Mother convicted of killing Phoenix Sinclair is allowed to leave prison with an escort

WINNIPEG – A Manitoba woman who abused and killed her daughter in one of the province’s most notorious crimes has been granted escorted leave from prison.

The Parole Board of Canada is allowing Samantha Kematch to visit relatives and, separately, an indigenous elder for spiritual development.

“The Board believes that increased exposure to your culture will assist you in your healing journey, as well as in managing your risk factors more effectively,” read a July 21 board report.

“The Board concludes that the release plans for both professional development and family contact (accompanied temporary absences) will promote their reintegration into society.”

Kematch and her then-boyfriend, Karl McKay, were convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison without parole for 25 years for killing Kematch’s daughter, Phoenix Sinclair, in 2005.

His trial heard that Phoenix, who was five at the time of her death, was subjected to repeated abuse that included being shot with a BB gun and being forced to eat her own vomit.

Phoenix was often confined to the unfinished concrete basement of the family’s home on the Fisher River Reservation north of Winnipeg. There were other children in the home who saw the abuse Phoenix was singled out for.

After a final deadly assault, McKay and Kematch wrapped the girl’s body in plastic and buried her. The couple continued to collect welfare payments with Phoenix listed as a dependent, a ruse that was discovered several months later when Kematch tried to pass off another girl as Phoenix.

The parole board’s decision offers insight into Kematch’s behavior since his 2008 conviction. Now 40, Kematch has married another inmate, engaged in counseling and accepted responsibility for his crime, says the document.

“It took him a while to build trust, as he has trust issues as a result of his…history, but he eventually came around and was able to talk about his crime and accept responsibility for it,” the report states.

Kematch has participated in sweat lodge ceremonies and mental health treatment and has been employed full-time at the prison, the report adds.

“Now she has established a healthy routine and can access supports when she needs them.”

Kematch previously had 20 escorted absences from prison for medical reasons and they were uneventful, the report said.

Phoenix spent much of her short life in the care of friends of the family or in the child welfare system. Her death, and the fact that she went undetected for some nine months, prompted a public inquiry.

The investigation found that social workers were unaware of Phoenix’s welfare and whereabouts and often closed her file without seeing her. Social workers also failed to realize that the man Kematch began living with in 2004 was McKay, who had a documented history of domestic violence that included hitting an ex-girlfriend with a bathroom sink paw.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on August 8, 2022.

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