Man who threw trailer hitch at Indigenous woman found guilty of manslaughter
Being struck by hitch was 'contributing cause' of Barbara Kentner's death, judge rules
A Thunder Bay, Ont., man has been found guilty of manslaughter for throwing a trailer hitch at an Indigenous woman who died six months later.
Superior Court Justice Helen Pierce delivered her ruling against Brayden Bushby on Monday, following a four-day trial last month.
Bushby, 21, had already pleaded guilty to aggravated assault, admitting he threw the object that struck Barbara Kentner from a passing vehicle. The aggravated assault charge has been stayed because of the manslaughter conviction. Kentner, a 34-year-old mother from Wabigoon Lake Ojibway Nation, died in July 2017.
"I am satisfied that the Crown has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Bushby's action, in striking Ms. Kentner with the trailer hitch, was a contributing cause of her death that is not trivial or insignificant and which accelerated her death," Pierce said while reading her reasons for the judgment.
Kentner was walking with her sister, Melissa, on the side of an east end residential street in the early morning hours of Jan. 29, 2017 when she was struck in the abdomen by the trailer hitch.
The force knocked her to her knees and later that day she underwent emergency surgery. She was discharged from the hospital against medical advice on Feb. 4, but returned on Feb. 10, where she remained until late March when she was released for palliative care at home. She required medical care for the rest of her life.
Kentner had significant underlying liver conditions, although the cause of her death, according to the testimony of pathologist Dr. Toby Rose, was pneumonia due to the rupture of her bowel because of blunt-force trauma.
During the trial, Bushby was described as having been "rowdy" prior to the encounter with Kentner, and having vomited twice after drinking alcohol all day.
After heaving the hitch out of the window and striking Kentner, Bushby was heard laughing by one of the occupants of the vehicle. Both Kentner and her sister heard him say that he "got one."
The judge described throwing the trailer hitch as an "objectively dangerous" act that would have been foreseeable to causing injury. She referenced testimony that Bushby had picked up the trailer hitch with the original intent to throw it through somebody's window.
"He knew the hitch was heavy enough to cause damage," Pierce said.
WATCH | Brayden Bushby found guilty of manslaughter:
Prior to starting to read her decision, Pierce expressed her condolences to Kentner's family.
"I understand she is greatly missed. I am truly sorry for her loss," Pierce said.
A manslaughter conviction carries a maximum sentence of life in prison, with no mandatory minimum.
A sentencing hearing has been scheduled for Feb. 9, 2021, though Pierce said she does not expect to make a decision on that date.
Bushby remains released on bail.
After the ruling, Melissa Kentner said her biggest frustration is that Bushby was able to "walk free" as he awaits sentencing.
In a city that has had a history of incidents of racism and violence directed at Indigenous people, the case generated widespread outrage.
The pretrial decision to try the case on the lesser charge of manslaughter — rather than second-degree murder — drew criticism, including from First Nations leaders.
Multiple demonstrations were held over the case, including one on Sunday.
NDP MPP Sol Mamakwa, who represents the predominantly Indigenous riding of Kiiwetinoong in northwestern Ontario, says the justice system continues to fail Indigenous people.
"The killing of Barbara Kentner is not a single incident, but part of a long-standing pattern of several cases in Thunder Bay, and throughout Ontario involving the murders and disappearances of Indigenous people," Mamakwa said. "Thunder Bay continues to be an unsafe place for Indigenous people — especially women."