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Protesters hold signs outside Edmonton's city hall on April 2, 2015 in support of Cindy Gladue.Topher Seguin/The Canadian Press

Sighs of relief went up in the gallery of an Edmonton courtroom Friday night as a jury found a man guilty of manslaughter in the death of a woman whose body was found in a hotel bathtub.

A decade and two trials after police were called to a bloody crime scene on Edmonton’s north side, the jury found Bradley Barton, a former trucker from Mississauga, Ont., responsible for the death of Cindy Gladue, a 36-year-old Metis and Cree woman, at the Yellowhead Inn in 2011.

Barton slouched and looked down as the jury revealed its decision following a day of deliberations. Family and friends of Gladue seated in the public gallery began crying.

“We’re happy. Justice has been served,” Gladue’s friend Kari Thomason told reporters outside court.

Lisa Weber, the lawyer for Gladue’s mother, Donna McLeod, echoed that sentiment.

“In this case, we had a victim who was silenced and so she didn’t have the opportunity to tell her side of the story,” Weber said.

“This gives us some confidence that perhaps there is a chance we can have justice.”

In thanking the jury for its service, Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Stephen Hillier acknowledged the graphic testimony heard over the course of the six-week trial and urged members to lean on supports offered by the court.

Barton, 52, testified that he arranged to pay Gladue for sex and was shocked when he woke the next morning to find her body.

The Crown argued Barton performed a sexual act on Gladue while she was passed out and, when she was bleeding profusely, dumped her in the tub.

Medical experts told the trial that Gladue had four times the legal limit of alcohol in her system and she bled to death from a severe wound in her vagina.

A jury in 2015 found Barton not guilty of first-degree murder in Gladue’s death, and both the Alberta Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court ordered a new trial.

The first trial sparked rallies and calls for justice for Indigenous women after he was acquitted.

There was outrage when Gladue’s preserved vaginal tissue was presented in court during the first trial.

“It was utterly dehumanizing, and it ignored Indigenous laws on caring for the dead,” said Lise Gotell, a gender studies professor at the University of Alberta.

Gotell was vice-chair of the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund, or LEAF, one of 16 groups that intervened in the Barton case before the Supreme Court.

Gladue was repeatedly referred to as a “native” and a “prostitute” during the first trial. A Supreme Court judge agreed the words perpetuated myths and stereotypes of Indigenous women and ordered Barton be retried in 2019 for manslaughter.

Lawyers painted two dramatically different pictures at trial.

The Crown argued Gladue did not consent to the brutal sexual act and suggested Barton lied to many people afterwards to cover his tracks.

His defence lawyer said Barton did not know Gladue was injured and lied because he was scared of losing everything.

GRAPHIC WARNING: The following details may disturb some readers.

Barton testified he was working as a truck driver when he met Gladue outside the Edmonton hotel he and other truckers frequented. He paid her $60 for sex that night. Barton said he inserted his fingers into her vagina and she enjoyed herself.

The next day, Barton testified, he invited Gladue back to the hotel and they drank at the lobby bar. Gladue did not seem too drunk to consent, Barton said. Later in the room, he said, he performed the same sex act on her but went further.

Barton said only one lamp was lit in the corner of Room 139 when he looked down and noticed Gladue’s blood on his fingers. He said Gladue told him it could be her period, so he didn’t want sex and refused to pay her.

He said she went to the bathroom and he fell asleep. He was shocked to walk into the bathroom the next morning and find her sprawled in the tub, blood everywhere, he told court.

Barton said he lied to about eight people after he found Gladue in the tub – including his wife, hotel workers, police, and his colleagues – because he was scared they would find out he had sex with her.

McLeod, sat in the courtroom almost every day of the trial. She listened to one clinician after another outline in horrific detail how excessive force had caused an 11-centimetre tear in her daughter’s vaginal wall. Three medical experts testified she would have been bleeding profusely immediately after.

Prosecutors told a darker story of a killer, who violently sexually assaulted his victim with his large fist while she was passed out, then dumped her in the tub.

Crown prosecutor Lawrence Van Dyke said a laptop search found Barton had looked for videos of tearing and ripped vaginas only a few days before on the internet.

The Crown argued that Barton got dressed that morning and brushed his teeth, all while calculating how he was going to cover up what he had done to the woman lying a few feet away.

Behind the blood-soaked tub curtain, Gladue lay with more of her blood smeared on her body, face, and all over the bathtub. Her bloody foot prints marked the wall above her feet. An expert said she may have been thrashing as oxygen and blood quickly left her body.

Van Dyke said Barton checked out of his room, got a coffee and calmly asked a colleague about what he should do.

Barton was arrested two days after he called police.

Gotell said Gladue hasn’t been buried which would have been most painful to her family.

“In Cree teachings, someone’s spirit continues to wander until their body is buried.

“She hasn’t been put to rest.”

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

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