Murder charge laid in case of missing child
Last Updated Mar 14 2006 06:51 PM
Child welfare agencies in Manitoba are under scrutiny for losing track of a five-year-old girl believed to have been killed last summer.
Phoenix Victoria Sinclair had been missing for nine months, but it seems no one noticed or reported the case to authorities.
The alleged crime came to light last week when police received new information about the girl, who had been living on the Fisher River First Nation reserve, 150 kilometres north of Winnipeg.
Although the girl's body has not been located, RCMP Sgt. Steve Colwell said police were able to lay the charges through "an investigation that has been conducted in the past week."
Samantha Dawn Kematch, 24, has been charged with assault with a weapon, aggravated assault, forcible confinement and failing to provide the necessities of life. Her 43-year-old common-law husband, Karl Wesley McKay, is charged with second-degree murder. Both are awaiting bail hearings.
'She was a loving baby'
Phoenix was in and out of foster care during her short life, spending some time in the care of Kimberly Edwards, a friend of Samantha Kematch.
"She was a loving baby. She loved everybody," said Edwards. "Everybody loved her."
Near the end of 2003, the cases of many aboriginal children were transferred from Child and Family Services to three native-run agencies. Edwards says she was told Phoenix was one of those cases – however, it appears that never happened.
Eventually, Phoenix lived in the home of Edwards' ex-husband. Edwards says Kematch came to her ex-husband's house and took the little girl away one day in April 2005, saying she would return in a few hours. Edwards says that's the last time anyone saw the girl.
Court documents indicate police believe Phoenix was abused, confined and eventually murdered in June 2005.
"They failed her and they fail children every single day. How many babies have to die before politics are changed?" said Chief David Crate of the Fisher River First Nation.
"The question has to be posed to the provincial agency, the Winnipeg Child and Family [services agency], why the file was closed."
Three investigations launched into the case
Provincial officials can't say exactly what actually happened in the case, but say Phoenix was not lost in the transfer to the new native child agencies.
"The actual transfer of cases in devolution occurred between May and June of 2004, so this case was actually not one that had been transferred," said Family Services Minister Christine Melnick.
Melnick says three investigations have been launched into the case – by the chief medical examiner, the RCMP and Child and Family Services – in order to uncover the facts.
She would not speculate on when the investigations would be complete.
"I know that everyone is anxious for the answers – I'm anxious for the answers, too – but I also have to respect the processes that have been in place for many, many years in this province," Melnick said.
Conservative family services critic Mavis Taillieu says it ultimately doesn't matter which agency was responsible or who's to blame, saying the province failed a child in its care.
"This little girl, unfortunately, didn't just fall through the cracks. She fell into the abyss," Taillieu said.