Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION

Woman awaiting murder retrial denied bail

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A Manitoba woman facing a new murder trial in the conspiracy killing of a former pro wrestler won't win back her freedom as she awaits a new day in court.

Rita Cushnie, 59, learned today she was being denied bail while awaiting her retrial for first-degree murder in connection with the death of Ivan Radocaj.

The reasons for the court's decision are under a publication ban and cannot be reported. No trial dates have been set and Cushnie will remain in provincial custody on remand.

She showed no overt reaction in learning she'd stay locked up and appeared confused at what was happening. People present in court in support of her left the courtroom looking glum.

Defence lawyer Mike Cook said he was disappointed with the decision, saying she'd been on bail for years prior to her first trial without any problems.

"There is no reason to suggest she would not be fully compliant once again pending this retrial," Cook said.

Cushnie's current bail plan included support from a well-reputed Elizabeth Fry Society program — something she didn't have during her prior time on bail, Cook said.

Cook said he may appeal the decision to the Manitoba Court of Appeal, which overturned Cushnie's conviction last year and triggered the looming retrial.

Cushnie, Melody Sanford and Cushnie's son, Donald Richard, were each convicted in Radocaj's murder after a joint jury trial held in 2011.

All three were handed a mandatory life sentence without a chance at parole for 25 years.

Radocaj was beaten to death inside his Interlake home by Richard and others. Sanford and Cushnie were convicted for their roles in a murder-for-hire plot that led to the death.

The appeal court found the jury's verdict against Cushnie may have been unfairly tainted by evidence against Sanford and Richard.

There is also evidence jurors may have wrongly speculated about her role in the case, despite being instructed by the trial judge not to do so.

Sanford and Richard's convictions were upheld by the high court, but Sanford is currently seeking a hearing before the Supreme Court of Canada to challenge that decision.

Radocaj was a pro wrestler in the 1980s under stage names that included The Croatian Giant.

james.turner@freepress.mb.ca

With files from Mike McIntyre

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