(Cindy Gladue in an undated photo was found murdered in a motel room in 2011. The accused, Bradley Barton was acquitted. The Crown has appealed the acquittal)
Editors Note: This report contains graphic details.
APTN National News
Donna Mcleod gets constant flashbacks of a photograph of her daughter Cindy Gladue, 37, lying dead in a bloody scene in a bathtub.
She wasn’t supposed to see the picture.
While attending the murder trial of the man accused of killing her daughter, she had made clear to the court to let her know when something unsettling would be shown.
That day she was told it was an error as she broke down in tears and left the room.
“I sat through a lot of stuff,” said Mcleod. “Now that picture is stuck with me.”
Bradley Barton, a trucker from Ontario passing through Edmonton, was charged with first-degree murder after Gladue was found dead in his hotel bathroom in June 2011.
He checked out of his hotel after finding Gladue lifeless in the bathtub the morning of June 11.
Mcleod said she heard in court that he panicked and walked around outside in the parking lot before going back to the room and calling 911.
He told the operators that he didn’t know Gladue – but later, he admitted to hiring her for sex.
His lawyer told the judge and jury that Gladue’s death was a result of Barton and her having rough sex.
The chief medical examiner said Cindy injury was caused by an object such as a knife or with extreme force by his hand because it was a clear cut.
Mcleod attended the trial, mostly alone, for four weeks.
It was there that she first learned that Gladue’s pelvic area had been cut from her body by the chief medical examiner before her cremation.
Preserved and presented to the jury as evidence, it was thought they would be able to observe more clearly the 11 cm wound inside Gladue’s vagina that killed her.
“I’ve never even put her to rest yet because they have part of her…it’s like a piece of her is missing, she’s not all there,” said Mcleod who has Gladue’s ashes in an urn at home.
Barton said he had inserted four fingers, past the knuckles, into her vagina. But prosecutors couldn’t prove that Barton cut her or hurt her on purpose.
It’s been almost two years since Barton was acquitted of Gladue’s murder.
Barton’s acquittal sparked countless protests across Canada demanding a retrial.
“I was shocked, I couldn’t believe it (that he was acquitted),” said Mcleod.
Last September crown prosecutors appealed the case before the Alberta Court of Appeal.
The Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF) joined the Institute for the Advancement of Aboriginal Women to request intervenor status.
LEAF director Kim Stanton said they took issue with the way the trial had addressed the law of consent.
The jury believed the defence argument that Gladue had consented to rough sex with Barton after he had hired her for two nights of sexual intercourse.
“We were concerned given everything else that would be going on in the appeal that the concerns we had about how the law of consent was applied and interpreted, as well as how Cindy was characterized in the trial-the stereotyping of her as an Indigenous woman in the trial,” said Stanton.
Throughout the trial, Stanton pointed out that there were several references made to Gladue as “the native girl” and a “prostitute.”
“Aside from the horrendous use of her body as evidence, the way that she was referred to, not as Miss Gladue, but as “the native girl”. It’s just so emblematic of how indigenous women are dehumanized and treated as less than other people,” said Stanton.
Mcleod said the jurors were mostly white and that if Cindy wasn’t Indigenous she may had gotten justice.
Stanton believes it’s important that what happened to Cindy is understood in a broader sense.
“I’m not just talking about her death, I’m talking about the treatment of her by the justice system after her death. It’s not just important to Indigenous women but to all because of the way the law of consent was applied,” she said.
Although Gladue had her struggles including an addiction to alcohol, she was a friend, daughter and mother.
Her three daughters are doing well, said Mcleod who has become a mother figure to them.
Gladue now has a two-year-old grandson.
Mcleod wants to take Gladue’s remains home to Athabasca to be buried alongside her grandparents whom she was close to.
But it could be a while before the rest of Gladue is returned to her family.
Mcleod is prepared to sit through another trial for her daughters’ sake and hopes that the crown’s case is successful this time.
The night Gladue died Mcleod said she couldn’t sleep, something was off. All of a sudden she felt a hand come and rub her back.
“Maybe that was her coming to tell me goodbye.”
The appeal decision is currently on reserve while the justice reviews the evidence and the law, prior to delivering a decision at a later date.