Wednesday, April 17
It was a long, difficult, and occasionally stomach-churning day of testimony and it started with yet another niece of Karl McKay.
Amanda McKay used to babysit Phoenix Sinclair when Karl McKay and Samantha Kematch lived in the McGee Street apartment complex in Winnipeg.
After the birth of their first baby, McKay noted that the parents neglected Phoenix. The four-year-old changed from a healthy and happy child to a sullen and malnourished waif.
Kematch and McKay also inflicted draconian punishment on Phoenix, as Amanda McKay discovered on one visit.
"I walked in and I asked where Phoenix was, and they said she was on the toilet," McKay told the inquiry.
"I asked why and they said she had peed herself, so they were making her sit there all day."
Amanda McKay also grew suspicious of a bruise on Phoenix's face. She asked Kematch and Karl McKay about it. They said she slipped in the tub.
She thought that was "fishy," and so she took Phoenix to her apartment and asked the little girl about the mark.
Phoenix echoed Kematch and McKay's explanation: a fall in the bathtub.
Karl McKay's nephew, Jeremy Roulette, also thought something wasn't right when he ran into McKay and Phoenix in April 2005.
Roulette didn't much like McKay. As a child, he testified, McKay would beat him. Roulette was six or seven years old at the time, and said McKay was always careful not to hurt him in public or where anyone might see them.
It's perhaps the reason why Roulette was deeply suspicious of a wound on Phoenix's head. The little girl took her hat off, revealing a large gouge of missing skin.
"It looked," Roulette said, "like it needed medical attention, but didn't get medical attention."
Roulette asked her how it happened.
"I hurt myself," she told him.
But Roulette said he didn't believe it. He suspected McKay had coached the little girl into saying that.
"I wouldn't put anything past him," Roulette testified.
Neither Amanda McKay nor Roulette reported these incidents to the authorities, though they did talk about it among family members.
Their testimony was marked by a deep -- if unspoken -- suspicion of agency or police involvement in family matters.
But one agency did get a tip about Phoenix Sinclair. On March 6, 2006, Intertribal Child and Family Services social worker Randy Murdock took a call that would send shockwaves through Fisher River.
On the other end of the line was a woman who insisted her sons witnessed their father, Karl McKay, murder his five-year-old stepdaughter, Phoenix Sinclair.
Murdock himself calls his notes from that call "gruesome."
Among the worst details was McKay's special name for the "game" he made of abusing Phoenix in front of the boys: "they called it choking the chicken."
Murdock continued writing, "The two boys also said Karl Wesley McKay threw the five-year old-girl down the stairs. The fall down the stairs broke her skull open."
The call only lasted 10 minutes, but it ignited a firestorm.
Murdock referred the call to police, kick-starting the investigation into the little girl's disappearance.
But Murdock's notes also begged an important question. The caller told him she had previously placed calls to the agency about her concerns for Phoenix's safety.
Murdock conducted an exhaustive review of all the calls logged at Intertribal CFS.
According to the agency's records, the only call it received about Phoenix came about eight months too late.
With CBC's Katie Nicholson where an inquiry is trying to figure out how a little girl fell through the cracks.