Police evidence reveals guns, ammunition throughout Butler home

by | Feb 1, 2024

Trial resumes for man accused of kidnapping in case that saw his partner die in hail of gunfire

Police testimony at the provincial court trial of Rodney Butler on Jan. 31 revealed numerous guns and boxes of ammunition were located throughout his home on the day his partner, Christine Pelletier-Thibodeau, 35, was fatally shot during a hail of gunfire just outside the basement door.

Butler, 49, of Bulls Creek, was charged by RCMP with intentionally discharging a firearm while reckless as to the life and safety of another person, 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.

As the trial resumed before Associate Chief Judge Brian C. McLean, Crown Prosecutor Rodney Jordan requested an amendment to the first charge, noting it referred to shots fired at Ryan Purvis, who was now deceased as a result of an unrelated 2023 drowning in Woodstock.

No charges have been laid in relation to the shooting of Pelletier-Thibodeau, who died as a result of her injuries. Over the next several days, police tape was erected around the property, including Butler’s residence, which was surrounded by a vehicle salvage yard.

Sergeant Chris Kean, a member of the RCMP identification unit in Fredericton, testified that he arrived at Butler’s property on Nov. 14, 2021, to locate and report on evidence at the scene. A series of photographs the officer took were reviewed during his day-long testimony and entered into evidence by the crown.

Sergeant Kean told the court Pelletier-Thibodeau’s body was lying on the ground outside the basement door. The deceased was wearing jeans and work boots and had a knife belted to her waist. A yellow blanket covered her body.

Inside the home, the police photos showed Butler’s home was disorganized and under renovation at the time of the incident. There was a large bag of marijuana in

the house, several stashes of beer, bottles of twisted tea and empty beer cans in different locations.

Sergeant Kean said a total of 12 guns and several boxes of ammunition were found unsecured throughout the premises. Most of the firearms were long guns, such as rifles and shotguns. Some were standing in corners or lying on top of furniture. A cabinet containing six long guns was found open.

“There were guns and ammunition all through the house,” said Kean.

There was a handgun discovered, a Luger, but it was not the nine-millimetre pistol allegedly used by the accused in the kidnapping. That weapon was never found.

However, two bullets from a nine-millimetre handgun were on the floor in Butler’s bedroom, one near an open window overlooking the driveway. A whole box of nine-millimetre ammunition was also sitting on Butler’s bed. There were also two knives in the room and a spent shotgun shell on the bedroom floor. Another empty shotgun shell was found in another part of the main house.

In the basement, a 12-guage shotgun and a rifle were standing in the corner by the door. There were four spent shotgun shells and wads on the basement floor, along with one nine-millimetre bullet. One shotgun bullet on the floor near the basement door had never been fired. The shells and bullet were from a 12-guage shotgun.

Bloody footprints were photographed on the stairs leading from the basement to the main part of the house. The butt of a shotgun also showed signs of blood.

During cross-examination, Sergeant Kean said the outside of Butler’s home sustained damage from shotgun fire. The window in the basement door was shattered, and there were holes in the door frame, in the exterior siding above, and to the left side of the basement door.

Two shotgun wads were on the ground outside by a snow blower not far from Pelletier-Thibodeau’s body. Earlier testimony at the trial indicated she was carrying a shotgun on the day of the incident.

Farther out in the driveway, two shells from a different (410) shotgun and two wads were found on the ground at the rear of a silver truck involved in the incident.

“Clearly, there was more than one firearm being used here,” suggested Defence Counsel Alex Pate.

“Yes,” replied Sergeant Kean.

The silver truck parked in the driveway was hit by shotgun fire from Butler’s house and sustained damage on the passenger side. No other vehicles parked nearby were damaged by bullets, including Pelletier-Thibodeau’s Ford Escape.

Sergeant Kean testified a baseball hat was on the ground near the silver truck, and two beer cans were photographed on the back.

Three footprints were spotted in a muddy part of the driveway, and one print appeared different from the other two. Under redirect from the crown, the officer agreed there was lots of foot traffic on Butler’s property, so there was no way to determine if the footprints were related to the incident.

The police officer told the court a 35-calibre, loaded rifle with a scope was found in the grass about 80 meters from Butler’s property, down a bank on the opposite side of the highway near the St. John River. A complete rifle round was also located in the grass, with two full rounds still in a holder. No spent casings from the rifle were situated on the grass or around Butler’s home.

The crown closed its case, and the trial was adjourned until Feb. 29 at 9:30 a.m. when Butler is expected to take the stand in his own defence.

Earlier testimony

On Jan. 11, Chris Demerchant, 53, of Scotts Siding, testified he was kidnapped from his home by Butler at gunpoint, pistol-whipped around the head, and taken to Butler’s home at Bulls Creek where he believed he would meet his death.

Demerchant said he was loaded 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. Pelletier-Thibodeau was behind the wheel at the time, while Butler’s friend, Timothy Grant, was in the front passenger seat.

They went looking for Ryan Purvis in a wooded area near Benton. Butler was angry with Purvis. He exited the Ford Escape with the handgun, and Demerchant heard a series of 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 Scotts 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 enter a ditch. Demerchant said he tried to get out of the Ford Escape at that point but was attacked again.

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

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.

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 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. 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 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 heard her say: “You shot me Rodney.”

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

Demerchant said he ran outside and 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 Scotts Siding.

Under cross-examination, Demerchant said he did not think his brother arrived at Butler’s residence with a firearm. He testified he did not know if Purvis was outside with his brother.

Timothy Grant testified Butler called him the day after the incident. He confessed he shot his partner, Pelletier-Thibodeau, about 20-30 feet from the door when she accidentally stepped into the line of fire. 

Grant said Butler called him back later and blamed her death on the Demerchants.

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