Killer mom faked compliance to foil child welfare workers: Report

Phoenix was abused and murdered at age five by her mother, Samantha Kematch and Kematch's boyfriend, Karl McKay, at their Fisher River First Nation home in June 2005, a few months after she was returned to Kematch's care and her CFS file closed. Her death went undiscovered for nine months.

Credits: HANDOUT


WINNIPEG - Samantha Kematch used a "disguised compliance" tactic to pull the wool over the eyes of Manitoba Child and Family Services workers checking on the welfare of the toddler she would end up murdering, a report tabled at a public inquiry into Phoenix Sinclair's death states.

Kematch's anti-CFS tactics are cited as contributing to a CFS worker's fateful decision to close the little girl's file in March 2005 without seeing her or how she was living.

Less than three months later, Kematch and her boyfriend, Karl Wesley McKay murdered Phoenix, 5, in a home on Fisher River First Nation after fleeing there from Winnipeg to avoid CFS scrutiny.

"Kematch's semi-open stance (speaking with workers at her door but denying them entry into the suite) was a further example of disguised compliance," Medical Examiner's Office investigator Jan Christianson-Wood wrote in 2006.

"For families with a history of child welfare involvement, this is an effective way to hold the system at bay until there is a crisis."

Kematch - herself a product of the CFS system - had successfully employed this strategy with workers a number of other times in Phoenix's lifetime, the inquiry has seen.

Wednesday, more evidence was heard about the intervention by crisis response workers Chris Zalevich and Bill Leskiw - who testified he acted strictly in a backup role to his colleague on March 9, 2005 - the day Zalevich talked with Kematch in the hallway of her Winnipeg apartment, but left without seeing Phoenix.

Leskiw, who had many years more experience than his colleague, testified he didn't specifically remember the visit or the case.

But, he said, he wasn't the primary worker and likely had little or no information about the family's situation to analyze Zalevich's work or decisions that day. And that wasn't his role, he repeatedly said. He said was there primarily for worker-safety reasons.

The file was closed that same day with the approval of CFS supervisor Diva Faria, who is expected to take the witness stand Thursday.

Many questions are expected to be asked of her about her perception of the role Leskiw played.

"She trusted (Leskiw) to make the right decision on the visit and to be a help to (Zalevich) who was less experienced," investigator Andrew Koster states in a separate review report.

Leskiw said he was "quite surprised" Faria would suggest this, saying he'd never been told of any criticism of his work.

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