'I couldn’t breathe’: Court views police statement of Barbara Kentner after trailer hitch assault

·5 min read

THUNDER BAY — The Crown in the Brayden Bushby manslaughter trial on Monday showed the court Barbara Kentner’s statement to police in a video clip during the first day of the accused's manslaughter trial.

In the video recording, Barbara Kentner, 34, can be seen and heard speaking to investigators with the Thunder Bay Police Service a few months later giving a statement about the Jan. 29, 2017 incident. Kentner died in hospital in July 2017.

READ MORE: Brayden Bushby pleads guilty to throwing trailer hitch at Barbara Kentner

The police interview was conducted at Barbara’s residence due to her health conditions, police can be heard saying prior to the interview beginning.

Barbara can be heard speaking softly giving officers a recount of the incident. In the video, Barbara testifies she and her older sister, Melissa, were walking down Dease Street and heading to Melissa’s son’s house in the early morning hours of Jan. 29, 2017.

“We were walking down Dease Street and we were going to my nephew’s place on the corner of Cameron and McKenzie and we were almost there and I was just past Dease Street on the corner… I felt something hard hit me,” Barbara said in her statement. “I went straight to the ground and because it was windy out my sister said ‘hurry up it’s cold’ and I said ‘I just got hit by something’”

Barbara’s sister was walking ahead of her and turned around to pick up the object that had hit and bounced off her sister with her sweater sleeve, court heard.

“It was a trailer hitch,” Barbara said, adding her sister then asked her where she was hit.

“Right across the stomach and I couldn’t breathe and I fell to my knees and I looked at the car and seen some guy put his head out the window and said ‘Yeah, I got one," Barbara said recounting the incident.

She saw the vehicle speed off and turn right on to Pruden Street.

All night, Barbara stated she couldn’t breathe or sleep and asked her sister to take her to the hospital, but stated her sister wanted to shower and eat before going. The women put the trailer hitch into a plastic bag and called police once they were at the hospital. Court heard Barbara underwent surgery later in the day on Jan. 29, 2017.

Court also heard directly from Melissa Kentner, 40, on Monday, who was the first Crown witness to testify.

Melissa said she was Barbara’s surety at the time and that Barbara was required to be with her at all times. Melissa stated they were coming off Dease Street, walking against the road, when they noticed a vehicle coming towards them. Babara was walking behind her.

Shortly afterward, Melissa said she heard the sounds of a metal object hitting the ground and saw her sister bent over to her knees and complain about being hit in the stomach.

In the Crown’s opening remarks, Crown attorney Andrew Sadler laid out their case against Bushby, stating the trial is about causation.

By pleading guilty to aggravated assault, Bushby admits he threw the trailer hitch at Kentner. Kentner suffered a perforated bowel as a result.

“There is no dispute Ms. Kentner had suffered significant health issues before she was struck by the trailer hitch,” Sadler said, adding the surgeon also told Barbara her underlying liver issues put her at risk of death both from the trauma of the injury itself and the operation required to treat it.

During Melissa's cross-examination by Bushby's defence counsel George Joseph, she was asked questions about her statement to police on Jan. 31, 2017 regarding the incident.

Joseph brought up a response Melissa gave to police when she was asked if she felt if she and her sister were targeted and she responded with "nope, just people being stupid".

In defence counsel's opening remarks, Joseph said this was not a racially-motivated offence against an Indigenous woman.

"Despite media attempts to characterize these events as such there is simply no evidence to support that theory," Joseph said.

Court heard at the time of the Jan. 29, 2017 incident, Barbara was out on bail for charges and Melissa was her surety. Melissa testified her sister was to be with her at all times under her conditions. A copy of the recognizance of bail for Barbara Kentner was shown to Melissa during the trial which showed Barbara was to remain in her residence at all times except she was in the presence of her surety.

"What that means is that Barbara can remain in her residence and you can be outside but if she goes outside she has to be with you, right?" Joseph asked.

"Yes," Melissa said.

Joseph also asked Melissa about why there was a delay in getting Barbara to the hospital directly after the incident.

"Why wouldn't you take her to the hospital? According to you, she's in serious pain," Joseph said.

Melissa answered by saying her sister didn't want to go at the time and wanted to wait and see how she felt.

Joseph suggested to Melissa if the reason why she didn't take Barbara to the hospital or call an ambulance was because Melissa was on a conditional sentence order at the time.

Melissa said she would have taken her sister to the hospital regardless.

A post-mortem completed three days after Kentner died determined her death was caused by complications arising from the blunt force injury to her abdomen and liver failure was a contributing factor, Sadler said, adding the Crown must prove being struck with the trailer hitch was a contributing factor in her death.

The trial will continue on Tuesday, Nov. 3 with a pathologist testifying in the afternoon.

Karen Edwards, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Thunder Bay Source