Man pleads guilty to manslaughter in Southgate Centre attack

Man accused in death of Southgate death pleads out
WATCH ABOVE: Over a year since the owner of Bunches Flower shop in Southgate Centre was killed, the man accused in his death appeared in court. Sarah Kraus was there.

The man accused of a brutal fatal attack at Edmonton’s Southgate Centre mall last spring has pleaded guilty to manslaughter.

Jordan Martin Cushnie appeared in court in Edmonton on Friday where he entered the guilty plea. He also pleaded guilty to robbery in connection with the April 2018 incident.

Cushnie was originally charged with second-degree murder in the death of 61-year-old John Iain Armstrong, who co-owned the Bunches Flower Co. shop in the mall, along with other locations in the city.

READ MORE: Southgate Centre attack suspect wanted for murder has been arrested

According to an agreed statement of facts, Cushnie’s movements in the mall were captured on video surveillance from the time he entered the building until he left.

Cushnie arrived at the mall at 9:44 a.m. and met up with a number of other people before they made their way to an area near the Adore Cosmetic Kiosk, court heard.

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Just after 10:15 a.m., Cushnie was captured on video cutting the wire that tied down the cash box at the cosmetics kiosk, the agreed statement of facts reads. He then began to flee the area when Armstrong grabbed Cushnie’s arm in an attempt to stop him.

Cushnie then turned around and repeatedly punched Armstrong in the face and head, court heard. After the sixth punch, Armstrong hit his head on the corner on the Freedom Mobile Kiosk and fell to the ground. Cushnie then ran out of the mall at around 10:18 a.m.

The assault lasted eight seconds, according to the court document.

Armstrong was in cardiac arrest and not breathing. He suffered a large cut from his forehead to the top of his head, as well as a spinal cord injury. Mall security performed CPR on Armstrong before EMTs arrived and took him to the University of Alberta Hospital.

Court heard Armstrong suffered an unsurvivable fracture to his cervical spine, among other injuries. He died in hospital three days after the attack.

The medical examiner determined Armstrong died as a result of blunt force trauma and neck injuries.

After the attack, an Alberta-wide warrant was issued for Cushnie’s arrest. He was arrested by Lac La Biche RCMP five days after the attack and brought back to Edmonton.

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READ MORE: Southgate Centre assault victim’s son says dad ‘left some big shoes to fill’ at flower shops

Armstrong started the Bunches Flower Co. in 1991 with his wife, Sharon, his brother Eric and sister-in-law Judy Armstrong.

Eric and Judy Armstrong (left) and Sharon and Iain Armstrong (right), own & operate Bunches Flower Co. together.
Eric and Judy Armstrong (left) and Sharon and Iain Armstrong (right), own & operate Bunches Flower Co. together. Credit: Pray for Iain Armstrong Facebook page

Armstrong was married for over 35 years and was a father of two children: Dana and Sean. He was an active volunteer and member of the community, including getting involved with the Laurier Heights Baptist Church.

Sharon Armstrong issued a statement in response to the guilty pleas on Friday evening.

“This does not give me any sense of closure, or peace or of justice served,” the statement reads in part. “It does take me back to the fateful morning of April 18, 2018, when Iain was brutally attacked and left for dead; back to the shock and horror of the moment, and of the days that were to come.

“Iain was force of life, his big presence filled a room in every way. He was loved and respected for his integrity, humour, kindness, and so much more. The subsequent tidal wave of sorrow, and pain, and devastation, continues to be immeasurable. Iain died the way he lived: trying to protect, trying to right a wrong, and called to action.

Today was one more step in a long legal journey that can neither make our family whole again, nor deliver true justice. However, at the time of sentencing in October 2019, we hope to present a comprehensive picture to the courts, through victim impact statements, of this remarkable man.

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I would like to extend our sincere appreciation to all the good people who work so diligently in our legal system: in the EPS, Victims Services, and the office of the Crown. They have been incredibly accommodating and respectful throughout this ordeal.

The thoughtful kindness and support of friends, church families, neighbours, staff, business associates, some of our customers, and even everyday citizens, help to give all of us in the Armstrong family the strength to keep going forward, and provide a balm to our broken hearts. We pray for continued strength and peace in the days and years ahead.”

Cushnie’s next court appearance is scheduled for Oct. 17.

Watch below: Ongoing Global News coverage of the fatal attack at Southgate Centre