Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Posted: 01/22/2013 1:00 AM | Comments: 0
A worried relative who hadn't seen Phoenix Sinclair for months and contacted CFS agencies all over Manitoba making inquiries was told the little girl was "doing fine" a month after she'd been slain.
The inquiry into the death of the five-year-old who spent her short life in and out of care heard Monday from a relative who spent a full day in August 2005 trying to track her down. Phoenix was killed in July 2005 by her mother, Samantha Kematch, and stepfather, Karl McKay. Her death wasn't discovered until March 2006 when her remains were found in a shallow grave at the Fisher River First Nation dump.
The relative, who cannot be identified, had seen Kematch several times after she, McKay, their newborn and Phoenix moved to the reserve in 2005. Kematch, who was pregnant with her fifth child, made regular trips to Winnipeg for doctor appointments and stopped at the home of the relative.
"She wasn't a good mother," the witness testified. "She was very mentally and emotionally abusive to the little girl."
The relative said they had cared for Phoenix for long stretches after Kematch left her at the age of one with her young, inexperienced father, Steve Sinclair, who battled substance-abuse issues. When Kematch took Phoenix again at the age of four, she was living with McKay.
"She wasn't a kind person to be around," said the relative, recalling one visit Kematch made to the home with McKay, their newborn and Phoenix. "I was getting ready to feed my children... Phoenix was looking at the plates I was putting down and I asked if she was hungry. She said yes. I asked her if she wanted to eat and she said yes." Kematch interrupted and said Phoenix would eat only when Kematch decided to feed her. That angered the witness, who swore at Kematch. " 'You're in my f*****g house -- if this little girl wants to eat, she's gonna eat.' I made her a plate and sat her down with my children."
Phoenix had shown up with head lice and "filthy" but there were never signs of physical abuse, said the relative, who testified Kematch was the one with the bruises and reported that McKay had caused them. McKay had a history of violent domestic abuse on his CFS file, the inquiry heard earlier. He also liked to drink, said the worried relative, who asked Kematch for permanent, unofficial custody of Phoenix.
"She could keep her welfare and she could keep her family allowance -- just let me have her. She told me it would never happen."
When Kematch repeatedly showed up at the witness's house with her and McKay's baby but not Phoenix, that raised a red flag for the relative. Alarmed, the relative spent a whole day in August 2005 calling child welfare agencies across Manitoba about Phoenix.
"They said they couldn't help -- she wasn't in the system," the relative said. They didn't ask questions either. After making 20 to 30 calls and getting nowhere, the witness contacted the band office of Sinclair, Phoenix's father. The band said aboriginal social worker Stan Williams was assigned to the case. The witness spoke to Williams by phone that day.
"I told Stan who I was and that I was looking for a little girl by the name of Phoenix... and gave him all of her information...
"He told me because I am not a blood relative he cannot disclose any information to me." He offered some reassurance, though.
"His last words to me were 'she's doing fine and well'... Those words ring in my head almost every day."
Phoenix was slain a month earlier. Williams died before the inquiry was ordered by the province two years ago.
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 22, 2013 B2
Having problems with the form?Contact Us Directly
EDITED summer weather wrapup for paper
RCMP name accused in Dauphin fire
Man, 37, charged with being a pimp
Police probe fight in which man severely injured
Woman dead after being hit by vehicle
Museum: the elephant in the room
Warm blast ushers in fall
Man charged with St. Boniface homicide
Steeves reiterates photo-radar stance
Museum tour leaves visitors wanting more
X marks the spot
Things to Do
Distracted driving not a new problem
Woman's body found in the Red River; foul play not suspected
Opening party for human rights museum is on
Man in custody after woman killed in St. Boniface
Driver taken hostage, beaten and forced to make ATM withdrawals
The best man for a problematic position
Man robs business on St. Anne's Road
Driver in critical condition after crash on Perimeter Highway
Trustee suspects coverup, asks for provincial probe
Museum opening highlights ongoing struggle for human rights
Patient info stolen from laptop at HSC
City paying more for injuries
Your Weekend Weather
Building CMHR: A lump of clay becomes reality
Playing those Mind Games
Hope for homeless
Delivering bad news on boxes
Chemicals get little buzz
Mount Agassiz revival goes downhill
Protests boost 'vitality' of opening
Steeves focuses on transit
Portrayal of aboriginal perspective 'a beginning'