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Canada Newfoundland father convicted of first-degree murder in death of five-year-old daughter

Trent Spencer Butt is seen in the defendant's box, at St. John's Supreme Court, in St. John's on March 14, 2019.

Holly McKenzie-Sutter/The Canadian Press

A Newfoundland mother sobbed Friday after a jury convicted her estranged husband of first-degree murder in the death of their five-year-old daughter.

The jury returned Friday afternoon with the verdict against Trent Butt. It carries an automatic life sentence with no chance of parole for 25 years.

The verdict prompted cheers and sobs in the packed courtroom in provincial supreme court in St. John’s.

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Mr. Butt’s estranged wife, Andrea Gosse, tearfully hugged family members, friends and Crown lawyers, as others wiped away tears.

“It felt like it took forever, but we got justice for Quinn,” Ms. Gosse said between sobs, a memorial pin over her heart showing her daughter’s smiling face.

“I can’t explain it, I have never felt this type of emotion in my life,” she said. “But this is what he chose to do to our life.”

The Crown had argued that Mr. Butt killed Quinn in 2016 in a calculated plan to inflict suffering on Ms. Gosse.

Surrounded by her family on the courthouse steps, Ms. Gosse said she hopes the verdict brings changes that could help the next child like her daughter.

Ms. Gosse said the verdict may not mean closure for her right away, but she sees it as a new chapter to grieve and talk about her daughter’s death, now that the emotional trial is over.

Mr. Butt will be sentenced April 23. He had previously pleaded guilty to arson, having set his home in Carbonear, Nfld., on fire after the murder.

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Crown prosecutor Lloyd Strickland said the guilty verdict offers some relief in the tragic case, the disturbing details laid out over the course of the highly publicized trial.

“There’s no happiness to be taken from any of this,” Mr. Strickland said. “The verdict doesn’t obviously take away the pain and it doesn’t bring Quinn back, but I suppose there’s satisfaction knowing this stage, the trial stage, is over.”

No one at the murder trial disputed that Mr. Butt killed his daughter Quinn at his home in April, 2016, before attempting to take his own life. The jury was asked to decide whether the death was planned and deliberate, which would mean Mr. Butt was guilty of first-degree murder, or if he was guilty of a lesser charge.

Mr. Butt testified at trial that he did not remember killing Quinn, but said he found himself over her body and concluded he must have suffocated her.

The jury, which began deliberations Thursday, had asked Friday to hear Mr. Butt’s testimony again, and to view a security video taken from his house.

The video from the night in question showed Mr. Butt moving his truck and later putting something in it. Quinn’s voice is heard on the tape after Butt moved the truck.

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In closing arguments on Thursday, the Crown pointed to the security video as evidence that the killing was premeditated. The Crown noted that Butt moved the truck before Quinn was killed, suggesting he had been planning to set fire to his home, presumably with Quinn inside.

Mr. Butt left a suicide note in the truck saying he had killed Quinn and himself to keep her apart from her mother.

The story has haunted the province in the nearly three years since Quinn’s death.

The RCMP issued a statement Friday expressing condolences to the family and commending the work of first responders who worked on the difficult case.

“The local volunteer firefighters who were among the first on scene, the paramedics, the health professionals at Carbonear General Hospital – you all were outstanding and provided professional and compassionate care during a very difficult and emotional time,” the statement from Cpl. Peter Gosse read.

After Friday’s verdict, Mr. Butt faced the judge, a few feet away from Ms. Gosse and the crowd gathered behind him in the courtroom.

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Ms. Gosse said she had little left to say to Mr. Butt after the conviction.

“What else to say? Was it worth it?”

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