Woman, 18, pleads guilty to murder of Sagkeeng First Nation schoolmate shown beaten in online videos
WARNING: This story contains graphic details
One of two teens accused of killing schoolmate Serena McKay on a Manitoba First Nation in April has pleaded guilty to murder, eight months after videos surfaced showing the girl being beaten the night she was killed.
McKay was a Grade 12 student about to graduate from Sagkeeng Anicinabe High School in Sagkeeng First Nation, 100 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg, when her body was found outside a residence there in April. She was 19 years old.
Two of her peers from the school, aged 16 and 17, were charged with second-degree murder a few days later. Around the same time, a pair of videos showing McKay being attacked circulated on social media before being removed.
The 17-year-old, who has since turned 18, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder on Friday, Dec. 22, in a Winnipeg courtroom. She cannot be named because she was a minor at the time of McKay's death.
Presiding Judge R.L. Pollack accepted the plea after hearing an agreed-upon statement of facts read aloud by Crown attorney Joel Myskiw.
The facts shed light on details of McKay's death, including, as court heard, that she likely died of hypothermia. A pathologist found she was possibly unable to seek protection from the cold because of her injuries and the amount of alcohol in her system.
Videos show fight outside party
Court heard McKay and the two accused were together at a house party on the night of Saturday, April 22, along with four other teens. The group included the boyfriend of the woman who pleaded guilty.
McKay argued with the younger of the two accused — who also cannot be named — over alcohol, court heard. The teen who pleaded guilty tried to calm down McKay in the bathroom, Msykiw said, "as she did not want a fight to break out."
"It is not disputed that the deceased was being aggressive throughout the evening," he said.
At some point that night, McKay was kicked out of the party. A fight did break out between McKay and the younger of the two accused, court heard.
Two videos filmed on the older accused's cellphone in different areas of the yard show McKay being beaten by the accused, court heard. McKay's face is the only one clearly visible.
In a 48-second video, the younger of the two accused is heard saying, "I don't want to f**king see her alive," before asking the older girl to take over, which she did, court heard.
In a nine-second video, the older accused's boot is seen stomping on McKay's face.
Afterwards, the older of the two accused sent video footage of the attack to two people via Facebook Messenger, court heard. The videos were also posted to Facebook and shared widely within the community.
After the fight, the two teens went back inside the house, where they spent the night, along with the boyfriend of the older accused. Court heard the woman who pleaded guilty locked the door, "as she was afraid that McKay would come after them."
The older accused wanted to phone police, court heard, but her boyfriend took her phone away.
McKay didn't have her phone or belongings, court heard.
Accused 'downplayed' involvement to police
Court also heard about messages sent between the two accused the following day. Myskiw also read a message sent from the older accused to a friend, in which she asked him to delete the video and messages she'd sent him the previous night about the attack.
Later that day, she and her boyfriend went to see one of the other people who had been at the party, asking him to lie to police and say the pair had left at the same time as him.
The younger of the two accused lied to two people she ran into about the fight, telling one that she had fought McKay for being "disrespectful," but that she didn't know where McKay was at that time.
On April 24, the Monday after the party, the younger accused visited a high school guidance counsellor about the fight. The counsellor phoned RCMP.
The older accused went to the RCMP station the same day to give a witness statement. Before going, court heard she went to a friend's house and asked to borrow a pair of boots.
The friend later said in a police statement that the accused said she was worried about going to the police with the boots on, court heard, because of the video.
In her witness statement, the accused told police she left the party while the fight was happening. But after RCMP seized her boots from her vehicle, she gave another statement and admitted she'd been part of the attack.
However, court heard she "downplayed" her involvement and claimed the attack was in self-defence.
The younger accused turned herself in on April 24, court heard. She is due to appear in court in January.
Vigils, posthumous diploma in McKay's honour
In 2015, a CBC analysis found Sagkeeng had the highest number of outstanding cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada.
- Sagkeeng high school marks graduation with empty chair
- Hundreds meet, march for McKay at Winnipeg vigil
McKay's high school awarded her a posthumous diploma and left a chair empty for her on the stage during graduation. It was draped with a red graduation gown, signifying missing and murdered Indigenous women.