A man accused in the brutal killing of a Pizza Hotline employee during a robbery has pleaded not guilty and began his second-degree murder trial today.
Byron Charlie Bushie, 20, is accused of killing Gerald Crayford, 54, inside a Concordia Avenue outlet of the local pizza chain in the early morning of May 15, 2011.
A teen co-accused was sentenced as an adult in July to life in prison without a chance at parole for seven years for his lead role in Crayford's death, which was captured on store surveillance cameras.
Crayford was attacked and fatally struck in the head with the blunt end of an axe shortly after two masked robbers burst into the store just after 2 a.m.
Then-employee Joseph Passawe testified today the robbers initially chased him to the back of the store and trapped him when he couldn't get the rear door to open.
"One had an axe in his hand, one had a knife," Passawe said.
The one with the axe made all the demands, Passawe said. Also, it was that robber which reached into his pockets, taking his cellphone, earphones and about $3 in loose change.
The robber with the knife stood about a foot behind the axe-wielding assailant, Passawe said. They became distracted after the front door entrance alert sounded, and Passawe said he was able to get out the back door and hide nearby.
About three to five minutes later, he said he saw two people "jumping and screaming and celebrating," but conceded he didn't actually see them leave the store.
He went back inside to see the cash box from the register was missing, and then found Crayford unmoving on the floor towards the rear of the store. He called 911.
"I was screaming, 'Gerry, Gerry, Gerry — I was screaming his name. He was not moving at all," said Passawe." Police and paramedics arrived soon after and rushed Crayford to hospital where he died.
Crown attorney Mark Kantor alleged Bushie and his co-accused formed a "common intention" to steal from the store, the implication being they are equally responsible for Crayford's death.
In an unusual move, defence lawyer John McAmmond made an opening statement, asking Court of Queen's Bench Justice Rick Saull to pay close attention to Bushie's actions on the videotape when it's played in open court Tuesday morning.
Bushie entered a guilty plea to robbing Passawe at the start of the hearing.