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First person to discover Renee Sweeney crime scene saw someone crouched over her


Testifying on Friday morning, the first person to discover the Renee Sweeney crime scene in 1998 described what he saw as he and his fiancée walked into the adult video store.

The Jan. 27, 1998, murder of Renee Sweeney, 23, took place in an era when security cameras weren’t everywhere, as they are today. The killer managed, in broad daylight, to commit the crime and leave the video store without being caught on tape. (File photo)

The identity of the witness is covered by a publication ban.

He testified that he and his fiancee were students at Laurentian University on Jan. 27, 1998, when they decided after class to grab a coffee at Country Bagel, located in the same Paris Street strip mall where Sweeney worked.

They pulled into to the strip mall, arriving just before 11:30 a.m., parking near Country Bagel. They decided to rent an adult movie and walked up the front sidewalk along the mall and walked into the Adults Only Video store.

“The store looked empty ... There was nobody at the cash at the back right corner,” he testified.

“Then I noticed there were some things knocked over from the shelves.”

He saw a stand in the middle of the store that held videos and magazines knocked off the shelf. When he looked over the stand, he could see someone “hunched over someone else, kind of kneeling down.”

He saw a man squatting in front of a person laying on the floor, with what appeared to be a blue bag in their right hand.

“It looked like they were gathering something,” he said.

“There was another person there completely laying on the floor. There was blood around that person.”

The man was shoving items “into a sack or a bag.” When he saw the witness, he bolted from the store, running past the witness.

“He didn’t bump me, he didn’t make eye contact with me,” the witness said.

“He just ran past me.”

At that point, he said he felt faint from the sight of blood. He went toward the person lying on the floor and called out that he was going to get help and then ran to a nearby business to tell them to call police and medical personnel.

“The person who was laying down looked female to me,” he said.

“There was blood everywhere. Her hair was matted ... I do recall saying ‘I need to get you help.’”

“How far away was this person who was squatting down?” asked Crown attorney Kevin Ludgate.

The witness said he was maybe four or five feet away.

He said he thought the woman’s head moved when he said he was getting help.

“I didn’t know what was going on, to be honest.”

He described the man he saw as having short hair that was messy on top, wearing glasses that were thin-rimmed with an oval shape and a couple of days beard growth on his face.

Testifying on Friday morning, the first person to discover the Renee Sweeney crime scene in 1998 described what he saw as he and his fiancée walked into the adult video store. it was his description that led to this composite sketch. (Supplied)

“I’d say (he) was normal looking in the sense there wasn’t anything that left a mark on my memory,” the witness said.

He said the man appeared to be shoving things into the blue bag, making it bulge. It later emerged that the blue bag was actually the teal jacket police found later.

Defence attorney Michael Lacy asked the witness details about exactly what he remembered seeing.

“You had a really good look at his face, right?” Lacy asked.

“Yes,” the witness responded.

“If there were markings on his face you would have relayed that to police?” Lacy asked.

“Yes,” the witness replied.

“If you saw scratches, you would have relayed that to the police?”


“If you saw someone bringing a knife down, you would have described that to police?”

“Of course,” the witness replied.

The trial resumes Friday afternoon with testimony and CTV News' coverage will continue.

It was the description provided by Paulette Taillefer (who previously testified in the case) that led to the initial composite drawing of the suspect police released publicly in 1998, shown here. (File photo)


The brutal stabbing death of 23-year-old Renee Sweeney rocked the City of Sudbury to its core on Jan. 27, 1998.

Police searched for her killer for two decades and finally charged Robert Steven Wright, who was 18 years old at the time of the murder. He has been held in jail since his arrest in Dec. 2018.

After several delays, the trial began Feb. 21, 2023, just after the 25th anniversary of Sweeney's death.

CTV News Digital content producer Darren MacDonald is bringing the latest from the courtroom every day and will have full coverage of the trial here.


An earlier version of the story misidentified victim Renee Sweeney. Top Stories

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