Bradley Barton found guilty of manslaughter in death of Cindy Gladue

Warning: This story includes graphic and disturbing details. A jury has found Bradley Barton guilty of manslaughter in the June 2011 death of Cindy Gladue.

Warning: This story includes graphic and disturbing details

In a court exhibit previously shown, Bradley Barton and Cindy Gladue are captured on surveillance camera leaving Barton's hotel room on the first of two nights they spent together. (Yellowhead Inn/Court exhibit)

The man accused of fatally injuring Cindy Gladue inside a west Edmonton hotel suite nearly 10 years ago has been found guilty of manslaughter.

It took the 11-person jury about nine hours Friday to convict Bradley Barton, 52, in Gladue's death.

Barton, a former long-distance truck driver from Ontario, was accused of causing a fatal injury to Gladue, 36, while they were having sex in June 2011. Barton admitted he caused the injury, but said he had no idea at the time that Gladue was hurt.

The jury began deliberations Friday after being sequestered by Court of Queen's Bench Justice Stephen Hillier the night before.

"This has not only been a long trial; it has obviously been an absolutely tragic and very disturbing set of circumstances which will have tested both your physical and mental endurance," Hillier told the jury.

"I want to thank you for the care and the attention that you have given to this case," he said before encouraging the jurors to access counselling services.

Gladue in an undated photo posted on the Facebook site, In Loving Memory of Cindy Gladue. (In Loving Memory of Cindy Gladue/Facebook)

Barton slouched and looked down as the jury revealed its decision.

Family and friends of Gladue held hands and cried after sitting through six weeks of details of how the mother of three was left to die in agony in a bathtub.

Barton's manslaughter trial spanned six weeks, with the jury hearing graphic testimony about Gladue's last hours inside Room 139 at the Yellowhead Inn.

The arguments heard at trial centred on issues of consent and credibility, on Gladue's fatal wound and the often graphic evidence that remains from that night almost 10 years ago.

The Indigenous mother of three was found dead on June 22, 2011; her naked body was in a blood-soaked bathtub.

Gladue bled to death after suffering an 11-centimetre wound to her vaginal wall.

Barton insisted the sex was rough but consensual, and said he was shocked to find Gladue dead the following morning. 

On his first night at the hotel, Barton met up with Gladue and the two went up to the room for sex. Closed-circuit video from the hotel shows the two walking hand in hand after leaving the hotel room.

Protesters hold signs in support of Cindy Gladue outside Edmonton's city hall on April 2, 2015. (Topher Seguin/The Canadian Press)

They exchanged phone numbers and met again the next night. After sharing a beer in the hotel bar shortly before 1 a.m., the two went back to Barton's room. Later that morning, Gladue's body was found in the bathroom.

An autopsy showed she had more than four times the legal limit of alcohol in her bloodstream at the time of her death.

The Crown argued Gladue may have been too drunk to provide consent. They also pointed to lies and inconsistencies in Barton's testimony. 

Barton testified that he panicked and failed to immediately call for help because he worried his wife would find out he had paid for sex.

Court heard that Barton only called police after initially checking out of the hotel, grabbing a coffee and sharing some details of the night with a co-worker in the motel parking lot.

Barton originally told the 911 operator that Gladue had knocked on his hotel room door the night before, asking to use the shower. He said he let her in then went to sleep, only to find her dead the next morning. He repeated that story to a homicide detective a few hours later.

The Crown said the frequency and ease with which Barton lied showed he was more calculating than the defence portrayed him.

"He lied shamelessly whenever he needed to," prosecutor Lawrence Van Dyke told the jury. "Whenever he thought he had something to gain."

The prosecutors said he treated Gladue "like a piece of property" that was disposable.

'Cindy's voice has been heard'

Outside the courthouse Friday evening, Gladue's friends expressed relief at the verdict but called the nearly decade-long wait for justice "agonizing."

"To have him being found guilty ... Cindy has won her victory," Kari Thomason said. "Cindy's voice has been heard.

"And that is what has to happen to all of our Aboriginal women — their voices have to be heard."

They said Gladue, who they called a sister, was a kind person who liked to cook and spend time with her children.

Gladue's friends — Lisa Weber, Brandy Poorman, and Kari Thomason — expressed relief at the guilty verdict but said it had been a 'long journey' to get here. (Craig Ryan/CBC)

"We think that it was a just result," Van Dyke said outside the courthouse. Although the case became a flashpoint for discussion around discrimination and systemic racism in the courts, he said jurors were asked to base their decision solely on the evidence.

"They received that message loud and clear from the court numerous times, and we think that that was achieved today."

Barton's lawyer Dino Bottos said his client was disappointed but "not surprised" by the verdict.

"It is hard to address a jury just on the strengths and weaknesses of a case, based on evidence, when there is this large and overwhelming spirit in the community, and a cry for justice in the community, that wanted Ms. Gladue's death vindicated," he said.

"So there are those dynamics at play. I hope they didn't get into the jury room but that was one of our fears."

Bottos said his team wants to appeal Barton's conviction and cited what he said were issues with evidence admissibility. But they must first convince Legal Aid Alberta, which funded his defence.

Acquitted in 2015

This was the second time Barton has faced trial for Gladue's death. 

He was acquitted of both first-degree murder and manslaughter charges after a jury trial in 2015.

The acquittal triggered nationwide protests, calls for change in the justice system and raised questions about how it treats Indigenous women. 

Much of the outrage hinged on the fact that Gladue's vaginal tissue was presented as evidence, an unprecedented move that was described as a final and cruel injustice to the victim. 

In 2017, the Alberta Court of Appeal overturned the decision and a new murder trial was ordered.

In 2019, the Supreme Court of Canada partially overturned that decision, ordering a new trial on the manslaughter charge only.

Gladue, a woman of Métis and Cree ancestry, had lived most of her life in Edmonton. She is survived by her mother and three daughters. 

Barton, who had previously been out on bail, will be taken into custody. Bottos said given that Barton lives in Mississauga, Ont., and has little money, his client preferred to relinquish himself into custody.

He will be sentenced at a later date. Hillier ordered a pre-sentence report be prepared but acknowledged that can take as long as eight weeks to prepare. A date for Barton's sentencing hearing will be set next week.

With files from Janice Johnston and The Canadian Press