Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION
Thinking about Phoenix
Rarely am I at a loss for words. But that's exactly the situation I've faced this week after covering the Phoenix Sinclair murder trial.
Those in the packed courtroom each day have been forced to hear some of the most heartwrenching, sickening evidence and testimony that has ever come out in a criminal proceeding.
It is, without a doubt, the most difficult thing I've ever had to sit through.
What this poor little girl went through in her short life is the type of thing that should never, ever happen in a civilized society. it's clear so many things went wrong, on so many levels. And it's clear that major changes in the social welfare system are desperately needed.
This case really hits home for me, and not just because I'm the father of two children.
I also had the misfortune of touring the home where Phoenix was allegedly held captive, tortured, starved, beaten and ultimately killed. I can still close my eyes and see very inch of that cold basement where Phoenix would have taken her final breaths.
It was mid-March 2006 and myself and Free Press photographer were in Fisher River exploring the mysterious disappearance and suspected murder of Phoenix. We convincted the new owners of her former home to let us come in to look around.
I remember seeing the freshly painted over basement floor - something we've now heard in court was allegedly done by Samantha Kematch and Karl Mckay to cover up blood and other evidence left behind.
I remember seeing scuff marks all over the walls, my thoughts racing then and now about the stories behind each one. I remember the lack of lighting, the chill in the air - and I think daily about the fact that was the place Phoenix was forced to call home in her final, dying days.
I remember seeing some police evidence markers still on the floor, and wondering what each one of them represented.
The Phoenix Sinclair murder should be a national tragedy. Yet I have a sinking feeling that outside Manitoba, it's barely on the most people's radar. And that's a shame.
I've also had to field a handful of complains about my coverage, from readers who are outraged that I have included so many details of what happened to Phoenix.
Claims that she was forced to eat her own vomit. That she was shot repeatedly with a pellet gun for sport. That her head was shaved bald. That she was called a whore. That she was beaten with numerous objects, including a mental broomstick that snapped in half over her tiny back. That she eventually just stopped crying from the abuse because she'd suffered so much. That her stepbrothers - both brave young boys who deserve applause for their courage in coming forward - heard her cries for help and responded by giving her bread, water, heat, blankets and comfort. That her body was wrapped up and tossed away like the trash, buried near the town dump. That steps were taken to cover up the fact she was missing, including passing off another child as Phoenix.
These are not easy things to write, even harder to digest. But to omit them from the story would be doing yet another injustice to Phoenix. Her brutal murder somehow went unnoticed for nearly a full year. Why should the circumstances of her death - as difficult as they are to process - also be kept secret?
You can't hide from the truth. Nor should we. The public must know exactly what happened to this girl. And, eventually, we must know exactly what is happening to prevent this type of tragedy from happening again.
In the meantime, for those of you with kids - hug them tight. Make sure they know they are loved.
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About Mike McIntyre
Journalist, national radio show host, author, pundit and cruise director ... Mike McIntyre loves to keep busy.
Mike is the justice reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press, where he has worked since 1997. He produces and hosts the weekly talk radio show Crime and Punishment, which runs on the Corus Radio Network in several Canadian cities.
Born and bred in Winnipeg, Mike graduated from River East Collegiate and completed his journalism studies in the Creative Communications program at Red River College.
He and his wife, Chassity, have two children.
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