Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

One-finger salute for slain man's kin

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Gerald Crayford died after he was hit in the head with an axe in a robbery.

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Gerald Crayford died after he was hit in the head with an axe in a robbery.

AFTER arresting him as a suspect in the slaying of a pizza shop employee, Winnipeg homicide investigators implored Byron Charlie Bushie to spill what he knew about the crime so the grieving family could come to terms with it.

"I have to give something to that family," one detective pleaded.

"Give this to them," Bushie replied, briefly flashing his middle finger.

Bushie, 20, opened his Court of Queen's Bench trial Monday by pleading not guilty to second-degree murder in the death of Gerald Crayford, 54, inside a Concordia Avenue Pizza Hotline franchise early on May 15, 2011. He pleaded guilty to robbing another employee.

The Crown contends Bushie and his teenage co-accused, Dylan Sinclair, formed a "common intention" to rob the store for cash to buy drugs. After covering their faces, they burst into the store while armed and robbed one employee of his cellphone at the rear entrance.

Sinclair encountered Crayford in the store and bashed him in the head with the blunt end of an axe. He hit him again after calling out to Bushie for help. They both fled the store with its cash drawer. Crayford died in hospital a short time later.

The fatal attack was captured on surveillance cameras. Bushie's defence lawyers have asked Justice Rick Saull to pay close attention to Bushie's actions in the store when the video is played in court today.

"I just want to say I didn't kill the guy, I didn't kill him," Bushie told police in a videotaped statement taken after his arrest May 18, 2011. The statement was played in court Monday.

The comment came after Bushie initially refused to answer questions and was given another chance to consult his lawyer. As time went on, he broke his silence and began talking more openly about the robbery, pinning the axe attack on Sinclair.

"Dylan smashed his head in with the axe," Bushie said, denying any memory of struggling with Crayford himself after Sinclair called out, 'Yo, yo, help me out,' " Bushie said. When he looked at Crayford after he was struck, he appeared to be alive, Bushie told police.

"I saw that he was moving... he was making noises," he said.

"It was just a robbery gone wrong," he later told investigators, questioning how Crayford could have died with a hospital right across the street from the pizza shop.

He became apologetic about giving Crayford's family the finger. "I didn't mean to be an ass," he said. "I was just angry."

Although charged and convicted as a youth of second-degree murder in Crayford's killing, Sinclair was sentenced as an adult in July to life in prison without parole for seven years -- the maximum available. He did not file an appeal, meaning he can now be identified.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 26, 2013 A6

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