For families of missing women, unknown victim of alleged serial killer conjures fears of the worst: advocate

A black-and-white jacket is among the few clues Winnipeg police have released in their plea for information to help identify the lone unknown victim of an alleged serial killer.

No remains found, few details about woman Winnipeg police believe was 1st victim of accused killer

A woman in glasses, wearing strawberry-shaped earrings, looks at the camera.
Hilda Anderson-Pyrz is chair of the National Family and Survivors Circle, and helps support the families of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people. (Jaison Empson/CBC)

Families searching for missing loved ones are fearing the worst after police announced one of the victims of an alleged serial killer in Winnipeg has not yet been identified.

"You always remain hopeful that your loved one is going to be found safe," said Hilda Anderson-Pyrz, chair of the National Family and Survivors Circle, a group created after the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

"To hear this type of news, I cannot begin to imagine what the families are going through ... not knowing if this individual who has not been identified yet is their loved one."

On Thursday, police said a man charged earlier this year in the death of a 24-year-old woman has now been charged with three more counts of first-degree murder.

Jeremy Skibicki's lawyer said his client planned to plead not guilty to the four charges in the deaths of Rebecca Contois, 39-year-old Morgan Harris, 26-year-old Marcedes Myran and a fourth unidentified woman.

The faces of three First Nations women are pictured side by side.
Left to right: Morgan Beatrice Harris, Marcedes Myran and Rebecca Contois. Winnipeg police said on Thursday they have charged Jeremy Skibicki with first-degree murder in the deaths of all three women, as well as a fourth, who hasn't been identified. (Submitted by Winnipeg Police Service and Darryl Contois)

Contois was a member of O-Chi-Chak-Ko-Sipi First Nation, also known as Crane River, located on the western shore of Lake Manitoba. Harris and Myran were members of Long Plain First Nation in south central Manitoba. All were living in Winnipeg when they were killed, police say.

Police have found Contois's remains, but none of the other women's bodies. However, they said they still had enough evidence to charge Skibicki in all four deaths.

Few details have been released about the fourth woman. Police believe she was Indigenous and in her mid-20s, and that she was the first of the four victims, killed weeks before the others.

Investigators also released photos of a black-and-white Baby Phat brand jacket with a fur trim hood they believe the woman wore. 

A series of four photographs shows a jacket. Two photos on the top show the front and back of a black jacket, with a hood lined with grey fur. Two photos on the bottom show the jacket reversed, with black-and-white horizontal stripes.
Police are asking the public to help identify the fourth homicide victim, who wore a Baby Phat reversible jacket with a fur hood like this one. (Submitted by Winnipeg Police Service)

With scant details, identifying the woman may prove difficult — and if she's indeed a young Indigenous woman who had been reported missing, as Harris and Myran were, Anderson-Pyrz said the list of possible matches is long.

At a news conference on Thursday, Winnipeg Police Service Insp. Shawn Pike said the investigation to identify the unknown victim continues.

"Somewhere out there, there's a family and a community that are missing a loved one and truly deserve to know what happened," Pike said.

'Somebody has to know something'

Darryl Contois — who has spent decades helping in searches for missing people, including Harris earlier this year — said he's been going over his notes from previous searches to see if there's any link to the unidentified woman and the jacket she wore.

"I'm trying to piece together [any information about] that piece of clothing to see if anybody gave me a description of what that person was wearing and who that is," Contois said Friday at a sacred fire burning for the slain women on Winnipeg's Selkirk Avenue.

He said he's doing what he can to help bring closure to the woman's family, whoever they are — and he hopes other people will too.

"There's a lot of people in Winnipeg, you know. Somebody has to know something," he said.

"Even though she's gone, she's still somebody. Somebody loves her, somebody cares for her — so I hope we find out who she is."

WATCH | Police provide details about unidentified victim:

Police plead for help identifying victim

4 months ago
Duration 2:19
Winnipeg police Insp. Shawn Pike on Thursday asked the public for help identifying an unknown woman who's believed to be the first of four victims of alleged serial killer Jeremy Skibicki. The three identified women allegedly killed by Skibicki are Rebecca Contois, Morgan Harris and Marcedes Myran.

And if a day comes when the woman is identified, Anderson-Pyrz said she thinks about the family — out there somewhere, not yet knowing what happened to their loved one — and hopes the community rallies to support and care for them.

"I think of the heartbreak that they'll go through — the trauma that they'll experience," she said, emotion welling in her voice.

Anderson-Pyrz said the deaths highlight the urgent 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.

A national action plan to end violence against Indigenous women based on that inquiry's final report was released last year, but advocates have said little has been done and called for more accountability from the federal government. 

Consistent government funding to address a lack of affordable housing, quality education, access to employment and training opportunities, and the ability to reclaim culture would all go a long way to help ensure the safety of Indigenous women, Anderson-Pyrz said.


Caitlyn Gowriluk has been writing for CBC Manitoba since 2019. Her work has also appeared in the Winnipeg Free Press, and in 2021 she was part of an award-winning team recognized by the Radio Television Digital News Association for its breaking news coverage of COVID-19 vaccines. Get in touch with her at

With files from Alana Cole