Fundraising effort underway to buy headstone for Phoenix Sinclair

Phoenix Sinclair is shown in a family photo.
Phoenix Sinclair is shown in a family photo. The Canadian Press

Thirteen years ago, the tragic murder of five-year-old Phoenix Sinclair – as well as the inquiry into the child welfare system that followed – made the Manitoba preschooler a household name.

Phoenix was in the care of child and family services at the time of her death in 2005. Her mother Samantha Kematch and Karl McKay were convicted of first degree murder.

After all this time, however, Phoenix’s grave still doesn’t have a headstone, and a new fundraising campaign is aiming to rectify that so her legacy can live on.

Phoenix’s godmother, Kim Edwards, told 680 CJOB that a fundraising effort initially began back in 2006, spearheaded by inmates at local jails.

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“When the money was put in the memorial fund, we paid for a headstone, and once plans started to move along, the realization came that the headstone was too big for the plot in the cemetery,” she said.

“Alterations needed to be made, and those alterations cost a lot of money, and we just didn’t have it.”

Edwards said the GoFundMe campaign – started by CJOB’s Matt Abra, who has worked extensively with Edwards and others while researching Phoenix’s story for a podcast project – is looking to raise $1,000 for the cost of a headstone.

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Any money raised above and beyond that total will go toward more cemetery costs for Phoenix’s late sister Echo, as well as to children’s charities.

“Phoenix had a life, and it wasn’t a tragic life, it was a great life, until it had a tragic end,” said Edwards.

“Her legacy… she has always been, in our minds, a symbol of what the justice system can do, and for child protection.”

Abra said he was astonished to learn, while researching the case, that Phoenix’s grave didn’t have a headstone.

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“My jaw just dropped when I heard that,” he said. “Phoenix Sinclair is a symbol. She has her legacy.

“(Edwards) and Phoenix’s dad, Steve, want her to be a symbol for the improvement in watching out for our children. In death, she’s almost a protector of children. That is her legacy, yet she doesn’t have a headstone.

“You need that headstone to put her to rest officially. She’s kind of just another number at this point. She’s number 1104. Phoenix deserves more than that. She was a person. She has her legacy.”

Edwards said she often thinks about what kind of life Phoenix – who would have turned 19 this year – would have had if her life hadn’t been cruelly cut short.

“I think that she would be a lot like her father,” she said. “A very caring person. I think that she would be someone who was a helper in the community.

“Who knows? She could’ve grown up to be a Grand Chief. She could’ve grown up to be a little rock n’ roller. She could’ve been anybody.”

WATCH: Headstone for Phoenix Sinclair

Click to play video: 'Headstone for Phoenix Sinclair'
Headstone for Phoenix Sinclair

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