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National

Man killed daughter to make his estranged wife suffer, Crown tells murder trial

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ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — A Crown prosecutor says a Newfoundland man murdered his five-year-old daughter in a calculated plan to inflict suffering on her mother, his estranged wife.

A St. John’s, N.L., court heard closing arguments Thursday in the trial of Trent Butt, who is accused of the first-degree murder of his daughter Quinn in his Carbonear, N.L., home in April 2016.

The courtroom was packed after an emotionally wrought trial that already heard from fire and medical experts, Butt himself and Quinn’s mother, Andrea Gosse.

The jury deliberated for about four hours Thursday before retiring for the evening, and will resume Friday morning. 

No one is arguing outright that Butt didn’t kill his daughter. The jury is being asked to decide whether the death was planned and deliberate, which would mean Butt is guilty of first-degree murder, or if he is guilty of a lesser charge.

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

Butt said he decided to take his own life and set fire to his home, leaving a lengthy suicide note in his truck that mostly detailed his frustrations with Gosse.

In the letter, Butt wrote he did not know how he killed Quinn and stated “I have thought about it for some time.”

“Quinn is with me now because I could not die knowing she would be left with Andrea,” a section of Butt’s letter read, repeated aloud in the provincial supreme court Thursday.

Crown lawyer Lloyd Strickland pointed to the note, which he described as “rife with hatred” of Gosse, as proof that Butt planned to kill Quinn to keep her from her mother.

Strickland argued that considering Butt planned to take his own life, he did not try to hide his true motivations in the note.

“In this letter, Trent Butt told the world exactly what was in his head,” Strickland said.

“These words amount to a confession of first-degree murder.”

Strickland argued that Butt’s actions surrounding the killing — like purchasing an unusual quantity of gasoline and disconnecting the home’s smoke alarms — were part of his “cold, calculated” murder-arson-suicide plot to cause Gosse pain. 

Both Strickland and Justice Donald Burrage drew attention to Butt’s earlier testimony that he reacted to Quinn’s death by concluding he must have suffocated her, rather than trying to resuscitate her or calling for medical assistance.

Butt’s lawyer, Derek Hogan, told the court there was no way to know Butt’s thought process on the night Quinn was killed.

Hogan argued the letter outlined a plan for suicide and not murder, leaving reasons to doubt whether Butt planned the killing in advance.

“We’ve got a collection of maybes that adds up to a maybe. Maybe he planned to killed Quinn, maybe he didn’t,” Hogan said.  

“There are reasons to doubt the murder was deliberate.”

In his charge to the jury, Burrage said the evidence had already proven Butt unlawfully killed Quinn, and that jurors must determine whether Butt planned the killing in advance.

Burrage also asked the jurors to put aside their emotions while considering the case’s distressing evidence.

“This has proven to be an emotionally charged trial. A man stands charged with the first-degree murder of his own daughter,” Burrage said.

“You must put aside any feelings of emotion you may harbour, consider the evidence with an open mind and make your decision without sympathy, prejudice or fear.”

Holly McKenzie-Sutter, The Canadian Press

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A year after Danforth shooting, teens who lost friend grapple with anxiety

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Friends of Daniforth shooting victims one year later

TORONTO — They were eight care-free teenagers out celebrating a birthday when the bullets flew. The rampage that ensued on July 22, 2018, changed their lives.

Days before the first anniversary of the shooting in Greektown, four of the teens who survived the tragedy sit in the living room of an east Toronto home talking about their struggles with anxiety, depression and the feeling of loss. It’s better than therapy, they say.

“I feel like the people I am surrounded with is my therapy,” says Skye McLeod, as her friend Noor Samiei, whose 18th birthday they were celebrating the night of the shooting, gently holds her hand.

Their best friend, 18-year-old Reese Fallon, was one of two people who were killed when a deeply troubled 29-year-old man went on a shooting spree. Thirteen people were injured, including their other friend, Samantha Price.

Price has largely recovered physically, but she says she cannot stop the morbid thoughts that often race through her mind. The 18-year-old will watch cars go by and think the driver will shoot her in the head. She’ll notice a stranger on the street and fear for her life. She thinks large crowds make for a perfect place for a bomb to go off.

“It’s horrible,” she says. “But I can’t help it.”

All four have tried various forms of therapy. Three say it didn’t help.

McLeod stopped after one session with a therapist. Samiei, 19, says she saw a therapist twice.

“The therapist would look at me and if she didn’t initiate the conversation, I would just look back at her,” Samiei says. “What I really wanted was feedback.”

“Tell me how to heal,” Price says. “It sucks to go outside and be this age and not have fun.”

Max Smith, however, says therapy has helped his recurring anxiety.

“We just talk about what I’m feeling,” he says. “(My therapist) is super helpful and gives me insight and has given me some breathing techniques.”

All four say they think about the shooting a lot.

The night of the celebration started with dinner at an Italian restaurant downtown. Then they moved to Greektown for gelato. They were chatting at a nearby parkette when some noticed a man across the street, staring at them.

Price remembers Faisal Hussain raising a gun and firing. A bullet shattered her right hip and she collapsed. Next to her, two of her friends were on the ground bleeding.

McLeod also went down, but wasn’t shot.

“I remember looking at him,” she says. “Do I get up to run? Will that make me a bigger target? Do I play dead?”

Smith, who was next to McLeod, says he crouched down when the bullets flew.

“It was like tunnel vision,” he says. “I remember saying ‘Skye, we have to go.'”

“You saved my life,” she says to Smith. He blushes.

In the commotion, Samiei ran straight onto Danforth Avenue, tripped and fell, smashing her chin and knee on the road.

“While on the ground, I looked behind me and saw him shooting,” she says.

Samiei noticed Smith, McLeod and another friend duck into a nearby cafe so she got up and followed. The four ended up in a basement bathroom with two strangers.

Price watched her friends dash into the cafe, but also noticed restaurants were closing their doors.

Somehow, despite her shattered hip, Price made her way to Christina’s, a restaurant where a waitress helped her in and called for a doctor. She’d spend the next five days in hospital.

Her friends, meanwhile, were trying to track down members of their group. Samiei, while still in the basement bathroom, called Fallon repeatedly but got no answer. McLeod called her father, who rushed over.

Patrick McLeod, a retired police officer, found his daughter and her three friends in the cafe bathroom. After speaking with police at the scene, he ended up identifying Fallon’s body.

The friends later learned that Fallon had run in one direction while they scrambled in another. Her body was found in the parkette where they had gathered.

“That’s when our lives changed forever,” Samiei says.

While three of them started university last September, McLeod chose to travel. She headed to Greece, but the horror of what happened soon took hold.

“I immediately had a panic attack,” she says. “I had never been so depressed in my life. Crying constantly. Everything just hit me.”

Her father flew over to help and McLeod eventually carried on to Italy, but delayed her trip to Australia.

“I realized I needed time at home to heal,” she says.

Her travels helped, but like Price, McLeod says she grapples with disturbing thoughts. At a recent concert, for instance, she found herself thinking “this is a great place for a shooting.”

Smith moved to Guelph, Ont., for university and said being away from Toronto has also helped.

“It’s easy to forget about the shooting because you’re just not there,” he said. “It hits you when you get home.”

Samiei, now a student at the University of Toronto, says commuting to the school’s downtown campus was a challenge because crowds on the subway distressed her. So her mother commuted with her for months. Now, she’s able to make the journey on her own.

“I will change cars if I see someone weird, though,” she says.

Price has also struggled with parts of city life — a walk around her neighbourhood on Canada Day triggered a panic attack when she heard fireworks.

“It’s become so difficult,” she says. “I’ve loved growing up here and loved living here, but I feel uncomfortable at any public event.”

Despite their issues, the friends say they try to be positive as much as they can, especially when it comes to remembering Fallon.

“Reese’s last meal was her favourite: raspberry and chocolate gelato,” Samiei says with a smile.

Smith shows a video of the group at the restaurant that night where Fallon makes a goofy face. Everyone laughs.

“As horrible as that night was, at least until then, we had such a good time,” Smith says.

Samiei visits the parkette regularly to keep Fallon’s memory alive. She puts photographs of her friend on a tree. Someone takes them down, but she returns to put them back up.

“It’s important,” Samiei said. “So people don’t forget.”

Liam Casey, The Canadian Press

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Health

Lyme-infected ticks are so common in parts of Canada, testing no longer done

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OTTAWA — Lyme disease has settled so deeply into parts of Canada many public health units now just assume if you get bitten by a tick, you should be treated for the potentially debilitating bacteria.

In Ottawa, where more than half of the ticks tested in some neighbourhoods carry the bacteria that causes Lyme disease, the public-health unit no longer bothers to test ticks because it’s assumed they carry the illness.

Dr. Vera Etches, the top doctor at the health unit, says that means if a tick is found on a person, and is believed to have been there for more than 24 hours, then the patient should get antibiotics to prevent Lyme infection.

After three days, preventive treatment won’t work so patients then wait for symptoms or enough time for antibodies to evolve to show up on a test.

Similar rates of Lyme disease have been found in parts of every province except Alberta, Saskatchewan, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador, but the disease is marching further afield every year.

Lyme disease began appearing in Canada in the early 1980s but it has only been since about 2012 that the ticks that carry the bacteria have become plentiful, mostly due to warmer winters that allow more of them to survive.

The Canadian Press

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