Serial killer saw not criminally responsible verdict as ‘easier way out,’ made up delusions: Crown expert

WARNING: This story contains distressing details.

An admitted Winnipeg serial killer likely made up his claims that hallucinations and delusions drove him to kill four women in 2022 to try to avoid being convicted of murder, the forensic psychiatrist hired by prosecutors to assess Jeremy Skibicki’s mental state testified during his trial Wednesday.

Dr. Gary Chaimowitz said he found no evidence to support a conclusion that Skibicki, 37, has schizophrenia, as another expert — Dr. Sohom Das, who was enlisted by the defence to assess Skibicki — testified on Tuesday.

“I believe that the plethora of symptoms that Mr. Skibicki described to me and Dr. Das are fabrications of a major mental disorder, which is understandable given his situation,” Chaimowitz testified Wednesday, adding Skibicki had never previously been treated for schizophrenia or diagnosed with it by any of the psychiatrists who assessed him.

“He saw this as an easier way out than the life sentences that he knew he was going to get.”

Instead, the Ontario-based psychiatrist said his opinion is that Skibicki was driven to kill the women whose deaths he’s now on trial for by homicidal necrophilia — an arousal to having sex with people he’s killed.

Court previously heard Skibicki said he performed sex acts on the bodies of all four women after killing them.

Chaimowitz said “given the gravity and horror of his acts” and their potential consequences if convicted of murder, Skibicki had a motivation to exaggerate or fake symptoms of a mental disorder during his psychiatric evaluations.

A man with glasses smiles.
Dr. Gary Chaimowitz testified he found no evidence to support a conclusion that Jeremy Skibicki has schizophrenia. (McMaster University)

He also testified Wednesday that he determined Skibicki has an antisocial personality disorder and a substance abuse disorder, following assessments he conducted for a total of roughly eight hours over two days last month.

Chaimowitz said in his report Skibicki “likely too has some psychopathic features,” but noted he did not specifically assess him for psychopathy.

The psychiatrist said Skibicki’s actions and behaviours “all point to a conspiracy laden, racist man with significant personality problems and addictions,” and this his description of his psychotic symptoms “stretches credulity.”

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“That these symptoms, some of which do not correlate with genuine psychotic symptoms, would go undetected for years stretches the imagination,” Chaimowitz wrote.

“In my view, the things he describes are not indicative or even suggestive of schizophrenia.”

He said based on his psychiatric assessment, he believes Skibicki would have continued what he was doing if he hadn’t been stopped — as Skibicki told police in his 2022 interview.

The faces of three First Nations women are pictured side by side.
From left, Morgan Harris, Marcedes Myran and Rebecca Contois. (Submitted by Winnipeg Police Service and Darryl Contois)

Skibicki has pleaded not guilty to four first-degree murder charges in the deaths of three First Nations women — Rebecca Contois, 24, Morgan Harris, 39, and Marcedes Myran, 26 — and an unidentified woman community leaders have given the name Mashkode Bizhiki’ikwe, or Buffalo Woman, who police have said they believe was an Indigenous woman in her 20s.

Skibicki admitted to police in an interview after his May 2022 arrest that he killed the four women, but his defence has argued he should be found not criminally responsible due to a mental disorder.

Judge tells defence not to ‘let oxygen be used up’

During cross-examination, defence lawyer Leonard Tailleur questioned Chaimowitz at length about whether Skibicki’s meth use around the time of the killings could have caused schizophrenic episodes.

He also repeatedly asked Chaimowitz questions about whether he thought some of Skibicki’s behaviour, including in social media posts, suggested delusions. In one post, Skibicki wrote that he is “not schizophrenic, nor do I hallucinate.”

When asked what he thought of that post, Chaimowitz said it was “one of the things that I actually agree with him on.” The psychiatrist said while some of Skibicki’s statements might be bizarre, they often fit within an ideology like racism and weren’t clinically delusional.

At one point, Court of King’s Bench Chief Justice Glenn Joyal interrupted Tailleur’s questions and said they’d gotten too repetitive, were not “useful or respectful” and had become “almost insulting” to the psychiatrist, whose answers remained unchanged each time.

In response, the defence lawyer said Crown attorney Christian Vanderhooft had a day earlier grilled the defence’s psychiatric witness for an extended period of time during cross-examination without being interrupted.

“I don’t accept that proposition to begin with, but even if it was in some way viable, you’ve long since evened it up,” the judge replied, adding he refused to continue to “let the oxygen be used up” with repetitive questions.

“I’m not going to sit here for the next hour-and-a-half, watching myself grow old as I’m hearing the same answers to the same questions.”

The heated exchange ended when Joyal told Tailleur, who called the judge’s remarks offensive, that he seemed “indignant” and called a 10-minute recess so the defence lawyer could “figure out how you want to proceed.”

A courtroom sketch shows a bald man with a beard and glasses in the accused box, with a sheriff sitting in a chair on one side of him and his lawyers on the other side. In front of them, a judge listens from the bench.
Jeremy Skibicki has pleaded not guilty to four counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Morgan Harris, Marcedes Myran, Rebecca Contois and a fourth unidentified woman community members named Mashkode Bizhiki’ikwe, or Buffalo Woman. (James Culleton)

Tailleur also pointed to several times when schizophrenia was mentioned in Skibicki’s medical records, which Chaimowitz said seemed to be the product of Skibicki telling health-care providers he thought he had the condition, and not an actual diagnosis. 

The psychiatrist said those medical records also show Skibicki had so many interactions with the health-care system that someone likely would have noticed symptoms of schizophrenia had they existed and diagnosed him.

Tailleur also later accused the psychiatrist of bias and prematurely making his mind up, citing two cases Chaimowitz had testified in where he disagreed with a diagnosis of schizophrenia before the courts found the person not criminally responsible due to the illness. 

Crown attorney Christian Vanderhooft noted in both cases, Chaimowitz had been open to the possibility the person had schizophrenia — he just didn’t believe it was the most likely diagnosis.

Delusions, psychotic symptoms to blame: defence expert

Das, the U.K.-based forensic psychiatrist hired by the defence, testified earlier this week that Skibicki told him he was actually encouraged to kill the women by voices he was hearing at the time — and claimed he’d told police a different story because he’d been overtaken by an entity that could have been either God or the devil, which was speaking on his behalf.

Those details helped inform Das’s conclusion that Skibicki was motivated by delusions and psychotic symptoms caused by schizophrenia when he killed the women, the defence expert told court.

Das’s report and testimony on Skibicki were the only evidence presented by the defence.

A man in a blue collared shirt is seen looking forward.
Dr. Sohom Das, seen in a 2023 video on his YouTube channel, A Psych for Sore Minds, testified this week on his assessment of Jeremy Skibicki’s mental state. (A Psych For Sore Minds/YouTube)

Prosecutors have alleged the killings were racially motivated, and that Skibicki preyed on vulnerable Indigenous women at Winnipeg homeless shelters before killing the women and throwing their remains in the garbage.

Chaimowitz said Wednesday that in his view, Skibicki doesn’t meet the criteria to be found not criminally responsible in the killings because he didn’t have a mental disorder that made him unable to understand what he was doing or that it was wrong.

He testified that the killings appeared to be “semi-planned” and organized and had “both racial enmity and a necrophiliac drive.” The psychiatrist also said the fact that Skibicki is “soft-spoken, outwardly gentle, and thoughtful are features that can disarm potential victims.”

Chaimowitz also noted in his report that the likelihood that the killings were “a function of psychosis” seemed extremely low, “even if these thoughts were present (which I think is highly unlikely).”

The psychiatrist also said the women who Skibicki killed belonged to “a vulnerable accessible group whose disappearance unfortunately may go relatively unnoticed.”

The judge-alone trial in Winnipeg began hearing evidence on May 8. It resumed Monday after a break following the conclusion of the Crown’s case on May 22. Closing submissions are scheduled for Monday.

Support is available for anyone affected by these reports and the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous people. Immediate emotional assistance and crisis support are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week through a national hotline at 1-844-413-6649.

You can also access, through the government of Canada, health support services such as mental health counselling, community-based support and cultural services, and some travel costs to see elders and traditional healers. Family members seeking information about a missing or murdered loved one can access Family Information Liaison Units.