Skibicki said he heard voices that ‘encouraged him directly’ to kill 4 women, forensic psychiatrist testifies

WARNING: This story contains distressing details.

During the 2022 police interview where Jeremy Skibicki confessed to killing four Indigenous women, he told investigators he was motivated by race and the “extreme desperate measures” he felt needed to be taken “for the survival of [his] people.”

But almost two years later, during an April forensic psychiatric assessment, just before the start of his first-degree murder trial, he told the expert hired by his lawyers that 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 Dr. Sohom Das’s conclusion that Skibicki, 37, was motivated by delusions and psychotic symptoms caused by schizophrenia when he killed the women whose deaths he’s now on trial for.

The U.K.-based psychiatrist’s report and testimony on Skibicki were the only evidence presented by the defence in their bid to prove that while the accused killed the women, he should be found not criminally responsible due to a mental disorder.

Das’s testimony drew criticism during the Crown’s cross-examination on Tuesday.

Prosecutor Christian Vanderhooft questioned the psychiatrist about whether the fact that Skibicki told no one about hearing those voices — not even Das, during their first assessment in September 2022 — until just before his trial raised any concerns he was fabricating the story.

“He’s got a bit of a problem, doesn’t he?” Vanderhooft asked. “He has to change the evidence to get to [not criminally responsible].”

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“Well yeah, if he’s making a conscious effort to fake to get to [not criminally responsible], then yes,” Das replied.

He added that he believed there were “glimpses” of what he described as Skibicki’s delusions as early as his police interview, and that the reason Skibicki never brought them up in their first encounter could have been because Das didn’t ask specific questions about the interrogation.

Das said in his opinion, at the time Skibicki killed the women, he was suffering from a mental disorder that made him unable to know what he was doing was wrong — which would meet the test for a person to be found not criminally responsible in Canada.

Skibicki has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in the 2022 deaths of three First Nations women — Rebecca Contois, 24, Morgan Harris, 39, and Marcedes Myran, 26 — and a fourth, unidentified woman community leaders have given the name Mashkode Bizhiki’ikwe, or Buffalo Woman, who police have said they believe was Indigenous and in her 20s.

The faces of three First Nations women are pictured side by side.
Left to right: Morgan Harris, Marcedes Myran and Rebecca Contois. Skibicki is charged in their deaths and in the death of an as-yet unidentified woman who has been given the name Mashkode Bizhiki’ikwe, or Buffalo Woman, by community leaders. (Submitted by Winnipeg Police Service and Darryl Contois)

Prosecutors allege that Skibicki preyed on vulnerable Indigenous women at Winnipeg homeless shelters, and threw the remains of his victims in the garbage.

He was initially arrested in connection with Contois’s death, following the discovery of her partial remains in garbage bins near his apartment, but was charged with the other killings after unexpectedly confessing to all four during his police interview.

Voices of angels, Holy Spirit, God: psychiatrist

Das said in his assessment of Skibicki, he “appeared to be overwhelmed with a strong belief” that his victims “were in some way impure,” which he felt was revealed to him through God.

“He believed that if the victims were subservient to God, they would be saved from going to hell and it would be more likely that they would go to heaven,” Das told court Tuesday.

“He informed me that he believed that if they were not subservient to God, he felt compelled to physically destroy them.”

Skibicki also repeatedly performed sex acts on the women’s bodies after killing them, which he said was because he believed he needed “to sanctify the body” as part of that process, the psychiatrist testified.

He also said he had a “special power” that allowed him to determine whether the women were subservient to God by having sex with them before killing them — all of which Das testified indicated various delusions.

A side profile of a bald man.
A police photograph shows Jeremy Skibicki in custody, following his May 2022 arrest. He has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in the killings of four women. (Manitoba Court of King’s Bench)

The psychiatrist also said Skibicki told him he heard voices of angels, the Holy Spirit or God before killing the women, “and in all cases, they encouraged him directly to commit the killings,” Das said, adding Skibicki’s medical history suggests he had been hearing voices for years prior.

He said though Skibicki realized what he’d done was illegal — which is why he took action to dispose of the women’s remains without being detected — he thought his actions were morally right.

“I asked him whether he thought he was doing the right thing, both at that time and now, and he replied, ‘I was absolutely doing the right thing. It was a mission from God. I’m very clear on this.'”

Das also said when asked for a possible explanation for his behaviour, Skibicki said he didn’t agree with his lawyers’ suggestions that he’s mentally ill. 

Expert failed to consider alternatives: Crown

During cross-examination, the prosecutor accused the psychiatrist of failing to adequately consider other explanations for Skibicki’s behaviour before concluding he was psychotic.

That included the theory that the killings were in part driven by an attraction to performing sex acts on corpses, which Crown attorney Vanderhooft suggested was an escalation of previous behaviour involving Skibicki’s ex-wife.

Court previously heard he repeatedly sexually assaulted in her sleep, and told her that if anything happened to her, he would keep her corpse in a closet to perform sex acts on.

Das said the information he reviewed for his report all fit into his conclusion that Skibicki was suffering from schizophrenia.

Vanderhooft also highlighted contradictions in some of Skibicki’s statements, including telling police both that he believed the killings were something “God called [him] to do,” and that they were something he decided to do on his own — “not something that God willed.”

While the prosecutor argued those kinds of contradictions suggested Skibicki was lying, Das said it’s common for psychotic people to contradict themselves.

Vanderhooft noted that prior to Das’s assessment, none of the several psychiatrists who assessed Skibicki over the years concluded he was schizophrenic.

He also pointed out that Skibicki has not shown any symptoms of psychosis or been admitted for psychiatric treatment during the two years he’s been in custody — which Das suggested could be because Skibicki is able to “mask” his symptoms well, as he did for a large part of their assessment, until the psychiatrist said he started asking very specific questions toward the end.

Court also heard details from Skibicki’s medical history and child welfare files, which detail episodes of aggression, self-harm and multiple suicide attempts, some dating back to when he was a teenager. There were also reports he was abused by his parents and that he would physically abuse his mother, court heard.

There was also an incident detailed in medical records from when Skibicki was a teen. He reportedly sleepwalked into his female cousin’s room and “wrapped his arms around her throat and mouth,” later claiming to have been hearing noises in his head. Both Vanderhooft and Das agreed that may have signalled a tendency toward violence.

Ontario-based forensic psychiatrist Dr. Gary Chaimowitz, who assessed Skibicki’s mental state for the Crown, is expected to testify about his findings on Wednesday. Court has already heard Chaimowitz� did not support the finding that Skibicki should be found not criminally responsible due to mental disorder.

The judge-alone trial before Manitoba Court of King’s Bench Chief Justice Glenn Joyal in Winnipeg began hearing evidence on May 8. Closing submissions are expected to happen after Chaimowitz testifies.

The trial resumed Monday after a pause following the conclusion of the Crown’s case on May 22.

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.