Trent Butt believes he must have killed his five-year-old daughter, Quinn, though he doesn’t remember doing it.
This is what his lawyer, Derek Hogan, told the jury hearing Butt’s murder trial in Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court this morning, during his opening statements.
Quinn’s body was found inside her father’s burning Carbonear home in the early morning hours of April 24, 2016. Butt has pleaded guilty to arson and not guilty to first-degree murder.
Butt had been depressed and socially isolated since separating from Quinn’s mother, Hogan said, noting he had contemplated suicide and had written a note to that effect seven months earlier.
On the night of April 23, 2016, Butt put Quinn to bed and began reviewing a journal he had kept to document his access to her for family court purposes, Hogan said.
Upon reviewing the journal, Butt grew upset and agitated, the defense lawyer explained. The next thing Butt knew, he was kneeling over Quinn’s dead body.
“He assumes he smothered her,” Hogan told the jurors, saying Butt then told himself Quinn was "better off in Heaven than with her mother.”
Butt doused the house in gasoline — including the sheets in his own bed — and set it alight, then cut his arm and wrist before lying down in the bed next to Quinn’s body and losing consciousness.
“None of this excuses what he did,” Hogan said. “But he did not plan to kill her and did not deliberately kill her.”
Crown prosecutor Lloyd Strickland told the jury firefighters had found Butt and Quinn in the master bedroom of the home and took them outside, where efforts were made to revive them. An autopsy on Quinn’s body days later revealed she hadn’t died due to smoke inhalation, but had been dead before the fire started.
“Perhaps the most important piece of evidence would be discovered when (police) searched Trent Butt’s truck,” Strickland said. Investigators found a journal containing 10 neatly-written pages under the title, “Final Words.”
“I have taken my daughter’s and my own life,” Strickland read from the journal, saying Butt had gone on to give his reasons.
“Our theory is that Trent Butt developed a murder-suicide plot,” Strickland continued. “He had animosity towards Andrea Gosse (Quinn’s mother) and wanted to hurt her. With forethought and deliberation, he murdered Quinn Butt.”
The only flaw in his plan, the prosecutor said, was failure.
Gosse will take the stand when court resumes this afternoon.
Trent Butt has changed his plea on the arson charge to not guilty. The change was submitted on Dec. 18.
Butt's not guilty plea on the murder charge remains unchanged.
Trent Butt’s murder trial has begun at a Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme court in St. John's.
Justice Donald Burrage is currently addressing the jury.
“This will likely an emotionally-charged trial,” he said, telling the jurors they must put aside their emotions, rely only on the evidence presented in court, and make their decision “without empathy, prejudice and fear.”
Opening submissions from the lawyers will start soon, and we will get the first details about Butt’s defence when it comes to the murder of his five-year-old daughter, Quinn, and the arson of their home. Quinn’s mom, Andrea Gosse, is expected to be the first witness to testify.
More to come.