Kidnap victim witnessed fatal shooting at Bulls Creek

by | Jan 12, 2024

Rodney Butler on trial for kidnapping, assault, firearms charges in case linked to partner’s death

A Scott Siding man told the court he feared for his life when Rodney Butler pointed a gun at his head and talked about butchering him like a wild animal.

Chris Demerchant, 53, testified in Woodstock Provincial Court for a full day on Jan. 11. He described how he was kidnapped at gunpoint, pistol-whipped around the head, and taken to Butler’s home at Bulls Creek, where he believed he would meet his death.

Butler, 49, of Bulls Creek, was charged by RCMP 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. 

“He held a gun to my head and told me a human being skinned out looks like a bear skinned out,” Demerchant told the court. “I feared for my life.”

About 40 minutes later, Butler’s partner, Christine Pelletier-Thibodeau, 35, was shot at the scene and died as a result of her injuries. Over the next several days, police tape was erected around the property, including Butler’s residence, which is surrounded by a vehicle salvage yard.

Clutching his hat in his hand, Demerchant spoke calmly from the witness stand and went through the events of the day ending in Pelletier-Thibodeau’s death. He testified he was sitting at home at his kitchen table with two friends when Butler and Pelletier-Thibodeau arrived just after supper.

Butler was angry. He stabbed a knife into the table, head-butted Demerchant in the face and pulled out a handgun.

 “I said I don’t know who you are,” Demerchant recalled. “He went crazy. He lost his mind.”

At the time, Demerchant and Butler were close friends and worked together tearing apart old vehicles for scrap metal. The day before the shooting, Demerchant and another friend, Ryan Purvis (now deceased), were in Butler’s yard when an argument began at the end of the driveway. 

Butler and Purvis were yelling at each other about a licence plate. In his statement to the police, Demerchant said he heard Purvis make threats toward Butler. Purvis then left on foot and caught a ride back to Demerchant’s home in Scott Siding. Purvis was living there at the time.

The next day, Butler and Pelletier-Thibodeau arrived at Demerchant’s home looking for Purvis. Demerchant told them Purvis was up the road in the woods near Benton jump-starting a car. The two men had spent the day cutting fir tips. Butler said he wanted to go find Purvis.

“He told me I was going with him,” Demerchant testified. 

He said he was led out of his home by Butler at gunpoint while Pelletier-Thibodeau followed close behind.

Demerchant said they loaded him into the backseat of Pelletier-Thibodeau’s Ford Escape. Butler sat next to him. As the vehicle started moving, Butler pistol-whipped Demerchant around the head with a nine-millimetre handgun and threatened to shoot him in the knee. Thibodeau was behind the wheel while Butler’s friend, Timothy Grant, was in the front passenger seat. 

A few minutes later, they pulled into the wooded area where Purvis was. Butler got out of the vehicle, and Demerchant heard a series of 10 gunshots. Then, Demerchant saw Purvis speed off in the van he had borrowed to boost his car. Butler returned to the backseat of the Ford Escape, and they raced off after Purvis toward Scott Siding. 

Demerchant said he was “dazed up” and bleeding profusely when he looked up from the backseat and saw he was back home. There was no sign of Purvis. He saw his van parked in the driveway go into reverse, strike a mailbox and go into a ditch. 

Demerchant said he tried to get out of the Ford Escape at that point, but Timothy Grant “cross-checked him,” and he fell to the ground. He said Butler, Pelletier-Thibodeau, and Grant then attacked him with their boots.

“I took a shit-kicking on the road,” Demerchant told the court. “It was a pretty good beating.”

RCMP surround a home in Bulls Creek after the shooting death of Christine Pelletier-Thibodeau in Nov. 2021. Rodney Butler is on trial for kidnapping, assault, and weapons charges related to an incident the day before his partner died. (Stephen Chisholm photo)

Demerchant struggled to his feet, and they loaded him back into the Ford Escape. Butler was next to him again in the backseat. Pelletier-Thibodeau was still driving with Timothy Grant in the front passenger seat. They headed for Earle DeLong’s residence at Dead Creek. 

Once there, everyone went inside. Butler told Demerchant to go wash the blood off his face. Then Butler took him to the kitchen and sat him on the floor. Pelletier-Thibodeau began poking Demerchant with a shotgun and threatened to cut his throat. Other people were in the room at the time, but no one said a word about what was happening. 

A few minutes later, Butler, Pelletier-Thibodeau, and Demerchant climbed back into the Ford Escape and drove to Bulls Creek, about 20 minutes away. This time, Timothy Grant was not in the vehicle, having left the area on foot.

“I asked them to take me home,” Demerchant said about the ride to Bulls Creek. “I said this is crazy.”

At Butler’s residence, they all went into the basement. Demerchant sat on a wooden chair in the dark. He had a beer with them and waited. Butler kept the handgun on him while Pelletier-Thibodeau continued to jab him with a shotgun. He looked around the room and saw another gun and some hand grenades, noting Butler was ex-military. His phone rang. It was his brother, Troy Demerchant.

“They told me to tell him I’m alright, don’t worry about it,” Demerchant testified. “I did because I had a gun to the side of my head.”

Soon after the phone call, Troy Demerchant drove into Butler’s driveway in his truck. Troy Demerchant shouted for Butler. In response, Pelletier-Thibodeau and Butler both opened fire into the yard. Suddenly, Pelletier-Thibodeau was hit.

“When she got shot, everything went silent,” Chris Demerchant testified. “That’s when I got out of there.”

As Demerchant ran past Pelletier-Thibodeau, he testified he heard her say: “You shot me, Rodney.”

“He shot her in the back of the neck,” Demerchant told the court.

Demerchant said he went outside and ran down the driveway. His brother, Troy, was still under gunfire when he yelled for him to call 911. Demerchant said he took refuge in a ditch and then went to a neighbour to get a ride home to Scott Siding. 

There was no one home when he arrived. He sat by his video surveillance monitor, watched and waited. The next day, the RCMP was in his yard. They took him to the police station. Paramedics checked him and later went to the hospital for treatment of his injuries. He said his recovery was long and painful.

Chris Demerchant admitted he had a prior criminal record. Several photos of his head, neck and facial injuries were entered into evidence by the crown, along with other images of a bloody backseat in the Ford Escape, the yard and basement at Butler’s residence and the area outside Demerchant’s house in Scott Siding.

Under cross-examination, Demerchant testified he did not hear any exchange of gunfire even though a window in a door leading to Butler’s basement was shattered as if someone had shot at the house. Demerchant said he did not know if Purvis was outside with his brother. After Pelletier-Thibodeau was shot, he said he ran for safety. He could still hear gunfire behind him as he fled toward the road. 

Demerchant said he did not think his brother arrived at Butler’s with a firearm. He identified his brother’s truck in the police photos, noting the bullet holes it sustained on Butler’s property. He told the court his brother was arrested and held in custody following the shooting but was later released. To date, Troy Demerchant has never been charged in relation to the incident. 

Under redirect from the crown, Chris Demerchant clarified the bullets were flying “from the inside out,” and he reiterated that Butler never offered to let him go at any time.

Previous testimony

Earlier in the trial, Krista Grant of Canterbury testified she and her best friend, Kenneth Hatheway, were out gathering for tips when they decided to stop at the home of their friend Chris Demerchant around 6:30 p.m. Ryan Purvis was there when they arrived. She said Purvis was staying with Demerchant at the time. (Purvis later died in an unrelated 2023 drowning in Woodstock).

Shortly after their arrival, Purvis left to work on a car that broke down in the woods near Benton. They were seated around the kitchen table with Demerchant when Butler and Pelletier-Thibodeau drove into the yard and entered the home. 

Grant said Butler and Demerchant were business partners “doing their car thing.” Butler seemed angry on the day of the incident and wanted to know Purvis’ whereabouts. Demerchant told him Purvis was up the road working on a car. 

Butler began to shout and swear at Demerchant and then drove a hunting knife into the center of the table. Grant said she was seated nearby.

“I knew when the knife went in the table, it was serious,” Grant told the court.

Grant stood to say she was leaving, but Pelletier-Thibodeau yelled for her to stay seated. When Demerchant stood, Butler head-butted him, made threats, and insisted he go with him to find Purvis. As they moved toward the door, Pelletier-Thibodeau announced everyone was leaving.

“Rodney said: ‘Krista, you didn’t see me tonight,’” Grant testified. “I said, sounds good to me, buddy.”

Butler then turned to Demerchant and remarked, “Same goes for you.” 

Demerchant replied: “I don’t know you.”

Grant said Butler “went ballistic” and pulled a handgun from his waistband. 

“I paid your debt,” Butler yelled at Demerchant. “I should shoot you right in the eye.”

“They proceeded to drag Chris out the door without his shoes on,” Grant recalled. “They made him go at gunpoint. He didn’t want to go.”

Demerchant protested to Butler, saying he had family obligations and couldn’t leave.

One by one, the group exited Demerchant’s home. Butler, Pelletier-Thibodeau, Demerchant, and Timothy Grant, who was waiting outside, left together in a Ford Escape. She and Hatheway drove away in his vehicle, both upset by the incident. 

They drove to the store in Canterbury and then returned to Scott Siding, where they saw a van in the ditch with its lights on and bullet holes in the windshield. They checked to see if Demerchant had returned home. 

“We didn’t see anyone,” she told the court.

Grant said she made a phone call to Troy Demerchant to warn him his brother had been taken at gunpoint. Troy Demerchant advised them to leave Scott Siding immediately. She called him from a church yard in Canterbury but didn’t call the police.

The next day, Grant said she received a phone call from Chris Demerchant, who told her he had been beaten and wanted her to come over. When she arrived, she didn’t recognize her friend. 

“He was beat to pieces,” Grant told the court. “He was all beat to hell. His clothes were ripped. He was covered in blood.”

Grant attended to his wounds, noting Demerchant’s “head was smashed in, and his were eyes swollen shut.” She used salt water to help open his eyes. Demerchant muttered someone else had been shot, but he didn’t know if they survived. 

Wiping away tears on the witness stand, Grant said the events surrounding Pelletier-Thibodeau’s death were upsetting for both her and Hatheway.

“I’m sorry someone died,” Grant testified. “I didn’t want to be here today or participate in these hearings at all. I didn’t want any blowback from Rodney or consequences for me or my loved ones.”

During cross examination, Grant admitted to having a criminal record. She said she didn’t see Ryan Purvis again until he got out of jail some 14 months later. She never knew Purvis to carry a gun but acknowledged Demerchant did have guns for hunting. 

Grant also testified she saw Butler use alcohol and cocaine in the past and explained that a “goober” used by Butler on the day of the incident was another word for an ice (meth) pill.

Kenneth Hatheway of Irish Settlement testified he was also sitting at the kitchen table inside Demerchant’s home when Butler and Pelletier-Thibodeau arrived. He said the meeting made him fear for his life.

“Tensions were high,” Hatheway told the court. “Rodney had a bone to pick with Chris. They heatedly discussed whatever it was that was bothering him. Rodney pulled a knife out and stabbed it into the table to make his point.”

Hatheway said he did not speak during the incident. He saw Butler get in Demerchant’s face, but Demerchant seemed calm. 

“Things went haywire,” Hatheway said when Demerchant answered Butler: “I don’t know you,” as if he was “disowning him.” Hatheway believed Butler misunderstood Demerchant’s statement when he pulled out the handgun.

“I thought we were all dead,” Hatheway stated. 

As everyone prepared to leave, Hatheway said he was first out the door. On his way outside, he passed Timothy Grant. He hadn’t known him or Pelletier-Thibodeau before that day. 

Hatheway saw Demerchant enter a vehicle with Butler, Pelletier-Thibodeau, and Timothy Grant. He left the driveway with Krista Grant in his vehicle. They found out later that Pelletier-Thibodeau had been shot and killed at Butler’s home in Bulls Creek.

“It’s a tragic event,” Hatheway told the court. “Someone lost their life. It’s regrettable because it could have been prevented.”

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 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.”

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

Grant was with Butler and Pelletier-Thibodeau in the Ford Escape when they drove to Scott Siding. He 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, Thibodeau and Demerchant. 

About two minutes later, Grant returned to the car and waited in the front seat. From his vehicle, he saw Butler slam his fist on the kitchen table. They exited the residence with Demerchant, who climbed in the backseat with Butler. 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. 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 about 10 shots being fired at around 6:30 p.m. Grant said 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 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 Thibodeau to follow Purvis. They drove back to Scott 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 the driveway and down the Scott Siding road. 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 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 Thibodeau and Butler both making an attack.

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

Demerchant struggled to his feet, and 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. 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, 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 Bulls 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 on the phone.

“He said he shot Christine,” Grant testified. “I said ‘where,’ and he said it was about 20-30 feet from the front door. Then he called back and said the Demerchants did it.”

During their conversation, Grant said Butler explained the nine-millimetre handgun killed Thibodeau. The shooting happened outside his home at Bulls Creek when she accidently 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 full statement to the police after he was charged as an accomplice to the kidnapping.

The trial resumes on Jan. 31 at 9:30 a.m. with further testimony on police evidence. Crown Prosecutors Rodney Jordan and Bronwyn Mooney and Defence Counsel Alex Pate led the trial proceedings on Jan. 11 before Associate Chief Judge Brian C. McLean.

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