Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Five-year-old's stepfather blames her mom for death

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Warning: Details in this story may upset some readers.

A videotape played in court on Friday showed Karl Wesley McKay sob as he told a police interrogator he was surprised to find his tiny stepdaughter dead in the basement of their home on the Fisher River reserve.

Jurors watched a digital recording of statements McKay gave more than three years ago to RCMP Sgt. Norman Charett shortly after his arrest for the death of his five-year-old stepdaughter Phoenix Sinclair.

McKay told Charett he had no idea how Sinclair had died, adding, however, that she had been repeatedly beaten by Samantha Kematch, his common-law wife and Phoenix's mother.

"Samantha would treat her (Phoenix) like an animal," McKay said. "She really disliked the girl from since I met her."

McKay and Kematch have been charged with first-degree murder in Phoenix's death.

McKay denied being abusive towards the child, admitting that he would administer "a licking" to her bottom occasionally. However, he said it was Kematch who abused little Phoenix, refusing to give her food, constantly yelling at her and insisting she remain in the basement.

The statement McKay gave to police in March of 2006 was dramatically at odds with the testimony of his two sons earlier this week, who both said that McKay and Kematch regularly beat Phoenix, sometimes with a broken broom handle or with a metal fridge handle. One son testified that he had seen McKay choke Phoenix into unconsciousness, stomp on her, and chase her around their home while shooting at her with a pellet gun.

One son testified that on the day she died, McKay had stomped on the little girl.

But in the digital recording, McKay tells police that the night Phoenix died he had only tossed her four feet into a pile of dirty clothes in the basement after Kematch had complained that she was tired of hearing the child cry.

McKay said Phoenix was alive when he and Kematch left her in the basement to visit his father. He said he was alarmed when 30 minutes later his son, who was visiting with them, phoned him to say he feared Phoenix was dead.

McKay said he rushed to the basement and found 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 that 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.

McKay said that after he wrapped Phoenix's body he carried it outside and placed it in the trunk of his car. He left his son at home while he and Kematch drove to the reserve dump and buried Phoenix in a shallow grave.

McKay said that when they returned home, Kematch was obsessed with removing any traces that the child had been there. He said she initially wanted to return to the dump site to chop off the child's head in the belief that would eliminate DNA evidence. He 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.

The trial resumes Monday.

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 15, 2008 A5

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