Key witness testifies in trial of Bulls Creek man

by | Dec 8, 2023

Rodney Butler on trial for kidnapping, assault, firearms charges in connection with incident that lead to death of Butler’s partner

A key witness in the trial of Rodney Butler told the court about the kidnapping and severe beating of a Scotts Siding man that preceded the shooting death of Butler’s former partner, Christine Pelletier-Thibodeau. Pelletier-Thibodeau, 35, was killed after she accidentally walked into the line of fire.

Butler, 49, of Bulls Creek, is charged with reckless discharge of a firearm, indictable assault, uttering threats, using a handgun to kidnap Chris Demerchant, unlawful confinement, possession of a weapon dangerous to the public peace, possession of a firearm without a licence, and illegal possession of a firearm in a vehicle on Nov. 13, 2021, at Bulls Creek.

On the day following the kidnapping, the RCMP was called to the scene of a fatal shooting on Route 165 at Bulls Creek. Over the next several days, police tape was erected around the property, including Butler’s residence, which was surrounded by a vehicle salvage yard.

Timothy Grant, 31, of Canterbury, is also facing charges in relation to the incident. Grant testified for a full day on Dec. 7, describing in detail how he witnessed several acts of violence while in the company of Butler on Nov. 13, 2021.

Grant pleaded not guilty to using a handgun to kidnap Chris Demerchant, unlawful confinement, and indictable assault at Scotts Siding on Nov. 13, 2021. His provincial court trial was adjourned to Feb. 29 and March 1, 2024.

In court on Thursday, Grant said he was an unwilling participant and only tagged along with Butler that day to help his friend retrieve a vehicle. By that night, however, Grant was scared for his own life and looking for a way to get home safely.

“It was a horrible situation to be in,” Grant told the court. “I got sucked into something I wanted no part of.”

On the day of the incident, Grant testified he arrived at Butler’s residence around 4 p.m. They left for Scotts Siding to pick up an old van at Demerchant’s residence. They were travelling in Pelletier-Thibodeau’s Ford Escape with her behind the wheel. Her young son was strapped in a car seat in the back.

Once at Scotts Siding, Butler got the old van started. Demerchant was not at home, but his mother, who lived next door, agreed to let them take the vehicle. Butler headed toward Skiff Lake, driving the old van while Grant and Pelletier-Thibodeau followed in her Ford Escape.

The old van broke down along the way, so Pelletier-Thibodeau pushed it from behind with her vehicle until they reached a property Butler used at Skiff Lake. Grant said there was damage to the front bumper of Pelletier-Thibodeau’s vehicle.

A little later, they decided to go for beer and food in Canterbury. Grant said he saw Butler pop a pill that he called a “goober.” All was well until Butler said he wanted to assault Ryan Purvis (now deceased in an unrelated 2023 drowning in Woodstock).

The trio dropped Pelletier-Thibodeau’s son off at a babysitter in Woodstock. She drove to a Woodstock First Nation pot store and returned to Scotts Siding. Butler said he wanted to talk to Demerchant about Purvis.

When they arrived, Grant said he could see people sitting at the kitchen table near the front window of Demerchant’s trailer. The three of them walked toward the home. Grant waited on the porch while Butler and Thibodeau went inside. Grant could hear yelling and screaming during an argument between Butler, Pelletier-Thibodeau and Demerchant.

About two minutes later, Grant returned to the car and waited in the front seat. From the vehicle, he saw Butler slam his fist on the kitchen table. They exited the residence with Demerchant, who climbed in the backseat with Butler. Pelletier-Thibodeau got back behind the wheel, and they drove off. Grant thought they were going to find Ryan Purvis.

Another argument quickly ensued between Butler and Demerchant in the backseat. Butler began punching his victim and then pistol-whipped Demerchant around the head with a nine-millimeter handgun. The beating went on.

Grant said he could see what was happening from the front seat. Demerchant tried to fight back but eventually began crying and screaming for Butler to stop. When Butler pointed the gun at his legs, Demerchant screamed, “No, no.”

“He was scared, very scared,” Grant recalled.

During the mayhem, Grant worried for his own safety when, for an instant, the gun came close to the front seat. He said he tried to stop the violence by grabbing Butler around the shoulders, but “it didn’t do any good.”

Demerchant told Butler where Purvis was located, and they headed toward Benton. Pelletier-Thibodeau was still driving. They spotted Purvis up ahead on an old woods road. Purvis was using a different van to jump-start a black Pontiac Grand Prix parked near the woods with a pile of fir tips in the back.

Butler got out and walked toward Purvis, who was seated in the van. Grant said he heard nine or 10 shots being fired. It was around 6:30 p.m., Grant said, and he did not believe Purvis returned any fire. He said Purvis soon fled the scene “full blast” by putting his van in reverse. He struck Pelletier-Thibodeau’s Ford Escape on the way by.

“I was surprised he (Purvis) was still alive,” Grant testified.

Butler returned to the back seat with Demerchant and told Pelletier-Thibodeau to follow Purvis. They drove back to Scotts Siding, where Purvis was sitting in his van with its engine smoking. Thibodeau rear-ended the van as Purvis tried to make his exit. Purvis fell under the van, got up, and ran into Demerchant’s home. Butler went in after him. Still in the vehicle, Grant saw Butler throw a chair. He thought Purvis might have been inside looking for a gun. He said he never saw Purvis again that night.

“I wanted to get out of that yard,” Grant stated. “I thought there could be more gunfire.”

Grant ran out of the driveway and down Scotts Siding Road. Pelletier-Thibodeau followed in the Ford Escape. Then Purvis’ van came barreling out of the driveway in reverse, hit a mailbox and went backwards into a ditch. He saw Butler come up out of the ditch near the van.

By this time, Demerchant was trying to get out of the backseat of Pelletier-Thibodeau’s car.
She tried to stop him, and they began fighting outside the vehicle.

“She was giving him a pretty good going over,” Grant recalled.

Demerchant fell onto the ground, with Pelletier-Thibodeau and Butler both making an attack.

“They were laying the boots to him,” said Grant.

Demerchant struggled to his feet, and Pelletier-Thibodeau and Butler returned him to the backseat of her Ford Escape.

“He wasn’t free to go. He had no choice,” Grant said.

Grant said he did not intervene in the altercation. He returned to the front passenger seat of the Ford Escape. Pelletier-Thibodeau was still driving, and Butler and Demerchant were together again in the backseat. Demerchant was badly injured and bloodied. Their next stop was at the residence of Earl DeLong in Dead Creek, where everyone exited the vehicle.

“I told Chris I wanted no part of it,” Grant said. “I don’t think it registered. He was in shock.”

While Butler, Pelletier-Thibodeau and Demerchant went inside DeLong’s residence, Grant saw his chance to leave. He found service for his cell phone and called his girlfriend to pick him up. He was walking down the road to meet her when he saw the Ford Escape drive by. His girlfriend took him back to Butler’s place at Bull’s Creek so he could retrieve his own vehicle. It was around 9 p.m. On the way home, he notified Demerchant’s family about the incident but didn’t call the police.

“I got hold of his family and let them deal with it,” Grant explained.

The next day, he was shocked when he got a call from Butler, who was crying.

“He said he shot Christine,” Grant testified. “I said ‘where,’ and he said it was about 20 to 30 feet from the front door.”

During their conversation, Grant said Butler explained Pelletier-Thibodeau was killed with the nine-millimetre handgun. The shooting happened outside his home at Bull’s Creek when she accidentally walked into the line of fire.

“I felt bad about it and the fact that Christine lost her life over it,” Grant told the court.

Under cross-examination, Grant said he “tried to stay out of it” but ended up giving a complete statement to the police after he was charged as an accomplice to the kidnapping.

Other testimony at the trial came from three RCMP officers who participated in the investigation as part of the force’s major crime unit.

One officer told the court about multiple bullet holes found in a black Grand Prix parked on a woods road near Benton. The vehicle also had a passenger-side window shot out, and there was broken glass on the ground. Shell casings were found on the road nearby.

Another police officer testified about taking a statement from Chris Demerchant as well as photos of his facial, head and body injuries that required follow-up treatment at a hospital.

There was also police testimony about bloodstains on the inside of the Ford Escape, mainly in the backseat area. A quantity of cannabis and over $1,100 in cash was also found inside the vehicle, along with Pelletier-Thibodeau’s driver’s licence and Butler’s debit card.

Chris Demerchant is expected to take the stand on Dec. 8.

Crown Prosecutor Rodney Jordan and Defence Counsel Alex Pate are participating in the trial proceedings before Associate Chief Judge Brian C. McLean.

RCMP surrounds a home in Bulls Creek after the shooting death of Christine Pelletier-Thibodeau in Nov. 2021. (Stephen Chisholm photo)

For road conditions, click the map

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