities," she said.
"We don't need to be related by blood to be considered family. So when we suffer a loss in the community, everyone feels that."
Wilson said the killings illustrate the need for the 231 calls for justice that came out of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls to be implemented.
"What I would like to see is actual tangible things that are happening to support our Indigenous communities when it comes to missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, two-spirit, as well as our men," she said.
While a national action plan to end violence against Indigenous women based on that inquiry's final report was released last year, advocates have said little has been done and called for more accountability from the federal government.
Advocate DeLaronde said while she appreciates the work police put into the case, she's also concerned about their withdrawal from a joint task force focused on resolving cold cases related to exploited people, including missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.
"We have many more missing and presumed murdered Indigenous women in Manitoba that need the eyes of law enforcement, that need the eyes of the Crown and the medical examiner to continue to pursue," she said.
And although she's glad to see the man accused in the killings incarcerated, more is needed to address the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous people.
"In the end, it's a systemic problem. And … we need to find ways to change all systems to ensure that there is safety for those that are vulnerable and targeted," she said, adding that circumstances like homelessness can lead people to become vulnerable.
"Because what happens here is every time an Indigenous woman goes missing and every time an Indigenous woman is found murdered, that it impacts the whole community. And not just for the day, not just through the investigation process, but for in some cases lifetimes.
"And so if we can focus on prevention … then I think we can begin to change."
Support is available for anyone affected by details of this case. If you require support, you can contact Ka Ni Kanichihk's Medicine Bear Counselling, Support and Elder Services at 204-594-6500, ext. 102 or 104, (within Winnipeg) or 1-888-953-5264 (outside Winnipeg).
Support is also available via Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak's Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Liaison unit at 1-800-442-0488 or 204-677-1648.
With files from Rachel Bergen, Austin Grabish and Cameron MacIntosh