‘We’re not done yet:’ Family gathers to honor women police say were murdered

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WINNIPEG — Under a dark December night sky, a collage of photos taped to a billboard rests against a tree lit only by the light of a sea of ​​candles. Each of the photos shows Morgan Harris smiling at different moments in her short life.

WINNIPEG — Under a dark December night sky, a collage of photos taped to a billboard rests against a tree lit only by the light of a sea of ​​candles.

Each of the photos shows Morgan Harris smiling at different times in her short life.

This is how Cambria Harris, 21, wants the public to remember her mother.

“I want her to be remembered as happy-go-lucky. She was goofy. She was fun. People loved being around her,” she said Thursday night during a vigil.

Winnipeg police say Harris, 39, is one of four women allegedly killed by Jeremy Skibicki last spring.

Police announced Thursday that Skibicki was charged with three counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Harris, 26-year-old Marcedes Myran, and an unidentified woman.

He was initially charged with first-degree murder on May 18 and remained in custody after the partial remains of 24-year-old Rebecca Contois were found in a dumpster near an apartment building. Police later found the rest of her remains in a Winnipeg landfill.

Contois lived in Winnipeg but was a member of the O-Chi-Chak-Ko-Sipi First Nation, also known as Crane River.

The bodies of the last three alleged victims have not been found.

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Harris and Myran lived in Winnipeg and were members of the Long Plain First Nation.

Police believe the unidentified woman is also indigenous.

Dozens of people gathered outside Skibicki’s residence to honor the four women hours after police announced the additional charges.

“I think it’s amazing that we can come together like this, but I don’t think it should be like this. There comes a point where we have to say this has to stop,” Cambria Harris said.

“This is a genocide that is happening to our indigenous women. We’re missing left and right, and I won’t be next. My daughter won’t be next. Something has to change.”

Harris was the mother of five children and the grandmother of one. Police previously reported that she was last seen on May 1. They said Thursday that she was probably killed around the same time.

“I know she loved her children and did the best she could with what she had. I think about how unfair it ended up like this,” Harris’s cousin Kirstin Witwicki said during the vigil.

Witwicki admired her cousin’s “enormous spirit”.

“She had the soul of a UFC fighter. She wasn’t afraid and she wasn’t afraid of anyone,” she said.

Police said Harris, Myran and Contois were killed in May.

They said a fourth woman is believed to have been killed around March 15, 2022. They posted a photo of a jacket similar to the one she had been wearing.

“It’s always unsettling any time there’s some kind of serial murder,” Winnipeg Police Chief Danny Smyth said.

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“It involves indigenous women. We are very sensitive to all the research and investigation of missing and murdered indigenous women and the recommendations that have come out of that.”

Smyth did not say if the women were targeted because they were indigenous.

Police released few details about their investigation, but said they have no leads on other possible victims.

They said they are not searching the dump for the bodies of the three women and did not say if they were looking elsewhere.

Melissa Normand, another of Harris’s cousins, wants the police to change their minds.

“That’s unfair. Our family deserves to have Morgan back and put her at peace.”

Investigators believe that Skibicki acted alone and that there is no threat to public safety.

“He was arrested as soon as we realized what was happening. He has been housed in a correctional facility ever since and to my knowledge he has been released at one point,” said Insp. Shawn Pike.

Winnipeg Mayor Scott Gillingham offered his condolences.

“Anger and sadness, that mix, is what I’m feeling right now, and I think many in our city are going to feel the same,” he said.

Community supports have been offered to both families, said Angie Tuesday, police family support and resource advocate.

“This is a tremendously difficult time for the two families we are talking about today, as well as for all the families of missing and murdered Native American women and girls, and two-spirited and gender diverse people in Manitoba. I want people to know that we are thinking of you, and our hearts go out to you at this time.”

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The Southern Chiefs Organization offered its condolences to the family, friends and First Nations of the victims.

“We will keep him in our thoughts and prayers as he deals with the news that his loved ones have been taken from us in such a violent manner,” Grand Chief Jerry Daniels said in a statement.

Long Plain Chief Kyra Wilson called for resources and support for women, girls, two-spirited and gender diverse people.

Nahanni Fontaine, the Manitoba NDP justice critic, visited the Harris family Thursday morning.

“It is devastating to see the anguish of the family. It’s heartbreaking to be standing here again to have these conversations again.

After months of searching for her mother, Cambria Harris said the family must grieve again.

“I find peace and I find closure in being able to be here today and say they found something, but we’re not done yet.”

— With files from Steve Lambert

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on December 1, 2022.

Brittany Hobson, The Canadian Press