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'Something was weird:' Trial starts for woman accused of concealing baby remains

Last Updated Apr 18, 2016 at 4:48 pm MDT

WINNIPEG – Employees who discovered the remains of six infants in a storage locker say they found foul-smelling bags and pails filled with something “wet and mushy.”

The employees were the first witnesses Monday in the trial of Andrea Giesbrecht, 42, who is facing concealment charges before a judge alone.

Ryan Pearson told court he and several others went into the Winnipeg U-Haul locker to take inventory on Oct. 20, 2014, because the bill hadn’t been paid. It wasn’t long before he said they felt “something was weird in there.”

He said he opened a few containers and were overwhelmed by a horrible stench.

“From that point, I got some gloves because it didn’t seem right,” Pearson told provincial court Judge Murray Thompson. “Everything had kind of a sticky feeling.

“At that point, your mind is going 100 places so we called police.”

The discovery left him shaken, Pearson said, with “many, many nights of not sleeping.”

Patrol Sgt. Cory Ford, the first officer on the scene, told court he recognized the smell when the locker was opened.

“It was the smell of decay,” he said.

Ford testified that he examined the containers one by one to determine if further investigation was needed. There were bags stashed inside pails and duffle bags inside plastic totes.

“It was wet. From the smell, I felt sure it was some sort of decomposition.”

Ford said he picked up a white plastic bag and shone a flashlight on it.

“I was able to see the limb of what looked like a baby and a small head with hair on it.”

Giesbrecht, who had also gone by the name Andrea Naworynski, was arrested shortly afterwards. She has been out on bail for almost a year.

With her dyed red hair pulled back into a bun, Giesbrecht appeared to listen intently, but expressionless, as the trial heard the graphic testimony.

Her lawyer, Greg Brodsky, said the trial is likely to be lengthy and will hinge on whether the babies were born alive. Despite numerous pre-trial hearings, it’s not clear who the infants were, how old they were or how long their remains were stored.

“The issue will not be the facts in this case,” Brodsky told court. “The issue will be what interpretation to be drawn from those facts.”

Kristina Lekei, manager at the U-Haul facility, said Giesbrecht’s account was in arrears virtually from the moment she rented the locker in March 2014. Giesbrecht had been anxious that the contents of her locker not be auctioned off, Lekei said.

“She said it was her deceased father’s items,” Lekei testified. “She wanted to keep them.”

But when Lekei and her staff entered the locker, there was nothing personal inside, she said. The containers smelled “gross” and “rotting.” It quickly became obvious that “it’s not just rotting food.”