WARNING: This story contains graphic details and disturbing content.
Family members of a woman who was killed in a hotel room say the pain they continue to feel a decade after her death is unspeakable.
Cindy Gladue’s mother, cousins, and sister told a sentencing hearing for Ontario truck driver Bradley Barton that they relive her violent death every day.
“I feel broken when I see my great-grandchildren with their mothers, without my daughter and without their grandmother,” Donna McLeod said in a statement read in court Monday by a representative of the family.
“I have spent every day for the last 10 years reliving the violent death of my daughter. I have become a hypervigilant grandmother, who is constantly having to know where my kids and grandchildren are at all times.”
A jury convicted Barton, 53, of manslaughter in February. Gladue, a 36-year-old Métis and Cree woman, died in his room at Edmonton’s Yellowhead Inn in June 2011.
It was the second trial for Barton. A jury found him not guilty in 2015 of first-degree murder, which sparked rallies and calls for justice for Indigenous women.
There was outrage when Gladue’s preserved vaginal tissue was presented in court during the first trial. She was also repeatedly referred to as a “native” and a “prostitute.”
The Alberta Court of Appeal ordered a new trial and the Supreme Court of Canada agreed.
Barton testified that he had arranged to pay Gladue for “rough sex” in his hotel room and was shocked when he woke the next morning to find her dead and covered in blood in the bathtub.
Medical experts told court Gladue had four times the legal limit of alcohol in her system.
Crown prosecutors argued that while Gladue was passed out, Barton performed a sexual act that caused a severe wound to her vagina. They said he then picked her up, dumped her in the tub and left her to bleed to death.
The Crown recommended Barton be sentenced to 18 to 20 years in prison because Gladue was “triply vulnerable” as an Indigenous woman who worked in the sex trade and was intoxicated during the sex assault that killed her.
Prosecutor Lawrence Van Dyke said serious punishment is needed, because the act that killed Gladue was extreme and “nothing short of an act of sexual brutality.”
Barton’s lawyer has yet to present arguments during the three-day hearing. But Van Dyke told the judge that the defence planned to ask for a sentence of five to nine years.
Throughout most of the proceeding, McLeod held her face and wept.
“Barton killed my daughter and I have attended every court I could… some days I had to miss court because reliving the horrible death of my daughter was too physically and emotionally painful. I wanted to be there every day to show how loved she was,” she said in her victim impact statement.
McLeod added that her daughter hasn’t been buried in peace because a part of her body — the vaginal tissue used as evidence in the first trial — is missing.
“No one understands the feeling of losing a child in the most horrible way and not being able to put her body or spirit to rest,” she said.
A cousin of Gladue said in her statement that the trauma from her death was so difficult to bear that she quit her job, faced poverty and her marriage ended.
“Many women throughout the country, including myself, are scarred by the knowledge of the intensity of violence perpetrated against her and of the unbearable pain Cindy faced in her final moments of life,” a transcript of Prairie Adaoui’s statement read.
“He left her alone, writhing in that bathtub. I can still feel her pain.”
Gladue’s sister, Marilyn Houle, wrote a poem that was also read to the court.
“This morning, as I sit here looking up at the sky, I keep asking myself, ‘Why?”’ Houle said.
“How long did you suffer until the morning you were called home?
“The memories I have of you will always remain in my heart as we are apart. I love you my sister. Come visit me from time to time, until we meet again.”