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Box cutter, lighter, gas cans among items shown to Trent Butt jury Thursday


Witnesses describe scene inside house soon after fire

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. —

Jewelry. Family photos. A hockey puck signed by Maurice Richard. A photo of Guns 'n’ Roses guitarist Slash. A kindergarten diploma. A binder of articles clipped from local newspapers, reporting on softball tournaments and mentioning Trent Butt's name.

These are some of the items Butt placed into a large, grey plastic container with "Trent's Stuff" written on the lid in black Sharpie, in the early morning hours of April 24, 2016. They were some

This box, labelled “Trent’s Stuff,” was found in Trent Butt’s truck by RCMP investigators. Inside was a 10-page suicide note, as well as a number of his treasured possessions.
This box, labelled “Trent’s Stuff,” was found in Trent Butt’s truck by RCMP investigators. Inside was a 10-page suicide note, as well as a number of his treasured possessions.

of his revered possessions, his lawyer has said, and Butt placed them on the backseat of his pickup truck the night he killed his daughter, cut his own neck and wrist, and set his Carbonear home on fire.

The container was found the next day by RCMP investigators as they examined Butt's home and vehicles as a crime scene. Also in the container was a small date book that appeared to have been kept as a journal of his access to his five-year-old daughter and interactions with his ex-wife, Andrea Gosse.

"Picked Quinn up 4:30 at Paradise Irving," says a handwritten entry from April 18. "Andrea served me with order to allow travel to Florida. LOL!! And of course now that Quinn is with me, Facetime right on time 7:00."

It was this journal, kept for family court purposes, that made Butt upset that night, his lawyer has said. Depressed and sometimes suicidal over the preceding number of months, Butt allegedly became agitated while reviewing the journal. The next thing Butt knew, defence lawyer Derek Hogan told a jury this week, he was kneeling over Quinn's dead body. That's when he put the items in the plastic container - along with a coiled notebook containing a 10-page note saying he had taken Quinn's life as well as his own – and then injured himself and set his home alight.

Charged with first-degree murder, Butt is not denying he killed Quinn, but is arguing he doesn't remember doing it and didn't plan to do it. Deliberation and planning are necessary to be convicted of first-degree murder, but not for second-degree murder or manslaughter, which carry lesser jail sentences.

The Crown is arguing Butt devised a murder-suicide plot and killed Quinn so he could punish Gosse.

On Thursday, the second day of Butt's trial in Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court in St. John's, prosecutors called two firefighters and a paramedic to the stand to tell the jurors what they had witnessed the night of the fire.

One of the firefighters, Ian Green, described finding Quinn lying motionless in a bed next to her father. Her pink nightie and blonde hair stood out through the smoke.

"It was just like she was asleep," he testified. "Her nightdress was clean. She was pristine.”

Tucked in next to Quinn was Butt, his arm hanging over the edge of the bed. There was a gash on it and blood had pooled on the floor, Green said, and Butt was moaning.

Green said he and his partner dragged Butt to the door of the home, where two other firemen were waiting to take him outside. Green then went back to get Quinn, scooping her off the bed and carrying her, like he carried his own daughters, outside.

Prosecutors also read to the court written statements from two doctors at Carbonear hospital — a pediatrician who had tried to revive Quinn, and an emergency room doctor who had worked on both Quinn and Butt.

Quinn had not shown any signs of life from the moment she arrived, the doctors said, and medical staff noted she had no soot in her airways, which indicated she had not breathed in any smoke. Since they didn't know what had happened to her, they administered to her everything from sugar water to an opioid antidote in an effort to save her life. She was declared dead at 6:14 a.m.

Butt required surgery to close the wounds on his neck and arm, the court heard.

RCMP Const. Muhammed Agha, the first police officer to arrive at the scene of the fire and the custodian of evidence related to the arson and Quinn's death, also testified Thursday.

Agha said he arrived at Butt's home just after 5 a.m. to see fire trucks and a crowd of people. After learning there were two people inside the burning house, Agha first asked the fire chief to limit his radio communication with firefighters, since the channel wasn't encrypted and could be picked up by anyone with a scanner. He then asked the chief to let his crew know the home had to be preserved as a crime scene.

Quinn Butt. - Contributed
Quinn Butt. - Contributed

Agha told the court he saw firefighters bring Quinn and Butt out of the home and lay them on the lawn, where paramedics began working to revive them. At one point, he heard a scream.

"I never saw who it was, but based on what I heard, I assumed that it was the mother," the officer testified.

The next day, Agha returned to Butt's home and seized items marked by forensic investigators as evidence.

Thursday afternoon, he donned a pair of black disposable gloves and presented the seized items one by one to the court.

There were three red gas cans, two still with gas inside, retrieved from the basement, living room and master bedroom of the house, Agha explained. There was a blood-smeared cigarette lighter and a box cutter, taken from a bedside table in the same bedroom, where Quinn and Butt had been found. The grey container labeled "Trent's Stuff" was there, too.

Agha also presented photos of other items seized: bloodied sheets and a striped bedspread, wet and reeking of gasoline; bloodied pillowcases; and a tiny pink Care Bears nightie, cut down the front centre.

A security camera had also been taken from a windowsill in the side porch of the house, Agha told the court, and it had been found to contain a memory card.

RCMP Sgt. Chris Saunders, a forensic identification specialist, also brought photos to the courtroom, as well as a map of Butt's home on a large placard. He had been one of two officers to enter the home in the hours after the fire, taking photos before examining the residence. He noted the strong smell of gas in the master bedroom, especially when he moved the blankets on the bed, and the three gas cans, he said.

Prosecutor Jennifer Lundrigan questioned Saunders on whether he had noticed any ATVs, Ski-Doos, snowblowers, boat motors or any other equipment requiring gas, apart from a lawn mower in the basement. Saunders said he hadn't.

Hogan cross-examined Saunders on the map he had created, pointing out that the position of Butt's truck and another car in the driveway didn't appear to be consistent with their locations in photos Saunders had taken of the scene.

"My only explanation is it's the perspective of the photos," Saunders replied. "I'm not saying it's 100 per cent accurate, but it's close."

Butt's trial is expected to last three weeks and will continue Friday morning with testimony from a second forensic investigator.

Twitter: @tara_bradbury


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