Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Stepdad felt 'better' after revealing grave

Led RCMP to child's burial site

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An emotional Karl McKay led police to the final resting spot of his five-year-old stepdaughter, Phoenix Sinclair, admitting he did "a very sad thing" by burying her body near the landfill of a Manitoba reserve after her violent death.

"I'm sorry, you shouldn't be out here. Phoenix shouldn't be out here," McKay told RCMP officers who had driven him from Headingley jail to the makeshift gravesite at the Fisher River First Nation on a cold night in March 2006.

A 17-minute video of McKay leading police to the burial location was shown to jurors at his trial Tuesday. McKay and four officers went to the remote, wooded location by snowmobile, then trudged through deep snow before coming to an opening. Police used powerful lights to brighten the scene.

"It wasn't very far off the trail. I think it was just this spot here," McKay said before using his gloves to draw the spot in the crunchy snow.

McKay insisted he was "99 per cent sure" they had the right spot, then recalled how he and Phoenix's mother, Samantha Kematch, used a spade to dig a hole for the little girl's body after her June 2005 death.

"It was about eight inches in the ground," McKay said. "She'll be face up. I wrapped her in plastic with a yellow rain jacket. Her head will be here, her legs here."

Police asked if there would be anything else found in the grave.

"Just the dirt that she'll be covered with," McKay said.

He said Kematch insisted they pour pepper into the grave before covering it up to throw off police dogs that might sniff out the location. He said she got the idea from watching the television show Crime Scene Investigation.

"It's a very sad thing that I've done, burying her out here," McKay told RCMP. "But at the spur of the moment, you're scared."

The stepfather said he had borrowed the spade from a relative to dig a trench in his yard "and then this thing came up."

McKay had been interviewed by police earlier that day at the jail. He broke down and agreed to lead officers to Phoenix's remains.

"I feel a lot better now that I've shown you this spot," McKay told police.

McKay and Kematch have pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder.

McKay's two teen sons told jurors last week how they witnessed Phoenix being repeatedly abused, neglected, starved and degraded by McKay and Kematch during the months preceding her death. They said the couple "took turns" beating her and then covered up the killing by wrapping her body in a tarp and burying it near the dump. Kematch allegedly tried to pass off another young child as her daughter when child welfare officials began asking questions in March 2006.

Both McKay and Kematch have admitted to beating Phoenix, but they blame each other for her death.

Jurors have spent the past two days listening to nearly nine hours of audiotaped discussion with McKay. In the tape played Tuesday, McKay asked police to give him updates about whether they found Phoenix's body.

A forensic anthropologist will testify later this week.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 19, 2008 A5

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