Byron Charlie Bushie has been found guilty of murdering a Pizza Hotline worker during the course of a pre-planned robbery to get money for drugs.
Despite the fact he didn't wield the fatal blows to Gerald Crayford, 54, Bushie's act of holding Crayford down and allowing co-accused Dylan Sinclair to hit him with an axe made him a principal to the brutal May 2011 killing, Court of Queen's Bench Justice Rick Saull ruled Thursday.
"But for his involvement, it wouldn't have happened," Saull said to a courtroom gallery where Crayford's relatives and a number of Winnipeg homicide detectives sat listening intently.
Bushie was convicted of second-degree murder, meaning he'll automatically receive a life sentence without a shot at parole for at least 10 years. He fought the case, arguing he should only have been convicted of manslaughter.
Sentencing was adjourned to a later date to allow Crayford's family to prepare victim impact statements and for corrections officials to craft a report examining Bushie's background.
Bushie and Sinclair hatched a plot to rob the Concordia Avenue Pizza Hotline for drug money, disguised and armed themselves and walked into the store around 2 a.m.
They robbed an 18-year-old employee after cornering him by the back door.
As they moved back towards the front of the shop, Sinclair encountered Crayford and the two grappled over an axe clutched in Sinclair's hands.
Sinclair called out for Bushie to help as Crayford was getting the better of his attacker.
Saull found Bushie came around the corner, saw clearly what was happening and moved to try and stab Crayford with a knife, but missed.
He then brought Crayford to the ground, allowing Sinclair to bash him in the head twice with the blunt end of the axe. The killing was captured on in-store surveillance cameras.
After murdering Crayford and escaping the store with the till, the pair fled and were witnessed "celebrating" the event, Saull said.
Arrested days after the attack, Bushie initially denied involvement, then told police he was "blacked out" for the event, then eventually relented and offered up key details.
His mind was not clouded by alcohol or drugs, Saull found. Bushie had the necessary mental state to form the intent for murder.
Sinclair was sentenced earlier this year to life in prison without a chance at parole for seven years after pleading guilty to second-degree murder. He was charged as a youth and sentenced as an adult.