By Brittany Hobson, The Canadian Press
WINNIPEG — Police are waiting for autopsy results to find out if human remains discovered at a landfill are those of a First Nations woman killed last month.
Members of the Winnipeg Police Service’s ground search and rescue team discovered the remains Tuesday at the Brady Road Resource Management Facility.
Officers began searching an area of the landfill after the partial remains of 24-year-old Rebecca Contois were found May 16 in a garbage bin near a city apartment building.
“In a short time frame, investigators learned that additional human remains of Rebecca Contois may have been taken to the Brady facility during a residential pickup,” Const. Dani McKinnon said Wednesday.
She said the remains at the landfill have not yet been identified and there will be an autopsy. Further searching of the landfill has stopped while police wait for the results.
Officers secured an area of the landfill soon after the partial remains of Contois were discovered in the garbage. Employees had halted the additional dumping of waste at the landfill, but rain delayed the search until the beginning of this month.
Insp. Cam MacKid said the search team was originally working with an area the size of four to six football fields but scaled that down by more than half.
“It was a difficult assignment,” he said.
“It just doesn’t stop. It’s an organic environment where garbage just keeps coming in.”
In some areas, the search team was dealing with up to three metres of debris, said MacKid.
Officers were outfitted with protective suits and respirators during the search.
MacKid said an excavator was brought in to transport large debris to a designated area then officers sifted through the contents.
He added the team was also able to use drones to capture imaging of the area.
Police did similar searches of the landfill for missing persons in 2008 and 2012.
“(Searches are) very complicated based on the individual circumstances of the case,” said MacKid.
Those who knew Contois have described her as someone who was bright and friendly with a good sense of humour.
She lived in Winnipeg but was a member of O-Chi-Chak-Ko-Sipi First Nation, also known as Crane River, located about 225 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg.
Jeremy Anthony Michael Skibicki, 35, was charged last month with first-degree murder in her killing.
Court documents allege Skibicki killed Contois two days before her partial remains were discovered.
Police would not say if the two knew each other.
At the time of Skibicki’s arrest, police said that they were not ruling out the possibility of additional victims.
MacKinnon said the investigation has not determined there are additional victims but it remains ongoing.
“We’re just not at a stage where there’s evidence to provide that. No other charges have been laid. We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it and certainly keep the public informed as this is such a sensitive matter.”
Police said they are working with community organizations to provide trauma-informed and culturally safe supports to Contois’s family.
“It’s something that has been called upon by families, community leaders (and) grassroots organizations for a really long time,” said Angie Tuesday, a family support and resource advocate.
“If it happens to one, it impacts all of us.”
Tuesday said details surrounding Contois’s death have been traumatic for her family as well as other families who have lost loved ones.
Providing trauma-informed care can help minimize the negative impacts relatives have with police and community organizations, she said.
Before searching the landfill, police said a sacred fire was lit and a ceremony was held to honour Contois.
Skibicki is to appear in court on June 27.