Life sentence for man who killed daughter, 5, to make estranged wife suffer
Published Tuesday, April 23, 2019 4:39AM EDT Last Updated Tuesday, April 23, 2019 11:38AM EDT
ST. JOHN'S, N.L. -- A Newfoundland man has been sentenced to life in prison for killing his five-year-old daughter in what the Crown said was a calculated plan to make his estranged wife suffer.
The courtroom, filled with the slain girl's family, seemed to hold its breath Tuesday morning as Justice Donald Burrage told Trent Butt he simply didn't accept that his apology for his daughter Quinn's murder was sincere.
"Quite simply, the pain and suffering inflicted by your senseless actions are beyond measure," the provincial Supreme Court judge told him.
"I, for one, do not accept your apology as honestly given, nor your expression of remorse, if that is what it was."
Burrage determined Butt won't be eligible for parole for at least 25 years for the first-degree murder, a mandatory sentence with the conviction, and sentenced him to three years for the arson of his home, to be served concurrently.
The judge also barred Butt from communicating with Quinn's mother, his estranged wife Andrea Gosse, and her immediate family.
The judge's decision, delivered almost three years to the date of the murder, came after a morning of emotional victim impact statements from Gosse and Quinn's aunt, grandmother and best friend, read aloud by the 10-year-old boy's mother.
Gosse spoke through sobs, addressing Butt as she presented a poster board with pictures of Quinn playing with her friend Cole, with a photo of the young girl's small purple urn in the centre.
Gosse talked about the pain of no longer being a mother and being unable to watch her happy child grow up after being killed at the hands of her father.
"Does her voice haunt him, ringing in his ears with all the funny things she used to say?" Gosse asked the court through her tears.
"The reason she is not here with us today is unbelievably petty. She is gone from this earth because of one man's unreasonable jealousy and need for control."
Gosse spoke about how her life has become a "never-ending nightmare" since the murder, but said she still feels her daughter's presence giving her strength to carry on.
Gosse said she's starting a new chapter of her life and looked into Butt's eyes as she concluded her statement with the hope that she never see him again.
The mother of Quinn's best friend Cole also read from a note prepared by the young boy.
Cole, now 10, wrote about his special bond with Quinn, who he said was like a sister to him.
Their friendship was showcased lovingly in Gosse's collection of photos of the two children together, one showing the young boy holding Quinn shortly after her birth, with others showing them hugging and playing together through the years.
"He (Butt) robbed us of a lifelong friendship filled with love and all life's experiences that we had to look forward to," Cole's mother read from the boy's prepared statement.
"I think of Quinn all the time and I carry her with me around my neck in my special necklace and in my heart."
Butt also spoke to the court and apologized to Gosse, saying he loved Quinn and that he felt unheard throughout his trial.
Butt said his chance at a fair trial was damaged by the intense media attention and told Gosse "I would never hurt Quinn."
He said he felt unheard during his dealings with family services and family court before the murder.
"If people would just listen I'm sure we would not be here today," Butt said.
The emotionally charged case had captured the province's attention.
The Crown had argued that 40-year-old Butt killed Quinn on April 24, 2016, to inflict suffering on Gosse.
Butt testified at trial that he did not remember killing Quinn, saying he found himself over her body and concluded he must have suffocated her.
Butt had left a suicide note saying he had killed Quinn and himself to keep her apart from her mother, but he survived the fire that tore through his Carbonear, N.L., home.
The girl's body was found in the master bedroom along with her father by emergency crews.
Before handing down Butt's sentence, Burrage commented on the lack of precedent and case law involving similar murder-suicide plots, which are often left without a defendant if the suicide attempt is successful.
Outside the courthouse, Gosse spoke with family by her side about the long three years since Quinn's murder, saying while she will think of her daughter forever, she's satisfied to see Butt receive the maximum sentence.
Gosse said she did not accept Butt's apology after what he did, though she never expected to hear him say sorry.
"That was my child, that was my life. I get up every day and come to the realization that I'm not a mom any more, and find it hard to get out of bed every day, and that's what he did to us," Gosse said.
Now almost three years after Quinn's murder, Gosse said she often thinks of how her daughter would have grown up.
"I look at her friends and see how they've grown and how they've changed and I spend a lot of time on those days thinking what she would have been like, how much she would have grown, what her hair would have been like, would she have learned to swim finally," Gosse said.
As she said in her victim impact statement, Gosse said she's ready to continue healing without Butt's presence in her life, embracing her friends and family as she walked away from the courthouse steps.