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Sudbury murder suspect finishes testimony, denies involvement in stabbing death


Tuesday afternoon, the Crown accused Robert Steven Wright of stabbing Renee Sweeney to death following a struggle inside the Adults Only Video store in January 1998.

Wright, 43, who has repeatedly denied killing Sweeney, is on trial in Sudbury for second-degree murder in the case.

Sketch of Robert Steven Wright on witness stand as he is cross-examined by the Crown attorney during his murder trial in a Sudbury courtroom March 14. Wright's second-degree murder trial was delayed again Monday due to COVID-19. (Sudbury artist Tarun Godara)

He testified Monday that he came upon Sweeney’s body the morning she was killed after he finished an exam at Lockerby Composite. Wright said he checked her for vital signs, but panicked and fled when someone else entered the video store.

But Crown prosecutor Rob Parsons put forward a much different scenario.

“I'm going to suggest to you, Mr. Wright, that you made your way down from Lockerby Composite to the Adults Only Video on the date in question, you went inside the store, a struggle ensued with Renee Sweeney -- a struggle that quickly grew violent. What do you say to that?” Parsons said.

“I would say it’s not true,” Wright said.

Parsons said Sweeney fought back, defending herself as much as she could, requiring Wright to respond with “extreme violence.”

“Renee Sweeney fought back to the point that you panicked, and got yourself to the point you had to kill her to get out of that store,” he said.

“That’s not true,” Wright said.

Parsons said Wright then stole porn magazines and sex toys, using his teal jacket as a bag to hold them.

Wright also denied that allegation, insisting the only thing in the jacket was his gloves.

This is photo of the stained teal jacket that Brian McRury and his canine Oakey discovered during the track on Jan. 27, 1998. (Supplied)

Parsons then said Wright decided to take money from the cash, where his fingerprint was found on the top and underneath the tray.

“You are actually committing theft at that point,” he said.

“It’s not true,” Wright replied.

Wright said he remembered touching something near the counter to brace himself but has no memory of the cash tray.

“I touched something,” he said. “I did not hold myself up.”

Parsons also questioned Wright on his timeline of events. His exam ended around 11 a.m., but Wright wasn’t sure if he finished early, what time he arrived at his locker or how long it took him to walk to the AOV store, which was a roughly seven-minute walk.

“You’re still in that store for six minutes, on a very generous count,” Parsons said.

“That’s your suggestion,” Wright said, adding he didn’t know how long he was in the store but estimated two minutes.

"It's more than 25 years ago, sir. I can't give you any more specifics."

Considering her wounds, Parsons said it appears Sweeney fought back and the struggle lasted longer than the two minutes Wright said he was there.


“It sounds like a struggle that may have happened, but I was not involved,” Wright said.

After Wright completed his testimony, a statement was read into the record from Kim Sweeney, Renee’s sister.

In the statement, Kim Sweeney said Renee told her a few months before the murder that she was worried she was being stalked.

She said her sister was taking precautions, such as driving around the block to see if she was being followed before going home.

Kim Sweeney also said she went to Renee’s apartment after she was killed and found several hang-up calls on her phone from a blocked number.

She had also recently taken up kickboxing, Kim said, and was a very independent person who “would not go down without a fight.”

The final witness Tuesday was Catherine Gratton, who was a clerk at the AOV outlet on Lasalle Boulevard at the time of the murder.

Gratton said she considered Sweeney a friend and they hung out socially on occasion.

“We went out a few times, talked on the phone,” she said.


Gratton testified Sweeney told her on a few occasions in December 1997 that she thought she was being stalked.

“Renee had mentioned that on a couple of occasions that she had been followed home after work,” Gratton said.

“It made her nervous ... She didn’t quite elaborate. There had been a few incidents that had happened. She stated she felt like someone was following her.”

“She felt she was being followed?” asked Crown assistant attorney Kevin Ludgate.

“Yes,” Gratton said.

“She didn’t actually give you an account of anything she saw or heard or experienced?” he asked.

“Correct,” she responded. “She told me that she felt she was being followed.”

Court recessed after Gratton’s testimony and will resume Wednesday morning. digital content specialist Darren MacDonald will continue to follow the case from inside the court room and provide daily updates.

Find all of the previous trial coverage here.


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. Top Stories

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