Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

2006 tip about Phoenix's death listed in report

Social worker told about killing, abuse

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A "gruesome" disclosure about Karl Wes McKay abusing Phoenix Sinclair was made public Wednesday by the lawyer representing his former spouse and some of his children.

In March 2006, a child-welfare worker took a phone call from the ex-partner of McKay, who was Phoenix's stepfather. The ex-partner's two sons "made a gruesome disclosure to her," said the report taken on March 6, 2006, by worker Randy Murdock.

They told her they saw McKay physically abusing the five-year-old daughter of McKay's partner, Samantha Kematch.

"They called it 'choking the chicken,' " the report said.

At the 2008 criminal trial, one of the boys testified McKay repeatedly played a "game" with Phoenix he called "chicken," which involved picking her up by the throat, wrapping both hands around her neck and "choking her out," the boy told court.

"Then he'd throw her to the ground," said the teen, noting visible finger marks would be left on her neck.

"She'd make this weird scream. It was like someone had cut off her arm, like she was screaming to death," he testified.

The child-welfare report released Wednesday described her death.

"The two boys also said Karl Wesley McKay threw the five-year-old girl down the stairs... the fall down the stairs broke her skull open."

Their mother reported it had happened in August 2005, and the little girl was buried in the backyard.

Phoenix's remains were discovered buried at the Fisher River Cree Nation dump in March 2006.

Phoenix had moved from Winnipeg to a home on the reserve in April 2005 with her mother, McKay, and the couple's baby.

McKay, who is 20 years older than Kematch, has children from previous relationships. Two of them were 13 and 15 at the time they made the disclosure to their mother. Their mother told the child-welfare worker she didn't know the name of the little girl they saw being abused.

She told Murdock she had reported the information to police, and her boys said she was a "rat."

The worker told her she wasn't a rat.

"I acknowledged that she is taking the proper steps to address this situation," Murdock wrote in his report.

The five-page disclosure was submitted by the lawyer for McKay's ex-partner and three of his children.

They're seeking a publication ban to protect their identities.

Those who testified at the murder trial of McKay and Kematch said they were harassed afterward because of their connection to McKay, who was found guilty in 2008, along with Kematch.

The lawyer, Bill Gange, said the potential witnesses at the public inquiry want to be able to testify from a remote location by TV monitor that only the commissioner can see. Like earlier sources of referral who've testified already, they don't want their names or faces published. A hearing on the motion for the publication ban takes place Feb. 26. The oft-delayed inquiry began in September and was delayed by legal wrangling until November.

Now it is on a three-week break and doesn't resume until March 4.

The inquiry was promised in 2006 and announced in 2011 with a mandate to find out how Phoenix slipped through Manitoba's child-welfare safety net.

She was in and out of care from the time she was born in 2000 and on and off the radar of Winnipeg Child and Family Services until she died in 2005.

The last contact Winnipeg CFS had with her family was in March 2005, when two social workers stood in the hallway talking to Kematch about an abuse complaint concerning Phoenix. They left without seeing the girl and closed her file.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 14, 2013 A6

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