Saskatchewan·CBC Investigates

60-hour delay before Regina police called in laundry chute death

A letter obtained by CBC’s iTeam shows there was a 60-hour gap between the time Nadine Machiskinic was found fatally injured at the bottom of a laundry chute at Regina’s Delta Hotel, and when police were called in to investigate.

Family wonders if stereotypes delayed investigation of Aboriginal mother’s death

Nadine Machiskinic, a mother of four, died at Regina's Delta Hotel more than two years ago. (Delores Stevenson)

A letter obtained by CBC's iTeam shows there was a 60-hour gap between the time Nadine Machiskinic was found fatally injured at the bottom of a laundry chute at Regina's Delta Hotel, and when police were called in to investigate.

Machiskinic's aunt believes she may have been thrown down that chute and she said the delay is unacceptable.

"That's my biggest issue," said Delores Stevenson, Machiskinic's aunt. "The hours after her death should have been the most crucial part of the investigation but that wasn't the case for her."
Delores Stevenson, Machiskinic's aunt says her niece's death has not been taken seriously by the justice system. (CBC)

She worries the delay may have been caused by assumptions and driven by stereotypes, because Machiskinic was Aboriginal and apparently intoxicated.

"Their first assumption was that she's drunk and passed out rather than taking into consideration that she actually had an injury and a fall," said Stevenson. "I just feel like judgements were made because she was aboriginal."

"And based on those types of judgements it took the investigation into a total different direction. For the first 60 some hours there wasn't even an investigation."

60-hour delay of death investigation

Back in September, Stevenson asked the Saskatchewan Public Complaints Commission (PCC) to review the conduct of the Regina Police because she was concerned with delays in the investigation.

In its March 2016 response, the PCC wrote "the RPS (Regina Police Service) responded in a professional, timely fashion once they were notified of Nadine's death."
Nadine Machiskinic was found fatally injured in the basement laundry room of Regina's Delta Hotel, early on the morning of January 10, 2015. (CBC)

But it also highlights some problems that Stevenson finds alarming.

On Jan.10, 2015 just after 4 a.m. CST, hotel staff found Machiskinic, the 29-year-old mother of four, fatally injured in the hotel laundry room. They called 911, reporting they had found a woman believed to be "unconscious due to alcohol or drugs," according to the PCC's letter.

It says EMS also concluded Machiskinic overdosed, and she was rushed to the hospital where she died at about 6:30 a.m. The coroner's office was called in, but did not alert police.

In an email, the Ministry of Justice explained "based on the initial circumstances, the coroner did not find a need to notify police."

An autopsy wasn't conducted until Jan. 12. According to the PCC, the pathologist "noted there were injuries to Nadine's back that suggested she had suffered some form of physical trauma."

This whole investigation wasn't dealt with urgency or importance- Delores Stevenson, Nadine Machiskinic's aunt

"It was at this point, some 60 hours after Nadine had been found, the coroner contacted the RPS, advised of the death and requested Major Crimes investigators attend the hospital."

Stevenson believes that 60-hour lag happened because people assumed Machiskinic was merely drunk, and she believes that delay could have wasted valuable time.

In Stevenson's view, "this whole investigation wasn't dealt with urgency or importance."

Police begin investigation

The PCC's letter says after consulting with the coroner, police immediately went to the hotel to begin the investigation, two-and-a-half days after Machiskinic was found fatally injured.

It says officers learned her personal effects were missing. When police asked hotel staff "the general response was that it was likely any property left behind after EMS transported Nadine, was thrown away," said the PCC report.

"Which I don't think is right," said Stevenson. "Because in a five-star hotel you don't throw out lost and found. I know that. I've worked in hotels."

The report says police discovered there had been a disturbance on the tenth floor of the hotel that night and an alarm had been pulled not long before Machiskinic was found in the basement laundry room.
Machiskinic's family says she worked in the sex trade and her aunt believes that's why she was at the Delta Hotel the morning she died. (Submitted by Delores Stevenson)

According to the report, the only guest on the floor that night was an American citizen. He had checked out on Jan. 11, before the police investigation began.

However they travelled to the U.S. to interview him. According to the PCC, he told them an Aboriginal female, who matched the description of Machiskinic, "had been yelling in the hallway of the 10th floor and was banging on doors, including his."

He said she appeared intoxicated and was yelling about a fire.

The guest's room had not yet been cleaned, and police secured the scene. "DNA results showed none of the exhibits matched Nadine's DNA. There was no direct evidence Nadine had been in that 10th floor suite."

The PCC said, after reviewing the RPS investigation "there was no direct evidence to indicate someone put Nadine into the laundry chute in an attempt to harm or kill her."

Stevenson said she's not sure she believes that.

She said one thing she knows for sure is that "not having closure is a nightmare."

Final autopsy still not available to family

Stevenson said one key reason for that lack of closure is the fact that she still hasn't seen the coroner's report.

The coroner's office says an investigation typically takes four to six months. But the report into Machiskinic's death has taken 17 months.

Back in September, the delayed report was already an issue. At the time the ministry of justice said the the autopsy report wasn't complete because the toxicology report wasn't done.

I phoned them in mid-February. They said 'a few more weeks.' I phone them in March. They said 'a few more weeks.' I phoned them at the end of March -- 'a few more weeks.'- Delores Stevenson, Nadine Machiskinic's aunt

"The delay is an unfortunate and unusual occurrence," a ministry spokesperson wrote at the time.

According to the PCC, the toxicology report was completed in November but the autopsy delays continue.

"I phoned them in mid-February. They said 'a few more weeks.' I phone them in March. They said 'a few more weeks.' I phoned them at the end of March -- 'a few more weeks,'" Stevenson recounted.

She said just last week the ministry has finally confirmed the report is complete.

But she said she's still being asked to wait a few more weeks. "It gets kind of frustrating after a while."

Police now asking for public help

On May 9, 17 months after Machiskinic died, police issued a news release requesting the public's help to identify two people recorded standing at the front desk of the Delta Hotel at 3:45 a.m.; just a few minutes before Machiskinic was found fatally injured in the laundry room.
On May 9, Regina Police released this image captured at the front desk of the Delta Hotel at 3:45 a.m the morning Nadine Machiskinic died. Police said they want to talk to these men but pointed out they are not considered suspects.

"These individuals are not considered suspects but police investigators are following up every possible opportunity to gather information in the investigation into the death of Nadine Machiskinic," the release said.

Regina lawyer Tony Merchant is familiar with the case because he is suing the company that operated the Delta Hotel for negligence on behalf of Machiskinic's mother and children. In its statement of defence the company denies it was in any way negligent in her death. 

Merchant said he finds it very odd that police are just now getting around to looking for these people.

"What plausible explanation could there be?" Merchant wondered. "That they found a tape that had been hidden in a desk for 17 months? No. All logic would tell you that they finally got around to doing what they more reasonably might have done in the first three or four or five hours."

"So you're driven to the conclusion that because of the pressure of the family, because of other pressures, CBC media, that they started to do now what they more appropriately would have done a long time ago."
On behalf of Nadine Machiskinic's mother, Tony Merchant is suing the company that ran Regina's Delta Hotel when the 29-year-old woman was found fatally injured in the basement. (Aldo Columpsi/CBC)

He said there are a whole series of puzzling delays and puzzling actions from authorities that demand public disclosure.

"The burden of explanation is on the police, is on the coroner's office, is on the Attorney General's office," Merchant said.

"And we're not getting any explanation that members of the public would think are reasonable explanations."

In Merchant's view, "this was from moment one a suspicious death." Yet, he said, hasn't been treated that way.

Stevenson says she intends to keep pushing.

"I feel like they want me to give up asking. But I'm going to keep calling every month until it's done and completed."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Geoff Leo

Senior Investigative Journalist

Geoff Leo has been a reporter for CBC News in Saskatchewan since 2001. His work as an investigative journalist and documentary producer has earned numerous national and regional awards.

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