Testimony concludes in Machiskinic inquest, but many questions remain
Coroner to instruct 6-person jury Thursday; they have 5 possibilities on manner of death to consider
The lawyer representing the family of Nadine Machiskinic said the coroner's inquest established at least a couple key facts.
The 29-year-old mother of four fell 10 storeys down a Regina hotel laundry chute to her death.
And then she fell through the cracks.
"A lot of things were not followed up with expeditiously and that's a big problem," said Noah Evanchuk. "It certainly didn't strike me as a situation where there was a lot of urgency."
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Three days of testimony at the inquest into Machiskinic's death in January of 2015 wrapped up on Wednesday afternoon. The coroner will charge the six-person jury on Thursday morning.
During the inquest, the jury heard from police officers, staff at Regina's Delta Hotel, medical experts and Saskatchewan's former chief coroner, Kent Stewart.
It's the jury's job to establish the medical cause of death and the manner of death. On the manner of death there are five possibilities: natural causes, homicide, suicide, accidental death or undetermined.
In his May 2016 report on Machiskinic's death, chief coroner Kent Stewart concluded her death was accidental.
Machiskinic's aunt, Delores Stevenson, wonders how, given all the uncertainty, Stewart arrived at that conclusion.
"The clear message at the end of the day was, 'This case is closed. There's no foul play and that's the end of it,'" she said.
But she says the inquest has shown things are not so cut and dried.
Evanchuk said the problems began almost as soon as Machiskinic's body was discovered in the basement of the Delta Hotel on the morning of Jan. 10, 2015.
The Indigenous woman, who worked in the sex trade, was found unconscious with pill bottles by her side. Some made the initial assumption that she had wandered into the laundry room drunk and passed out.
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"I think the first witness we heard in the inquest said it best," Evanchuk said.
"They were advised that Ms. Machiskinic was an individual living a high-risk lifestyle and thus nothing else would have to be done, until one of the coroners had an 'Oh boy' moment several days later and tried to pick up the pieces."
During the inquest, the jury heard:
- There was a 60-hour delay between the time Machiskinic was found and police were called to investigate. Police testified that made the investigation very difficult.
- EMS staff took Machiskinic to the hospital but left some personal effects like her purse behind at the hotel. They were likely thrown out.
- Police accidentally failed to send in some toxicological samples from Machiskinic's body until the problem was discovered six months later.
- It took police more than a year before they started looking for two men shown on surveillance video getting onto an elevator with someone who appeared to be Machiskinic, minutes before she plunged to her death. Police never found those men.
- It took police more than a year before they requested a list of all of the guests at the hotel the night Machiskinic died.
- The only person to have seen Machiskinic on the 10th floor before she fell to her death testified that she had two elementary school-aged children with her. Those children were never found.
- The initial autopsy report concluded Machiskinic was too intoxicated to have thrown herself down the laundry chute. That opinion was later altered based on additional information which showed she may have been mobile enough to get into the laundry chute on her own.
Many of these findings were publicly reported before the inquest was held.
But Stevenson said regardless of the outcome, this was still a worthwhile exercise.
All along, people have told her she may not get the answers she's looking for, but "at least it sheds light on how this investigation was handled, if anything, for Nadine [and] for other families who have to go through this experience," she said.
"It sheds light on how this investigation was handled. It sheds light on the unprofessionalism."