Man Who Killed Indigenous Woman by Throwing Trailer Hitch Sentenced to 8 Years

Credit to Author: Manisha Krishnan| Date: Mon, 07 Jun 2021 15:38:57 GMT

The man who killed an Indigenous woman after throwing a trailer hitch at her from a moving car has been sentenced to 8 years in jail, minus one month time served. 

Brayden Bushby, 22, was convicted of manslaughter in December in the death of Barbara Kentner. Kentner, an Anishinaabe woman from Wabigoon Lake Ojibway Nation, died at a Thunder Bay hospice in July 2017, about six months after Bushby struck her with the trailer hitch. She was 34 years old and had sustained serious internal injuries, including a rupture to her small bowel. 

In her sentencing, Superior Court Justice Helen Pierce said Kentner, an Indigenous woman, “was victimized when she walked peacefully on a city street. Understandably her loss is keenly felt in the Indigenous community.” 

“I acknowledge your anger and your grief. I am very sorry for your loss. Please accept the condolences of the court,” she said, addressing Kentner’s family. 

Bushby’s moral blameworthiness in throwing a heavy trailer hitch is in the middle of the spectrum for manslaughter cases, which have no minimum sentencing and can yield a life sentence, Pierce said. 

“Even though drunk, Mr. Bushby displayed a high degree of awareness” that his actions would cause harm, Pierce said. 

On January 29, 2017, Kentner was out walking, a little behind her sister, Melissa, after midnight in Thunder Bay. Melissa was trying to get Kentner to hurry up because it was cold when a car started driving towards them. Bushby was drunk and in the car with three other friends, one of the friends said. 

During the trial, Melissa said she heard Bushby yell, “I got one of them,” after throwing the hitch, which hit Kentner in the stomach. 

Bushby, who is white, was originally charged with second-degree murder, but that charge was downgraded in the fall. He pleaded guilty to aggravated assault prior to being convicted of manslaughter. 

Witnesses said Bushby had been drinking all day when he attacked Kentner in the early morning hours of January 29, 2017—and laughed after he hit her with the hitch. He told one of his friends he wanted to drive around “and yell at sex workers,” said Pierce at the sentencing. 

Addressing Bushby, Pierce said, “You treated the Kentner women like they were disposable, their lives and dignity were not worth your concern… You perpetuated the feeling of distrust and insecurity that Indigenous citizens in the community feel when they are in the streets.” 

Pierce said aggravating factors in the case included Bushby’s bias towards women sex workers, as he expressed his wish to drive around and yell at “hookers” and drove to an area known for sex work. She said his “I got one” comment was an expression of “pleasure.” 

Pierce said Kentner was an unsuspecting victim who was attacked at night. She said Bushby “was callously indifferent in committing a drive-by assault.” 

Pierce said mitigating factors included Bushby’s expression of remorse, foregoing a jury trial, and the fact it was Bushby’s first offence. She said he has displayed maturity after being arrested. 

“The offence was an isolated offence, out of character, and is unlikely to occur,” Pierce said. 

Bushby’s lawyers argued Kentner’s underlying liver condition was likely the cause of her death. However, pathologist Dr. Toby Rose said she died due to an infection caused by blunt force trauma. The defence argued Bushby should not be held accountable for those in society “who engage in abusive conduct towards Indigenous citizens.”

“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,” said Pierce in her December verdict. 

The Crown sought a sentence of eight to 12 years in jail. 

Pierce described the impact on Kentner’s family, including “isolation, depression, anger and fear.” 

“Ms. Kentner was much loved and is much missed,” Pierce said Monday, noting her family members described her as a “light in the darkness,” a “beautiful life,” and a supportive nurturing mother.

Pierce said it’s important to understand the wider impact of Kentner’s death on the Indigenous community. She read multiple community impact statements that described Indigenous women being targeted by eggs, rocks, and bottles while walking around Thunder Bay.

“We are made to feel unsafe in Thunder Bay, we are made to feel unsafe in our own communities, simply because we are Indigenous,” one of the statements said. Another called for a city-wide conversation on racism in Thunder Bay. 

“To the members of the Indigenous community, I acknowledge with regret your anger, your fear, and your sadness,” Pierce said. However she said that because Bushby “has not been charged with committing a hate crime, he cannot be sentenced on that basis.” 

She said he denies having a racial bias towards others. He “reported being verbally accosted in the community” and social media after he attacked Kentner.  

According to Pierce, “He stated, ‘I wish I could take it back and that things are different. I’m sorry that they have to grow up without a mother and sister. I can see how it’s made a big impact on their lives and mine.’”

“Whatever the sentence is, I will carry this guilt for the rest of my life,” Bushby said, according to Pierce. 

Pierce told Bushby, “Something happens when you attack the dignity of another person. You lose your own in the process. With your trailer hitch you targeted a vulnerable woman in the street when she could not protect herself. You did it from the safety of a vehicle so that you could just drive away.” 

“You have minimized women, disrespected them, and made them feel unsafe. Your actions are an affront to all women.”

Follow Manisha Krishnan on Twitter.

With files from Anya Zoledziowski

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