Phoenix Sinclair’s teenaged stepbrother told jurors this morning how he found the five-year-old girl’s body on the basement floor of their Manitoba home just minutes after she was allegedly beaten by her mother and stepfather.
The youth, who was just 12 at the time, fought back tears as he described the girl’s final moments alive in June 2005.
"I went downstairs and there was no answer from her. I touched her body and it was all cold. Her eyes were open. I put my hand on her mouth ...she wasn’t even breathing," he said.
His father, Karl McKay, and stepmother, Samantha Kematch, had been "taking turns" beating Phoenix that day and then left the home on the Fisher River First Nation shortly after.
"They were passing her back and forth, punching her," he said.
After finding her limp body, the boy called his grandfather. McKay and Kematch returned to the home, picked Phoenix up and placed her in a bathtub filled with warm water.
"They weren’t even crying or anything," the boy said. "I’d look at their faces. I saw no tears, nothing. They didn’t even care what they were doing."
They finished washing her body, then wrapped her up in a tarp, took it outside and placed it in the trunk of their vehicle, he said.
"They said ‘watch your baby sister, we’re going to go to the dump and bury her’," he said.
That was the last time he ever saw Phoenix. He said McKay and Kematch told him not to say a word about what happened.
"They told me that if anybody asks, just say Phoenix went to Winnipeg to live with her dad," he said.
Her death would go unnoticed for nearly 10 months until the boy and his older brother told their mother what they’d witnessed. Police later found Phoenix’s remains buried near the Fisher River First Nation dump.
McKay and Kematch are now on trial for first-degree murder.
McKay’s youngest son told jurors earlier today how he watched helplessly as the couple would repeatedly abuse, degrade and torture Phoenix "just for the hell of it."
He said she was often forced to sleep in the dark, cold basement without any food or water.
"It was dirty down there, you could see spider webs and garbage everywhere," he said.
He awoke sometimes at night to the sound of Phoenix "sobbing through the vents." He would often go down to give her water and even tried to bring her a heater one night, only to be caught by his father and threatened.
"She was just curled up in a little ball," he said.
"The only time Samantha and Wes would go downstairs was to hit her."
He told jurors about numerous beatings, including a time McKay broke a metal broomstick over Phoenix’s back and then used the broken end to rip open her knuckles.
"There was blood all over. It got infected," he said.
McKay would also stomp on her and choke her to the point of unconsciousness, then drop her body to the basement floor, he said.
"Her eyes would go back, her body would go limp and he’d just let her drop," he said.
"He’d hit her so much that she wouldn’t even cry anymore. She’d just take it."
His older brother testified on Wednesday and said he watched as Phoenix was forced eat her own vomit and repeatedly shot by McKay with a pellet gun.
The boy, now 18, pointed the finger of blame directly at McKay and Kematch, accusing them of countless violent and degrading acts and describing how Phoenix morphed from a "chubby" and happy child into a skinny child covered in cuts and bruises who would spend nearly every minute laying in her room without any food.
He told court how he tried offering a helping hand to his stepsister, who had been kept a virtual prisoner in her own home. He described trying to feed a starving Phoenix some bread and water only to be caught and threatened by Kematch.
"Samantha said what the f--k are you giving my daughter food for?" he said.
"I’d feel sorry for her. She would say ‘I’m hungry’."
Kematch’s lawyer, Roberta Campbell, suggested to the teen in cross-examination that it was McKay who was "most violent" with Phoenix. She also accused McKay of calling Phoenix degrading names like "f--king little baby" and "whore" while beating her.
"They were doing the same thing, equally," the teen replied.
"Isn’t it true that sometimes he would hit Phoenix so much that she wouldn’t even cry anymore?" asked Campbell.
"Yes," he answered.
McKay’s lawyer, Mike Cook, suggested some of Phoenix’s injuries could have been suffered during friendly "wrestling matches" that his client was having with the little girl. McKay’s son said he believed the physical abuse was intentional, not accidental.