REGINA — The family of a Regina woman found fatally injured at the bottom of a hotel laundry chute is questioning how she fit through the chute door and why it took 60 hours for police to launch an investigation.
Nadine Machiskinic was found at the bottom of the chute at the Delta Hotel in January 2015 and later died in hospital.
An inquest into her death started Monday with police photos and testimony describing the chute opening as 53 centimetres wide.
“The dimensions of the laundry chute — I’m not an expert but that looked like a pretty small laundry chute to start with. I’m just wondering how somebody could fit in that small, little laundry chute, manoeuvre their way … how does somebody get into that little small space?” Machiskinic’s aunt, Delores Stevenson, outside the inquest Monday.
“I hope that we’ll get some truth, I hope that we’ll get some answers.”
An autopsy report released last year said Machiskinic died of blunt force trauma to the head, neck and trunk consistent with a fall. She fell from the 10th floor of the hotel in the laundry chute.
Tests also showed she had drugs in her system. The inquest heard that two prescription pill bottles were found near her body.
The coroner ruled her death accidental, saying there was no evidence of foul play and no evidence of suicidal intent.
But Machiskinic’s family has raised concerns that police were not taking her death seriously.
Const. Keith Malcolm told the inquest that police made an error when they delayed sending toxicology samples for testing for several months. Malcolm thought another officer in the forensics unit had sent the samples for testing and the other officer thought Malcolm had done it.
“Nobody’s proud of their mistakes and this is why toxicology wasn’t sent. It was human error,” he said.
Malcolm says police have since changed procedures to avoid such mistakes in the future.
The inquest also heard that there was only one guest on the 10th floor on the night Machiskinic died and none of her DNA was found in that room.
The guest told police that a woman was banging on his door and he called security. It’s believed the same woman also pulled a fire alarm right next to the laundry room door on the 10th floor.
There were seven cameras in the hotel, but none in the hallways or elevators.
Police believe one camera from the hotel lobby shows Machiskinic getting onto an elevator after two men had already gotten on. Police have never been able to identify or interview them.
Staff Sgt. Kelly Trithart, who was one of the lead investigators with the major crimes unit at the time, said he was called after a pathologist found rib fractures, bruising on Machiskinic’s arms and back, and blood on her nose.
“At that point, right there, we’re thinking there’s something to this,” said Trithart.
It did not appear that hotel staff believed Machiskinic had fallen.
Hotel security called 911 after cleaning staff found Machiskinic’s body in the basement laundry room. They said she appeared intoxicated and passed out.
On the 911 recording played at the inquest, someone from security could be overheard saying: “If she fell down the chute, she’d be dead.”
Hotel security also told Trithart that the door to the laundry room in the basement was unlocked because staff were doing laundry at night. They said the door to the 10th floor laundry room with the chute was always locked.
But Trithart said he discovered that the latch on the laundry room door on the 10th floor didn’t catch, even with repeated attempts, so it was open.
Trithart said the frustrating part of the investigation was the fact that police weren’t called until 60 hours after the body was found and that made it nearly impossible to collect credible evidence.
“It was a major challenge,” he said.
The inquest is scheduled to last all week.
Jennifer Graham, The Canadian Press