The crowd put their fists in the air as they shouted Rebecca Contois’ name through the pouring rain in Winnipeg on Thursday night.
About 100 people gathered to mourn the slain 24-year-old in a North Kildonan back lane, near where police say her partial remains were discovered at an apartment building earlier this week.
On Wednesday, police arrested Jeremy Anthony Micheal Skibicki, 35, and charged him with first-degree murder in the death of the First Nations woman.
Police didn’t say where they believe she was killed, but described where her remains were discovered as a “horrifically grisly scene.”
At a news conference Thursday, Winnipeg Police Service spokesperson Const. Rob Carver said the woman and her alleged killer knew each other, but would not give further details.
Some at the vigil lit candles and put down flowers, while others held signs covered with pictures of the woman’s smiling face.
A group of friends and family formed a circle shielding the victim’s mother, who wore a black face mask and dark sunglasses with her hood pulled up.
Darryl Contois, who’s not directly related to the slain woman, said he had helped look for her twice before when she’d gone missing. But this time, he didn’t find her.
“We were gonna come out, but it was too late,” he said, remembering the friendly but soft-spoken woman he last saw sometime this past winter.
“She always had a heart for everything, you know, and it’s sad that she got messed up with the wrong people.”
He said the young woman, who had a daughter, was a band member of Crane River First Nation and grew up in Winnipeg.
WATCH | Community remembers Rebecca Contois:
And while those who knew Rebecca were devastated by the news of her death, he was also glad to see an arrest — and an outpouring of support — happen so quickly.
“I’m very proud to see this community come together and show the family support that they need,” he said.
“They have to go home, face those lonely days without her.… The mother, you know, my heart goes out to her.”
Krista Fox, who’s currently on a cross-country journey to raise awareness for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls (MMIWG), spoke directly to the woman’s family during the vigil.
“I wasn’t blessed to meet your beautiful girl. All I can say, from one family to another, is we care,” Fox said through tears.
“When we walk out of here Sunday morning, we will walk for Rebecca.… Know that we’re here. You’re not alone.”
Representatives from the MMIWG liaison unit of Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak, which represents almost all First Nations in Manitoba, were also at the vigil, handing out roses and care packages to people in attendance.
The investigation into the woman’s death continues. Carver said on Thursday police believe there may be more victims involved.
Investigators have now set up a search of what the police spokesperson described as a “potential scene” at the Brady Road landfill, just south of Winnipeg’s Perimeter Highway.
Earlier this week, a forensic team looked through garbage bins behind the Mar Joy Apartments on Edison Avenue, between Henderson Highway and Arby Bay.
Skibicki, who remains in custody, was arrested at his nearby home, police said.
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