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Winnipeg trial hears search for ‘serial killer’ found on accused’s computer

Jeremy Skibicki has admitted to killing 4 women but argues he isn’t criminally responsible

A police analyst tasked with going through the computer of a Winnipeg man who admitted to killing four women found internet searches for what it means to be a serial killer.

Riley Johansson told a murder trial that he traced months of online searches on Jeremy Skibicki’s computer around the same time the four Indigenous women were slain in 2022.

“My goal was to give some of this data context … to help narrow the search for any additional victims,” Johannson, a crime intelligence analyst with Winnipeg police, testified Tuesday during the third week of the trial.

Skibicki, 37, has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder for the slayings of Rebecca Contois, 24; Morgan Harris, 39; Marcedes Myran, 26; and an unidentified woman Indigenous leaders have named Mashkode Bizhiki’ikwe, or Buffalo Woman.

Skibicki’s lawyers admit he killed the women but argue he’s not criminally responsible due to mental illness.

Crown prosecutors have said the killings were racially motivated and Skibicki preyed on the vulnerable victims at homeless shelters.

The trial has heard Skibicki assaulted his victims, strangled or drowned them and disposed of their bodies in garbage bins in his neighbourhood. Two were dismembered.

Johannson testified part of his job was to corroborate details Skibicki provided to police after he was arrested in May 2022 for killing Contois, whose partial remains had been found in a garbage bin in Skibicki’s neighbourhood. More of her remains were later found in a landfill.

Skibicki admitted to police he killed three others but didn’t know the names of two of the women.

READ ALSO: ‘As though they were garbage’: admitted serial killer targeted Indigenous women

Johansson said he created a snapshot of each victim based on the search history on Skibicki’s computer.

Court has heard Buffalo Woman was Skibicki’s first victim. Skibicki told police he killed her around March 15, 2022.

In the days that followed, Johansson said some of the internet searches included: “Do fingerprints show up on plastic wrap?” and “How well does bleach remove fingerprints?”

Another search that came up: “How long do places usually keep their security footage?”

Court previously heard police attempted to obtain video evidence of Skibicki with Buffalo Woman. But by the time officers became aware of her death two months later, any possible video surveillance had likely been deleted.

Johansson said he also found a computer search relating to “explosive anger disorder” after Buffalo Woman’s death.

It was after the killing of Myran, Skibicki’s third victim, that a Google search for “definition of a serial killer” came up on his computer, said Johansson.

There was also a search on Wikipedia for “eternal rest.” The phrase is considered a Christian prayer that’s recited when someone dies.

Johansson said numerous queries relating to garbage pickups, missing persons reports and news coverage were also found in the days following the killings.

Court heard Johansson went through a significant amount of data linking Contois to Skibicki in February 2022.

Facebook messages read in court from Skibicki to a friend detail his first meeting with Contois.

“Found some other chick on the bus,” said a message read aloud by Crown prosecutor Chris Vanderhooft.

Police located a Facebook account under a pseudonym on Skibicki’s hard drive linked to his internet address.

During cross-examination, Skibicki’s lawyers brought up other religious searches found on Skibicki’s computer, including Bible verses not included in Johansson’s analysis.

“It’s my job to apply discretion to the data,” said Johansson.

Court also heard about conversations in May 2022 that Skibicki had with his ex-wife over Facebook messenger relating to his mental state. The woman previously testified Skibicki sexually and physically abused her during their marriage.

In those messages, Skibicki wrote about having bipolar and post-traumatic stress disorders, admitted to a drug relapse and said he was on a “path of self-destruction.”

The federal government has a support line for those affected by the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls: 1-844-413-6649. The Hope for Wellness Helpline, with support in Cree, Ojibway and Inuktitut, is also available to all Indigenous people in Canada: 1-855-242-3310.

Brittany Hobson, The Canadian Press