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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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    National

    Hungry wolves may get new home at Isle Royale National Park

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  • TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. — A U.S.-Canadian team is preparing for another mission to relocate grey wolves to Isle Royale National Park in Michigan from a second Lake Superior island, where the predators are in danger of starvation after gobbling up a caribou herd.

    The targeted pack is on Michipicoten Island on the eastern side of the lake, which was home to hundreds of caribou until ice bridges formed in recent years, enabling wolves to cross over from the mainland and feast on their helpless prey.

    The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources airlifted some of the last surviving caribou to another island last year. Before long the wolves were the ones in trouble, with only small mammals such as snowshoe hare left to eat.

    Their hunting prowess makes them prime candidates for Isle Royale, where a multi-year effort is under way to rebuild a wolf population needed to keep moose numbers under control, Superintendent Phyllis Green said.

    “We can use the good skills of those wolves, and this will match them with a larger island that will give them a better opportunity,” Green said.

    Isle Royale now has eight wolves, including six that were brought there last fall and winter from Minnesota and Ontario. Two of the newcomers were from Michipicoten Island, including the pack’s alpha male.

    Around six are believed to remain on Michipicoten. A crew of pilots, biologists and others will try to capture at least some and fly them to Isle Royale in the next few days, weather permitting.

    Officials had said earlier this month that no additional transfers were planned until this fall or next winter, partly because of a lack of money.

    But two private organizations — the National Parks of Lake Superior Foundation and the International Wolf Center — kicked off a fundraising effort, fearing the Michipicoten wolves would run out of food before then.

    “They’re not going to make it,” said Carol Brady, spokeswoman for the foundation.

    The groups have pledged $75,000 between them and have started a GoFundMe campaign to produce the remaining $25,000 needed for a four-day airlift operation. The Ontario ministry granted approval Monday, Brady said.

    As they’ve done before, crew members will trap the wolves with net guns fired from helicopters. They’ll be examined by veterinarians, and those healthy enough for movement will be taken to their new home, where there will be no shortage of prey. Isle Royale’s booming moose population is believed to exceed 1,500.

    “If left unchecked, moose would over-consume the island’s vegetation,” said Rob Schultz, executive director of the wolf centre. “Apex predators like wolves are important components of any healthy, natural ecosystems.”

    John Flesher, The Associated Press


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    Health

    B.C. researcher says device mimics parent’s touch to help babies cope with pain

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  • VANCOUVER — Researchers in British Columbia have designed a “robot” that helps reduce pain for premature babies by simulating skin-to-skin contact with a parent who may not be available during around-the-clock procedures in a neonatal intensive care unit.

    Lead inventor and occupational therapist Liisa Holsti said the Calmer device is a rectangular platform that replaces a mattress inside an incubator and is programmed with information on a parent’s heartbeat and breathing motion.

    The robotic part of Calmer is that the platform rises up and down to mimic breathing, and a heartbeat sound is audible through a microphone outside the device, said Holsti, adding a pad on top resembles a skin-like surface.

    The aim is to help babies cope with pain through touch instead of medication as much as possible while they’re exposed to multiple procedures, such as the drawing of blood, which can be done multiple times a day over several months.

    A randomized clinical trial involving 49 infants born prematurely between 27 and 36 weeks of pregnancy at BC Women’s Hospital and Health Centre concluded Calmer provides similar benefits to human touch in reducing pain when the babies had their blood drawn.

    The findings of the study, completed between October 2014 and February 2018, were published this week in the journal Pain Reports.

    A parent’s or caregiver’s touch is the most healing and the Calmer isn’t intended to replace that, said Holsti, the Canada research chair in neonatal health and development. She worked with four other researchers on the project that involved a prototype built by engineering students at the British Columbia Institute of Technology.

    “We purposely did not design it to look anything like a human being,” she said, adding her work since 1985 in neonatal intensive care units, where she taught parents how to support their babies at home after leaving the hospital, sparked an interest in assessing infant pain and trying to relieve it.

    “We have about 30,000 babies born prematurely in Canada alone every year so my hope would be that we would be helping all of those babies with Calmer.”

    Holsti said nurses often provide so-called hand hugging by placing their hands around an infant’s head, arms and legs in a curled position during blood collection, but the study suggests the device would save almost half a million dollars in staffing costs every year at just the neonatal intensive care unit where the study was done.

    Lauren Mathany, whose twin daughters Hazel and Isla were born 24 weeks into her pregnancy last April and weighed less than two pounds each, said that while the Calmer research had been completed by then, it would have been a reassuring tool for her and her spouse when they went home to sleep or take a shower after doing plenty of hang hugging and skin-to-skin touching.

    “The NICU is the most difficult place to be. It challenges you in every single way,” she said.

    Methany’s children spent over four months at the hospital and were medically fragile when they were bought home but are now thriving at almost a year old.

    Dr. Ran Goldman, who has been a pain researcher at the BC Children’s Hospital Research Institute for 20 years but wasn’t involved with the Calmer study, said the device shows promise because there’s a greater understanding that healing is delayed when pain is part of an infant’s treatment.

    Scientists in the late 1960s believed babies didn’t feel pain but there’s now an increasing understanding that they’re more sensitive to it than older children or adults because their pain-inhibiting mechanisms haven’t fully developed, said Goldman, who is also an emergency room physician at BC Children’s Hospital.

    “Research has shown that babies who suffered pain as neonates do keep this memory later on and respond differently when they get pain experiences later in life,” he said.

    — Follow @CamilleBains1 on Twitter.

     

    Camille Bains, The Canadian Press


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    march, 2019

    fri8mar - 30aprmar 85:30 pmapr 30Real Estate Dinner Theatre5:30 pm - (april 30) 10:00 pm

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