Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Slain tot wasn't killer's only victim, probe told

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Phoenix Sinclair was just one of Karl Wesley McKay's victims, the inquiry into the child's death heard Monday. The murderer's ex-partner and two sons testified his actions damaged them and destroyed their family.

The trio, known as Doe #1, Doe #2, and Doe #3 due to a publication ban, testified remotely. Now 20 and 22 years old, respectively, they recalled life with McKay as violent and miserable. The mother, Doe #3, was in tears when she described how McKay's abuse and the slaying affected her and the boys.

"It's very hard," she said. "We're not close anymore. We're angry, we're hurt, we're sad. I hate him for what he done to my family. He broke us."

The couple parted ways early. When her eldest son was an infant, McKay attempted to throw her and the baby down a flight of stairs. They reconciled long enough for her to have a second son two years later.

In 2005, she sent her younger son (Doe #1), then 12, to live with his father in Fisher River. The boy had bad friends. She hoped time with his dad would help.

The mother testified her older son told her about the murder, which was witnessed by his younger brother.

"I knew it was serious because the look on his (Doe #2's) face and he says, 'I don't know if I should tell you 'cause my dad will go to jail for life.' So I said, 'Tell me,' an' he wouldn't tell me an' I just kept asking him and then he told me, 'Dad killed this little girl.' (W)hen we got home, I asked (Doe #1). I said, 'Is this true what happened?' and Doe #1 got mad. 'Why did you tell, mom? Now she's gonna be a rat.' "

Doe #1 started his testimony insisting McKay not be referred to as his father. He said he met Phoenix a year before he moved in with McKay, Samantha Kematch, his infant half-sister and the little girl.

He said she was "all healthy, her hair all long and shiny. Typical kid, typical little girl." When he saw her a year later, "she looked rough. She looked all beat up and s--t. She was all skinny and whatever. It was a big transformation in a year."

His testimony was heartbreaking.

"They used to yell at her, call her names," he said. He saw McKay hit Phoenix with a pole, a broomstick, stomp on her feet and shoot her with a BB gun. He would choke her until she seized up and passed out, a game McKay and Kematch called "choking the chicken." He watched as they forced the child to eat her own vomit.

He didn't call Child and Family Services or the RCMP, he testified, because he was "just a kid" and afraid McKay would turn on him and his baby half-sister.

He told his mother they were spanking Phoenix and giving her "lickins." He and his brother saw their friends beaten with extension cords, belts and sticks. They thought that was what "spanking" meant.

He watched Phoenix die. McKay beat the child for "15 or 20 minutes" while Kematch watched. When they left, he went down to check on her.

"She was just laying there. I touched her. She was all cold and s--t. I put my hand by her mouth. She wasn't breathing."

When the killers got back, they put the body in a bathtub and ran water over it. They tried CPR. They wrapped Phoenix up and put her in the trunk of McKay's car. He testified he finally told his brother after seeing McKay smashing their half-sister's fingers with a screwdriver.

He was asked how witnessing the abuse and murder affected him.

"Ah s--t, where do I start?" he said. "I have to admit I'm a pretty f ed-up person now. I just ain't been the same. I used to be a good kid. It's all gone like that." He audibly snapped his fingers. "I did crimes, I did all this s--t just to block out what I seen, what I heard. It made me a terrible person."

Doe #2 visited his father on the reserve a few times while his brother lived there. He saw Phoenix a year earlier and remembered her as "chubby."

When he got to Fisher River, he said, "she looked abused. She was skinny and she had bruises on her."

He remembered little of what happened that summer, he testified.

"My memory's shot."

Asked how the events affected him, he said: "I think it made me more like my dad. When I get my rage, I can do some damage."

All three are victims of a truly evil man.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 23, 2013 B2

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About Lindor Reynolds

National Newspaper Award winner Lindor Reynolds began work at the Free Press as a 17-year-old proofreader. It was a rough introduction to the news business.

Many years later, armed with a university education and a portfolio of published work, she was hired as a Free Press columnist. During her 20-plus years on the job she wrote for every section in the paper, with the exception of Business -- though she joked she'd get around to them some day.

Sadly, that day will never come. Lindor died in October 2014 after a 15-month battle with brain cancer.

Lindor received considerable recognition for her writing. Her awards include the Will Rogers Humanitarian Award, the National Society of Newspaper Columnists’ general interest award and the North American Travel Journalists Association top prize.

Her work on Internet luring led to an amendment to the Criminal Code of Canada and her coverage of the child welfare system prompted a change to Manitoba Child and Family Services Act to make the safety of children paramount.

She earned three citations of merit for the Michener Award for Meritorious Public Service in Journalism and was awarded a Distinguished Alumni commendation from the University of Winnipeg. Lindor was also named a YMCA/YWCA  Woman of Distinction.

Reynolds was 56. She is survived by a husband, mother, a daughter and son-in-law and three stepdaughters.

The Free Press has published an ebook celebrating the best of Lindor's work. It's available in the Winnipeg Free Press Store; all proceeds will be donated through our Miracle on Mountain charity to the Christmas Cheer Board.


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