Tre Butterfield Claims Wrongful Conviction Forced Him to Plead in Other Cases
By Ron Lee
Editor, Investigative Journalist
Gone are the days – if ever they existed – when only the guilty confessed to crimes in order to get lenience with the court. That’s what years of research shows, anyway. It is fact that false confessions, including plea deals for crimes not committed, are exceedingly common, especially in murder and rape cases, where according to falseconfessions.org 92% of all false confessions are men, with the majority being 25 or younger. Yet, most people still wrongly believe that if someone confesses or takes a deal, they did the crime.
Such is the case of Tre Butterfield who is currently incarcerated yet professes his absolute innocence of any wrongdoing in all four claims of sexual impropriety. Tre further claims that his own attorney, Robert Brungardt, helped get him convicted when he wrongly and willfully (against Tre’s wishes) told the jury in his opening statements that Tre was, “guilty of rape of a child in the third degree.” It was ultimately this maneuver that Tre says forced him to take a plea on two separate cases against him; cases that he thought could easily be defended against, as he had evidence to present which could have exonerated him. These pleas added to his time to serve. Now, with an appeal ongoing, and one count having already been reversed, and more evidence being discovered to support Tre’s claims, Tre is hopeful he will emerge as another false confession statistic, should his cases be overturned.
IT ALL STARTED WITH A PARTY
On October 1st, 2020, then 25-year-old Tre Butterfield was found guilty by a jury of crimes that allegedly took place five years and five months prior – less than a month after his 20th birthday. It all focused on a party Tre had attended on May 2, 2015 at his friend Cory Owens’ house. Tre recalls, “there was four of us that hung our regularly. Cory, Matt, Josh and myself. This night we planned a party at Cory’s. I showed up early to hang out with Cory. We set up a radio and speaker in the garage along with a beer pong table. People started showing up in the afternoon. It turned out to be a decent sized party.”
Tre continued, “Josh, Matt, Breanna and Lilly all showed up together.” Confirmed by recovered text messages, Breanna Brown had dated Tre Butterfield starting in early July of 2014. It ended a few weeks later. According to the texts, she went on to date a guy named Zach who she had admittedly been seeing during her time with Tre. According to Tre, Breanna then went on to date his friend Matt McMillan, and the two were at the party as a couple.
“This was my first time meeting Lilly,” Tre recalled of the party, “and I thought she was 16, just like Breanna.” (It is an important fact, as the age of consent is 16 in the State of Washington.)
Lillian Reese (now Lillian Coronel) and Breanna were long-time friends, having met in elementary school. According to court records, Lilly lived with Breanna and her mother at the time of the party and had for several months, while Lilly’s mother went through a divorce. According to Lilly’s testimony, she and Breanna were supposed to go somewhere else that night but changed their plans to go to Cory’s party.
The afternoon of the party Lilly admitted to having been drinking, along with everyone else at the party. There was marijuana present and a lot of alcohol. Lilly was actually 15-years-old at the time, and according to her testimony, it was the second time she had ever been drinking. Yet, she knew well enough to bring extra clothes and to change early, made clear when she testified at trial saying, “I was planning on spending the night so I ended up changing my clothes before I drank too much.”
Lilly recalled getting incredibly intoxicated to the point that she says she passed out, not remembering anything until much later.
However, several others, including Breanna, her friend, and Cory, the man who hosted the party, recall that Lilly was not passed out. As the evening wore on, all accounts have Lilly deciding to separate herself from the remaining partygoers and get into Cory’s bed. Cory testified that, “One of the girls had said she wasn’t feeling good — or she was tired — something about wanting to lay down. And I told her, yeah, that’s fine. You can go in my bedroom and lay down, that’s absolutely fine.” Breanna testified that Lilly, “wanted to go lay down” but that she had gotten sick prior to getting into bed. Either way, she was left alone in Cory’s bed.
Tre readily admits to coming into the room later. “I had to use the restroom but there was someone in the restroom next to the kitchen. Cory’s bedroom door was slightly open and he didn’t ever care or mind me going into his room to use the bathroom, so I went in there.”
Tre continued, “When I walked into his room, I noticed the bathroom light was on with the door open, so I pulled the bedroom door partially closed behind me. We had music playing and as I was walking through his room I was singing along, acting a fool. His bed is to the immediate right as you walk through his bedroom door, the bathroom is in the back left hand corner.
“I wasn’t being quiet about anything, I was buzzed, high and thought I was alone. I used the bathroom, washed my hands, turned to walk out, leaving the bathroom light on like it was. The door was open the whole time. When I stepped into the bedroom from the bathroom that’s when I heard a girl say ‘Hey.’ It startled me. I thought I was alone. I didn’t realize anyone was in there. Then I got embarrassed because I realized she heard me singing and how much of a fool I must have sounded like, along with what I must have looked like making my way to the bathroom.
“When I looked over to the bed that’s when I realized it was Lilly. She was sitting on the edge of the bed with the blankets covering her legs. I said, ‘Hey I’m sorry, I didn’t know anyone was in here, I would have been quiet. Did I wake you?’ She just giggled, laughed and said it was alright and that I didn’t wake her. She asked about Josh, Matt and Breanna. I told her Josh was passed out on the couch, and Matt and Breanna were tangled up on the couch making out right before I walked in to use the bathroom.”
According to Lilly’s testimony, she had passed out sometime earlier during the night and didn’t remember getting into Cory’s bed, let alone any interaction with Tre Butterfield in that bedroom. In fact, her direct recorded testimony is that she doesn’t recall anything until she’s woken up by “Breanna and Brad screaming” at her to put her clothes back on. It is interesting to note that according to everyone else’s testimony there was no “Brad” present at this point of the night.
Regardless, Lilly says she was only briefly conscious and that she doesn’t remember anything until she woke up out on the couch the next day. It was then that the others informed her as to what had “happened” – a fact the prosecutor did well at concealing.
I’d like to point out at this time that I think it possible that Lilly honestly doesn’t remember anything, just like she testified. I think it highly probable that everything she believes happened was just told to her by other people who might have had their own agenda, and the trauma she has suffered was really created by them. It could be that Tre’s account is completely accurate. How would she know if she was “black-out” drunk?
I reached out to Lilly via Facebook. She refused to answer any questions and told me to please never contact her again.
THE CLAIM OF RAPE
Cory testified to have gone looking for Tre after some time had passed, as Tre had not come back from the restroom. He stated that when he opened the door to his room he heard “like moaning, kissing sounds,” and he closed the door. He went back out to the others and told them what he had heard.
By all accounts, Breanna and Matt rushed into the room…
According to Tre, Lilly had motioned Tre to sit next to her when he had been talking to her about using the restroom. He sat and after a brief conversation, he says Lilly kissed him and pulled him on top of her. Tre admits having kissed her back but adamantly denies having undressed her or having had sex with Lilly in any way. It’s a denial that is backed by forensic science; there was never any DNA evidence of sexual penetration.
Tre does say that Lilly had undressed herself and then unzipped his pants, and that it was when they were in this position that the others came into the room.
Tre explained, “When they walked in, I was confused as in why they did. I rolled off and sat on the bed. I put myself away. Breanna got mad and asked Lilly what she was doing. Breanna told Lilly to put her clothes on.”
Tre doesn’t remember anyone particularly upset in the situation other than Breanna who says that Matt was mad at Tre as well, to the point where he struck a wall.
Tre went on, “After we all came out of the bedroom Lilly and Breanna went to the couch with Josh. Cory, Matt and I all went out on his back patio. We drank a beer, shared a joint and Matt and I smoked a cig. Cory wasn’t ever upset, mad or angry in any way towards me. At this point if Matt was mad, he didn’t show it. He was fine.
“Cory went inside to grab us all another beer. Well, he came back empty handed and asked us if we wanted more. Matt and I both said yes. We went back inside, Cory told me once we got back I wasn’t driving home I told him I wasn’t planning on it. He said good.
“Matt joined Breanna on the couch with Lilly. They both were talking and all seemed fine. Cory and I grabbed the case and went out back… He grabbed his Green Bay Packers pipe, grinder, and weed from his room. We sat outside for a good amount of time talking, smoking and drinking before he said he was going to go to bed. When we went back inside I noticed everyone on the couch was asleep. There was no more room.
“I grabbed a spare pillow and blanket then walked downstairs to the spare bedroom. When I woke up the next morning Josh and Lilly were gone.”
Two days later Tre says he was informed by Matt that Lilly had gone to a counselor and made claims that Tre had, “taken advantage of her.”
Fact is, according to court records, Breanna had gone to her counselor and brought Lilly with her. Both girls went into Breanna’s counseling session. According to the therapist, Lilly reported she “felt like something had happened.” Because it was reported to her, the counselor was duty-bound to call the police.
OTHER CASES AGAINST TRE BUTTERFIELD
According to police reports, the prosecutor chose not to pursue a case against Tre Butterfield in 2015. In 2017, the case was referred back to the prosecutor’s office but again nothing happened until new allegations arose in 2019.
After “the party” Tre moved on with his life, working hard. He had even spent a good deal of time around Lilly who was in a wedding party with him for some mutual friends. They had even exchanged contact information (again). According to Tre, they even danced together at the wedding.
From late 2015 to 2019, Tre was incredibly active in his church, and he found the love of his life.
In April of 2019, Tre was living with his Grandparents in their home and was in the process of moving out. His aunt Brandy and her daughters Annabelle (16) and Yasmine (14) lived there, too, in a trailer on the property.
It was discovered by high school staff that Annabelle had brought a knife to school. When asked about the knife Annabelle reportedly stated that she was afraid of her cousin, and that he’d been molesting her. Interestingly, Tre was not known to ever go to her school for Annabelle to fear for her safety there. Immediately the school contacted the police.
According to the police reports, there were inconsistencies that Brandy noted in her daughter’s story. But soon more allegations would emerge when Yasmine spoke up and told of abuse she had allegedly endured. However, Brandy and both daughters told police that they didn’t want a protection order against Tre. In the report, Brandy said she, “didn’t feel it was necessary.”
TRE’S NON-DEFENSE, “DEFENSE”
Over the next fifteen months, police and prosecutors dug up everything they could on Tre Butterfield. Lilly’s case was finally set to move forward, and Breanna Brown was contacted by a detective who remembered she had said something about Tre doing something to her when she was younger, upon which charges were filed. Annabelle and Yasmine’s charges were moving forward, too.
The first trial would be Lilly’s.
According to Tre, who had secured the services of defense counsel Robert Brungardt, he was made to feel secure about his chances of winning at trial. But as time went by Tre said, “I noticed he started to change. He grew very rude and mean, cursing at me and my grandparents whenever I would say something he disagreed with, he would call me stupid and tell me I had no idea what I was talking about.”
It reportedly got so bad that Brungardt started dictating to Tre that he was going to admit to raping Lilly and if he didn’t, he’d end up in Walla Walla. Tre recalls Brungardt asking him how much time he wanted to do. Tre says he replied with, “I don’t want to do any time, I don’t deserve to do any time, I didn’t have sex with her. If you say I did, you are lying.”
As we know by trial transcript, Tre’s attorney did in fact claim Tre was guilty, without changing Tre’s Not Guilty plea – an interesting legal dilemma. “I had begged him not to before he got up to speak, and my heart dropped the moment those words came out of his mouth.” Tre continued, “I knew all was lost. He failed me. He did what he wanted. It didn’t matter what I wanted.”
After the jury came back with a guilty verdict, Tre was looking at another trial on the criminal charges resulting from Breanna’s accusation.
Tre didn’t have any other choice but to stay with Brungardt. “He said if I didn’t take a deal, I wouldn’t ever see the light of day. He came at me with the deal the day before Breanna’s trial. I had less than 24 hours to make a decision. On one hand I do 17.5 years and the other I may never leave prison. I couldn’t believe that it came down to this. I told him he did this to me. He just looked away and shrugged his shoulders. He told me if I went to trial, I was going to lose and never get out. He kept saying I needed to take a deal.”
Tre took it. He was sentenced to 210 months – 17 ½ years.
But was Tre truly guilty?
We have just uncovered new evidence that shows Lilly was conscious enough to add Tre to her Snapchat account in the evening of May 2, 2015 – it was timestamped early morning UTC time on May 3, 2015. This is around the same time she was supposedly passed out, being “taken advantage of.” The evidence clearly shows she was building her social media contacts by giving her alleged rapist permission to contact her.
Further, some of the times associated with allegations from Tre’s cousins are reportedly during jobs that took Tre out of town to fight wildfires, among other things, giving him strong alibis, and calling into question the validity of their claims.
The fact remains, Tre Butterfield maintains his absolute innocence, and Tre believes his attorney sold him down the river.
Once Tre saw his attorney working against him, he should have fired him on the spot. And he should have never taken a plea deal. It literally cost him years of his life.
We hope the cases against Tre get revisited and he gets his day in court to present all the evidence in his favor. Only then can there truly be justice.
Editor’s Note: If you have any evidence for or against Tre Butterfield, please contact the US~Observer immediately by calling 541-474-7885 or sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org – our interest is that justice is done, and that all of the evidence is brought to light.
If you find yourself in a similar situation as Tre, and you are innocent, contact the US~Observer right away.