A Manitoba woman and her common-law husband are now facing first-degree murder charges in the death of her five-year-old daughter, Phoenix Sinclair.
Police upgraded the charges against Samantha Dawn Kematch, 24, and Karl Wesley McKay, 43, on Wednesday.
Phoenix Victoria Sinclair has been missing for nine months. Court documents indicate police believe the little girl was abused, confined and eventually killed in June 2005. Her body has not been found.
Kematch also faces charges of assault with a weapon, aggravated assault, forcible confinement and failing to provide the necessities of life.
Police say nine months passed before anyone reported Phoenix missing. 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.
The little girl's story was the first topic tackled at question period in the legislature Wednesday.
Phoenix was in and out of the child welfare system for most of her life. There had been reports the girl's file had been lost during a transition from Winnipeg-based Child and Family Services to a native-run child welfare agency, but government officials say that was not the case.
Family Services Minister Christine Melnick said Wednesday that Sinclair's file at Winnipeg Child and Family Services was closed in March 2005, which is why it was not transferred to a native-run agency when the child-welfare system was reorganized.
Melnick would not comment on why the case was closed, citing three investigations into the matter – by the RCMP, Winnipeg Child and Family Services and the chief medical examiner. She did say authorities would have conducted a risk assessment before closing the case.
Premier Gary Doer said he wants questions surrounding Phoenix's disappearance and death answered, and he's not ruling out an inquiry into the matter.
"I haven't got all the answers to the questions that you're raising, and it's our responsibility to get those answers," he said at the legislature. "You raised the question about a broader inquiry and we are open to getting the public the answers they deserve."
Provincial officials have not said when the investigations would be complete.