Nfld. & Labrador

'I don't know how I did it,' says final letter written by Trent Butt, accused of killing daughter

The Carbonear man is facing first-degree murder and arson charges for five-year-old Quinn Butt's 2016 death.

Autopsy ruled out some causes but confirmed she died before fire, says Dr. Simon Avis

Quinn Butt, 5, died in 2016 at her father's home in Carbonear. (Facebook)

In a letter entered as evidence Monday, titled "Final Words," Trent Butt wrote he had killed his daughter and himself.

"I have take my daughters [sic] and my own life," he wrote in the first paragraph of the 10-page letter.

"I don't know how I did it. How could I end my beautiful, sweet daughters (sic) life."

Much of the letter is criticism of Butt's former wife and Quinn's mother, Andrea Gosse.

Quinn Butt's mother, Andrea Gosse, in glasses, sits in court Monday behind Trent Butt. (Mark Quinn/ CBC)

"Quinn is with me now because I could not die knowing she would be left with Andrea,"wrote Butt on page 6 of the letter.

The letter also criticizes Newfoundland and Labrador's family court system and Child Youth and Family Services: "The law needs to be changed before others die. It is destroying men," Butt wrote on page 7.

In the last pages of the letter, Butt apologizes to his family and friends and ends with "I love you Quinn."

Quinn, 5, was found by firefighters responding to a fire in Carbonear on April 24, 2016. She was later declared dead in hospital.

Trent Butt, 40, is facing first-degree murder and arson charges. He has pleaded guilty to arson but not guilty to first-degree murder.

Chief medical officer testifies

The medical examiner who performed the autopsy on Quinn told the court Monday morning he was unable to determine a cause of death, but said she died before the fire at her father's home was set.

Dr. Simon Avis, the recently retired provincial chief medical examiner, testified Monday morning as the second week of the trial got underway.

Avis said his office was able to rule out some causes, but found nothing in and of itself that explains the death.

"No blunt force, no drugs, no natural cause of death," said Avis.

However, Avis said, his examination did note an abrasion on Quinn's upper lip and chin. He said the abrasions "could have been caused by smothering."

He also said it is possible those marks could have been caused by the treatment Quinn received from first responders on April 24, 2016.

Crown lawyer Lloyd Strickland noted Butt's defence lawyer has already said that Butt concluded he must have smothered Quinn but doesn't remember doing it. 

Avis said he wasn't aware of that when he performed the autopsy.

Much of the first week of the trial dealt with heart-wrenching testimony from Gosse and the first responders who found Quinn in the burning Carbonear home.

The court also heard from Jim Barry, the fire commissioner who investigated the blaze and testified it was clearly a case of arson.

The court also heard Butt's DNA was found on three gas cans, a lighter and a box cutter recovered from the scene. 

The trial was expected to take three weeks, but is progressing more quickly than expected.

Butt is expected to testify at the trial Tuesday morning.

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With files from Mark Quinn