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Father charged after girl found in burned home

April 27, 2016, Carbonear, N.L. - In photo after photo, a smiling blonde girl clutches oversized stuffed animals, poses outdoors and grins for the camera — including in an apparent Facebook post early Sunday by her father, now charged with her murder.

April 27, 2016
By The Canadian Press

At 1:01 a.m. local time Sunday, just hours before flames were reported coming from Trent Spencer Butt’s home in Carbonear, N.L., his profile picture was changed.

The five-year-old girl, who loved ones identified as Quinn on social media, has her arm draped around his neck and her head resting against his cheek in what looks like a “selfie” snap.

Around 5 that morning, firefighters responded to a blaze that damaged much of the house, recovering the girl’s body and rescuing Butt, 37.

He was charged Tuesday with first-degree murder and arson as a provincial court judge went to his bedside at a St. John’s hospital. He is expected to recover from undisclosed but serious injuries.

His daughter’s death has sent the community of 5,000 people about an hour from St. John’s into shocked mourning. Results from an autopsy Monday have not yet been released to confirm the cause of death.

“It’s one of the most tragic things to ever happen here,” said Carbonear Mayor George Butt, who is no relation to the accused but knows the family.

“A lot of people are grieving and are in shock, really.”

Teddy bears and flowers were among other tributes left Tuesday in front of the blackened house where George Butt said the little girl visited her father every other weekend.

The mayor said the girl’s mother had split with the accused and now lives in Paradise, N.L., closer to St. John’s. He said he believes the father worked as an electrician in recent years at the Bull Arm construction site for the Hebron offshore oil project.

“People are very sad, in disbelief.”

Harbour Grace RCMP Staff Sgt. Howard Gale said the case has been especially tough.

“It’s quite stressful for the fire officials, the paramedics and our officers,” he said in an interview. “They’re all being affected by it. Nearly everyone in our office has young kids.”

Butt was taken to hospital with serious injuries following the fire at about 5 a.m. Sunday. Gale said he is expected to survive though he couldn’t reveal anything more about his condition.

“We’ve been investigating and we’ve uncovered enough evidence to charge him with first-degree murder and arson,” he said. “We’re confident that the manner of death was a homicide. The actual medical cause of death, we’re still waiting on.”

Gale said the makeshift court proceeding in hospital was because the accused had to “appear” in court within 24 hours to formalize the charges.

Butt is next scheduled to appear in actual court in Harbour Grace, near Carbonear, on May 11.

Steve Crocker, the provincial government member whose district includes Carbonear, said words fail to describe such a loss.

“As a parent, it’s a terrible…,” he began to say, his voice trailing off. “I can only imagine what a parent would go through in such a circumstance.

“Right now the whole area is in a state of shock. It’s an absolute tragedy.”