Jurors in the Phoenix Sinclair murder trial have resumed deliberations this morning.
Queen’s Bench Justice Karen Simonsen finished her final instructions just after 7 p.m. Tuesday night, clearing the way for the 10-woman, two man jury to consider the fate of Samantha Kematch and Karl McKay.
They have each pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in a case which made headlines across Canada and cast a spotlight on Manitoba’s child welfare system.
McKay and Kematch admitted in closing arguments last week to being "terrible" parents who deserve to be punished for the horrible neglect, abuse and death of five-year-old Phoenix. But the couple say they should only be found guilty of manslaughter, claiming there is insufficient evidence to prove the charge of first-degree murder.
Simonsen gave jurors a lengthy explanation of the law and summary of evidence today that started shortly after 2:30 p.m.
Jurors are now sequestered until they can reach a unanimous verdict.
Crown attorney Rick Saull said it’s clear both McKay and Kematch played pivotal roles in Phoenix’s June 2005 death and the subsequent burial of her body near the garbage dump on the Fisher River First Nation, about 200 kilometres north of Winnipeg.
Her remains weren’t found until March 2006.
"Death here for this little girl was inevitable, given the course of conduct by these two accused," Saull said in his final arguments.
Saull argued McKay and Kematch killed Phoenix in the course of confining her to a cold, dark basement where she was frequently beaten and forced to sleep on the floor naked. He reminded jurors about other graphic testimony, including claims the girl was shot with a pellet gun, called degrading names and forced to eat her own vomit.
"This is not normal parenting in any country in this world. That was an illegal domination of a child," said Saull.
Kematch’s lawyer, Sarah Inness, admitted to jurors her client doesn’t deserve any sympathy. But she pointed the finger of blame at McKay, saying he was the one who delivered the fatal blows and then orchestrated the cover-up that saw Phoenix’s death remain a secret for nine months.
"There are many things that she should have done and should not have done. She treated her daughter terribly. But she did not kill her," said Inness.
She called McKay a "violent man who ruled the home with an iron fist" and clearly hated Phoenix because she wasn’t his biological child.
McKay’s lawyer, Mike Cook, fired right back, suggesting Kematch was the true killer and the one who manipulated McKay.
"This is not some wallflower type of woman who has intimidated and dominated by Mr. McKay. Ms. Kematch was the dominant force in that house," said Cook.
"She is most definitely the type who could kill, and did kill, her child. A callous woman who cares nothing about her child. That woman is a cold-hearted woman."
Phoenix’s death remained a secret until McKay`s two teenage sons came forward and told police they`d witnessed countless horrors against the little girl. The boys told jurors both Kematch and McKay played equal roles in the abuse.