This is the tragic story of a young girl’s life cut short by the horrific issue of domestic violence that plagues this country and many countries throughout the world. A young military man, devoted to God and country, away from home fighting in remote places and on distant shores, willing to make the ultimate sacrifice in order to fight evil and oppression, while all the time not knowing the real monster was back home, moving silently among those he loved. This is the story of good versus evil and the tragedy of a man and his daughter victimized by the hidden monster we know as domestic violence. While twenty-four year old Navy man Pete Sinclair was away protecting our right to sleep at night the monster was lurking, watching, calculating, waiting, until the time when there was no one and nothing to help save the life of Pete’s three year-old daughter; his little angel, Ellen Marie Sinclair.
As a young man growing up in Canyon County, Idaho, Pete Sinclair was always positive and knew he wanted to help people. He joined the United States Navy in September 1997 and embarked on a journey that included several military tours around the world.
Soon after joining the Navy, Pete met a young woman who became his wife and they moved to San Diego, CA to his first duty station. Just before Pete left on a six month deployment at sea, his wife informed him that she was pregnant with their first child. Pete was elated and went to sea knowing that when he returned he would see the birth of his baby. Pete returned home just two days before the birth of Ellen Marie Sinclair, November 9, 1998. Pete was overjoyed and was able to be with his daughter for the first 4-5 months of her life before his patriotic duty called him away.
Over the next few years he was sent on multiple deployments around the world. Always far from his family but always thinking of his little daughter back home. He seldom got home and his relationship with little Ellen’s mother deteriorated because of time and distance. Pete knew the costs his job was extracting on his marriage but he was committed to his duty and felt he needed to stay in the military to do his part. Pete saw little Ellen periodically but not as much as he wanted. Eventually Ellen’s mother moved back to Idaho to be closer to her own family.
In late summer of 2001 Pete was stationed in Puerto Rico on a Drug Detachment Unit. By now his little girl was just two months away from her third birthday and Pete was looking forward to taking leave time to visit her and his own parents in Idaho. Ellen’s mother was living in Nampa, ID with a woman close to her age, sharing expenses of a rental house and both worked jobs during the day.
Little Ellen spent a lot of time with her grandparents on Pete’s side of the family. She was a very active little girl, always smiling, living the normal life of a little girl who had people around her that loved her very much. What she didn’t know herself others, including her mother, did and that was that a dark shadow also shared the rental house on 3rd Ave South in Nampa. Her mother’s roommate had a boyfriend by the name of Josh King.
King has a long history of violent behavior. In September of 2000 he was convicted of Domestic Violence Battery. In July of 2001 was convicted again of Domestic Violence and a No Contact Order was put in place between him and the female roommate of little Ellen’s mother. But a multitude of convictions and a No Contact Order did not stop Josh King from living in the same house as his victim. As is so often the case, the victims have a hard time separating themselves from the abuser and in this case she was not the only victim in danger.
On August 29, 2001, little Ellen’s mother went to work as she did most days. Her roommate also had to go to work, so she left little Ellen in the care of King. The roommate would later admit that little Ellen, “cried every time she left her alone with Josh but she did not know why”. No one but Josh King knows exactly what happened that day but at approximately ten o’clock in the morning Nampa Paramedics responded to a ‘child not breathing’ call and requested the Nampa Police Department respond as well because of suspicious circumstances. The paramedics and firemen who first arrived on scene would later say that something just did not feel right about King’s statements of how she was injured, “His story was just not adding up”. The first responders moved little Ellen outside to the yard to preform CPR and then rushed her to St. Alphonsus Hospital Trauma Center in Boise, ID.
Pete Sinclair was on duty when his Commanding Officer came to him and told him that Pete’s wife had called and told him something was wrong with their daughter, Ellen. Pete called his wife and the only words he remembers her saying were, “Please come home”. Pete then got on the phone with a brain surgeon at the hospital who told him his daughter had undergone surgery (the first of what would be nine surgeries) but that things did not look good. As Pete’s Commanding Officers made emergency arrangements to get him on a plane to Boise, Pete spoke with a second surgeon who told him they could not save his daughter, but that they would leave her on life support until he got there. In full uniform, Pete walked numbly through airports, wondering how this could have happened to his little girl. Pete thought back to his own childhood growing up in an abusive environment. His father was a Navy Seal and served in Vietnam. His dad was not abusive to Pete’s mother; he instead took his anger out on Pete and his sister. Pete swore to himself he would never be like his father, he would cherish his children and protect them from the cycle of abuse. Now his own daughter was lying in a hospital bed clinging to life by a machine only so he could say goodbye. The guilt of not being there to protect her from this unseen danger was overwhelming.
When Pete arrived at the hospital in Boise there were dozens of people, including nine police officers, in the hallway near his daughter’s room. The Chief of Police of Nampa, Curtis Homer, told Pete, “We have the guy (Josh King) in jail”. Pete was overcome with grief and cried out, “I just want to see my daughter”. Pete held his daughter in his arms for an hour before he quietly gave her back to the attending physicians and staff. A representative from the Heart and Organ Donation Center at the hospital came to him and told him, “I know this is a tough time but your daughter has a chance to save lives”. Pete knew his little Ellen would want him to help others and saw a way for her memory to live on through other children, so he gave permission to the staff to move forward with the procedures.
King was charged with murder in the first degree. Expert testimony showed that little Ellen was killed by blunt force trauma to her head. Doctors compared the injuries to a person traveling at 60 mph and hitting a brick wall with no helmet. King testified that little Ellen had fallen off the couch while he was watching her and she had hit her head. The prosecution presented photos from the autopsy of bruises on Ellen’s brain showing blunt force trauma. After 1 ½ years in the court system, a jury found Josh King guilty of 1st degree murder and he was sentenced to 15 years fixed in the state penitentiary. He will be eligible for parole in 2016.
Josh King had an extensive rap sheet before this event and was charged multiple times for assault and battery. He had violated the No Contact Order the court imposed upon him in 2001and was living with the same victim he had assaulted when he killed Ellen Marie Sinclair.
Pete Sinclair left the military in 2004 and returned to his home town where his daughter had died. He believes he has found forgiveness for Josh King but knows he will never forget what happened. Not a day goes by that he doesn’t think about his daughter and what she would be like today. He sometimes reflects on the cost he and his family have paid for him serving his country to protect others. He does not regret his service he just wishes more people would take an active role in helping protect society from the dark danger in our midst, the danger of domestic violence.
Pete stated, “This community lost a special child because of domestic violence. Because a person with multiple violent charges was never truly held accountable until it was too late. Domestic violence is an issue in this community and many others just like it. I will do whatever I can to change that”.
Pete Sinclair is a good man, a patriotic man and a loving father. He misses his “little angel” Ellen Marie Sinclair but her memory will live on in all he does and in those she helped to save. Ellen Marie Sinclair has a room dedicated in her honor at the Family Justice Center in Nampa, ID where victims of Domestic Violence, Child Abuse and Sexual Assault are cared for each and every day. “Maybe someday these places will not be necessary, but until then we will continue to fight the good fight and continue our Crusade to stop Domestic Violence in all of its forms throughout our communities”.—Kieran Donahue, Founder-Man Up Crusade™