Jurors in the Phoenix Sinclair murder trial will begin a fourth day of deliberations Friday as the public gets a closer look at videotaped statements of the mother and stepfather charged with murdering her.
The 10-woman, two-man jury has weighed the evidence since Tuesday evening. They paused briefly Thursday morning to ask the judge about a technical legal issue concerning a killer’s state of mind and whether the Crown has to prove the accused had deadly intentions while performing both illegal actions and inactions.
Queen’s Bench Justice Karen Simonsen told them the Crown only has to prove one or the other, not both. Deliberations then resumed.
Samantha Kematch and Karl McKay have both pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder. They are seeking convictions on the reduced charge of manslaughter surrounding five-year-old Phoenix, who was killed in June 2005 following weeks of physical and mental abuse, torture and neglect.
Her body was then buried in the woods near the garbage dump at the Fisher River First Nation, about 200 kilometres north of Winnipeg, and not unearthed until March 2006 after McKay’s two teenage sons came forward and told police they had witnessed countless horrors against the little girl.
Newly released videotapes of police interviews with McKay and Kematch were posted Thursday at www.winnipegfreepress.com and show how the two accused are pointing the finger of blame at each other.
"Samantha would treat her (Phoenix) like an animal," McKay told RCMP Sgt. Norman Charett in the video. He claimed to have no idea how Phoenix had died but said she was repeatedly beaten by Kematch.
McKay described finding the cold and lifeless Phoenix lying on her stomach on top of a pile of dirty clothes. He said he tried to revive her by administering CPR and when that failed he took her naked body to an upstairs bathroom to give her a warm bath in a vain attempt to revive the child.
"I checked her again... She was cold dead," McKay said. "I was scared. I didn’t know what the hell to do. I didn’t want to kill the little kid."
McKay said that when they realized Phoenix was dead, they took her body back to the basement. He said that Kematch instructed him to wrap her body in a sheet of polyvinyl, taped it tight and then wrapped an old yellow raincoat around her. He said that when they returned home, Kematch was obsessed with removing any traces the child had been there.
McKay said Kematch later told him to scrub the basement floor with bleach to remove blood and other stains and he later painted the entire floor.
In Kematch’s video, she apologized to her slain daughter and even wrote a letter to her in the police interview room.
"I’m so sorry, Phoenix. I didn’t mean to. But that doesn’t cut it. I know you’re never gonna come back. You didn’t mean no harm to anybody. Told my lawyer I wasn’t gonna say anything. Can’t keep this in forever. I had, I had to tell the truth," Kematch said to herself.
She claimed McKay would sometimes expose himself to the girl and make suggestive comments. And she maintained her innocence, pointing the finger of blame at McKay and claiming Phoenix was alive the last time she saw her.
"I didn’t kill her. I didn’t beat her to death... I didn’t move the body. She was breathing, breathing like a normal person," Kematch said.
She said McKay told her to get garbage bags to wrap Phoenix’s body before disposing of it in the woods.