Edmonton

Killer of Edmonton flower shop owner sentenced to 6 years in prison

Jordan Cushnie pleaded guilty on May 24, 2019, to manslaughter in the death of Iain Armstrong when he tried to stop Cushnie from robbing a cash box from a kiosk at Southgate mall in April 2018.

Jordan Cushnie pleaded guilty to manslaughter in 2018 death of Iain Armstrong

Grieving widow Sharon Armstrong showed Court of Queen's Bench Justice Eldon Simpson this photo during her victim impact statement. (Sharon Armstrong/Facebook)

Before the man who killed Edmonton flower-shop owner Iain Armstrong was sentenced Monday to six years in prison, Sharon Armstrong showed the judge a family photograph.

Taken at a wedding, the black and white image shows Iain Armstrong rising to the challenge after someone asked how a new bride should be kissed.

His widow told Justice Eldon Simpson that without warning, her husband, then 60, literally swept her off her feet and kissed her — just like he had done when she was 19 years old. 

"Iain was the perfect husband for me and the perfect father for our two children," she said. 

Jordan Martin Cushnie, who is 25, pleaded guilty in May 2019 to manslaughter in the April 2018 death of the 61-year old Edmonton business owner.

At Cushnie's sentencing on Monday, Crown Ryan Abrams and defence lawyer Dale Knisely recommended a six-year prison term in a joint sentencing submission.

Simpson accepted their recommendation, calling it a "proportionate sentence."

Cushnie has been in custody since he was arrested and with enhanced credit for time already served, he will have 2½years remaining on his sentence. 

Sharon Armstrong's life was shattered on April 17, 2018, when her husband tried to stop a robbery.

Iain Armstrong owned Bunches flower shop at Southgate Centre.

He was in the store when he spotted Cushnie use wire cutters to cut the cable that secured a cash box at a nearby cosmetics kiosk.

When Cushnie picked up the box and began to walk away, Armstrong rushed out and grabbed him by the arm.

Cushnie punched Armstrong six times in the head and face. The older man lost his balance and hit his head on the corner of a kiosk as he fell to the floor. 

His fall caused devastating injuries. Armstrong suffered a spinal cord injury and was unable to breathe, leading to cardiac arrest. 

Police erected tarps around the scene at Southgate Mall where a mall employee was viciously assaulted by a man attempting to steal from a kiosk. (CBC)

Three days later, his family made the difficult decision to remove Armstrong from life support. He died soon after. 

Cushnie got away, but a warrant was issued for his arrest. Five days after the attack he was charged with second-degree murder. 

Last May he pleaded guilty to manslaughter and robbery. 

'There will be no forgiveness'  

Cushnie was on probation for another violent offence when he attacked Armstrong. 

In a victim impact statement, Sean Armstrong told the court he holds the "broken farce" of the justice system responsible in part for his father's death.

He also directed some of his anger at Cushnie. 

"What is done cannot be undone," Armstrong said. "There will be no forgiveness." 

Iain Armstrong was surrounded in hospital around the clock by his wife and two children for the last three days of his life. 

Ian Armstrong had two children, Sean and Dana. The family settled in Edmonton, where Armstrong was a partner in founding the Bunches Flower Co. (Sean Armstrong)

"Watching my beautiful, strong husband die before my eyes....was an unspeakable horror," Sharon Armstrong said. "The day Iain died, my life died." 

She said her heart broke as she watched her daughter put her head on her father's chest so she could hear his last heartbeat. 

"The sorrow, the agony, the loss are more acute than ever," she told court. "So far I have served 856 days of my life sentence of sorrow and loss."

The eight friends and family members who delivered victim impact statements all referred to Armstrong's generosity, selflessness and kindness. 

"He was not only my hero, but a hero to many people," Armstrong's daughter Dana Mikulasik told court through tears.

The prosecutor pointed out that Armstrong's death was "infuriating" because he had stepped in to help someone else during the course of a crime. He called it "an act of heroism" that was "terribly sad."

"Thankfully, there are still people who will stand up for what they believe in," Abrams said. 

Homeless and angry

According to a court-ordered psychological assessment, Cushnie is a drug addict. He admits he was using crystal meth daily and consumed the drug the day he stole the cash box and attacked Armstrong.

At the time, Cushnie was homeless and angry. He got into an argument with his girlfriend and ended up at Southgate by chance.

Cushnie is Métis. His grandparents were residential school survivors and he was taken into the child welfare system when he was four years old. 

Cushnie told the author of a court-ordered Gladue report that he is sorry he hurt someone's family.

"I had never intended to hurt anyone," he said. "I just got grabbed at the wrong time and I fought back. I am sorry that someone died because of that."

Gladue reports are created to inform a sentencing judge of the circumstances of an Indigenous offender, including background and systemic factors.

Cushnie's criminal record includes convictions on 31 charges. Nine were for violent offences. 

"Mr. Cushnie demonstrated entrenched antisocial and misogynistic attitudes," psychologist Dr. Debra Jellicoe wrote in her report. "He views violence as a legitimate means to solve problems." 

Jordan Cushnie was sentenced to six years in prison Monday for killing Southgate mall flower shop owner Iain Armstrong in 2018.

After conducting a battery of tests, Jellicoe concluded that without making significant changes to his lifestyle and substance abuse, Cushnie presents a very high risk to commit more crimes and poses a high risk to re-offend violently. 

Cushnie has admitted using drugs while he has been held in custody at the Edmonton Remand Centre. He has also admitted joining the Redd Alert gang.

"I was angry at the world so I joined," Cushnie told the Gladue report author. "I feel at home here cause I am on the gang unit with other gang members. I am used to this life now."

In his sentencing, Simpson addressed Cushnie's actions while in custody.

"It's an immeasurable loss to lose someone this way," Simpson said. "In my view, the only way to repay that loss is for you to make some changes.

"If you remain connected with that gang and use drugs while in custody, it's not going to happen," the judge added. "If you fail, then your chance to re-offend is real." 

Cushnie turned down the chance to address the court.

About the Author

Janice Johnston is an award-winning journalist in Edmonton who has covered the courts and crime for more than two decades. You can reach her at janice.johnston@cbc.ca or on Twitter at @cbcjanjohnston

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