Authorities in Canada believe the remains of two indigenous women who died at the hands of an alleged serial killer are likely in a landfill, but police have decided not to conduct a search at the site, citing hazards and ground conditions.
The victims – Morgan Beatrice Harris, 39, and Marcedes Myran, 26 – are two of four indigenous women who police believe were killed by the same man in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The suspect, Jeremy Anthony Michael Skibicki, 35, has been charged with four counts of first-degree murder in the women’s deaths, according to the Winnipeg Police Service.
The remains of a third victim, 24-year-old Rebecca Contois, were found by police in a separate landfill in May, but officials said Tuesday that the search conditions were more favorable at that site compared to the Prairie Green landfill where Harris and Myran could be.
Alleged serial killer in custody and charged in killings of 4 Indigenous women in Canada, police say
In a Tuesday news conference, Winnipeg Police Chief Danny Smyth explained the decision not to search the Prairie Green landfill, saying the department’s assessment showed there is “no hope for a successful recovery.”
“The things we are talking about today are horrific and we know that they can be triggering, particularly to those impacted by missing and murdered indigenous women, girls and two-spirit,” Smyth said.
Police have not been able to narrow their search within the 4-acre landfill, according to police forensics unit Inspector Cam MacKid, who was tasked with assessing the site’s search conditions. Investigators believe the two women’s remains were brought to the site in the same truck load, he said.
Since the time the remains were likely put in the Prairie Green landfill, the site has been covered with about 9,000 tons of wet construction mud that stretches about 40 feet deep, MacKid said. The clay has also become tightly compacted by heavy machinery, he explained.
Additionally, about 1,500 tons of animal remains and 250 tons of asbestos were strewn throughout the site, which would make it difficult for investigators to identify human remains and pose a health risk to workers, MacKid said.
Based on these conditions, he said, police “made the very difficult decision as a service that this wasn’t operationally feasible to conduct a search of this site.”
At the Brady landfill where police found Contois’s remains, MacKid said several factors worked in investigators’ favor, including loosely packed waste and a short window between when the remains were delivered and police became aware of the location.
The garbage truck that delivered the remains to the site also had a GPS locator and onboard video installed which aided police in narrowing down their search perimeter, he said.
Harris and Myran belonged to the Long Plain First Nation and Contois was a member of the Crane River First Nation, according to police. A fourth victim – believed to be an indigenous woman killed around March 15 – has also been confirmed but not yet identified, police said. Investigators are referring to her as Buffalo Woman at the request of indigenous community advocates, elders and leadership.
Police have still not confirmed the location of Buffalo Woman’s remains, MacKid said.
Morgan Harris’s daughters decried the police decision not to look for their mother’s body and are demanding that a search be conducted.
In a news conference Tuesday, Kera and Cambria Harris said police informed them of the choice on Monday before announcing it to the public, according to CBC News.
“They say that they can’t search because it’s not feasible,” Cambria Harris said, according to CBC. “Is human life not feasible?”
“Time and time again, our Indigenous women and brothers and sisters have to come here, and we have to shout and we have to raise our voices begging for change and begging for justice for our people, and that is wrong,” she said, according to the report.
The sisters mourned the loss of their mother without a proper burial and called on the police to seek help from other agencies, CBC reported.
“How can you even fathom the idea to leave them there? These women are deserving of a proper resting place, not to be left alone in a landfill in the dead of winter,” Kera Harris said according to CBC.
CNN’s Tina Burnside contributed to this report.