Sudbury murder trial nears conclusion, closing arguments Monday
The second-degree murder trial of Robert Steven Wright resumed briefly Thursday morning, with the defence formally wrapping up its case.
Proceedings have been delayed after some jurors tested positive for COVID-19 last week. Jurors entered the court Thursday mostly wearing masks and were divided, with half sitting on either side of the court, spaced apart.
Wright, 43, is on trial for the stabbing death of Renee Sweeney on Jan. 27, 1998, while she worked as a clerk at the Adults Only Video store.
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New agreed statements of fact were read into the record by Justice Robbie Gordon on Thursday.
They focused on John Fetterly, the first man Sudbury police charged with the crime in February 1998, but later said they made a mistake and released him.
Wright’s defence has presented Fetterly as an alternate suspect in the murder.
Justice Robbie Gordon read the agreed statements of fact into the record. The first was from Fetterly’s former spouse, Donna-Lynn Sevigny, who gave a statement to police Feb. 19, 1998.
“Ms. Sevigny told police that Mr. Fetterly had always exhibited a fascination with different kind of knives such as butterfly knives and daggers,” the statement said.
“She knew him to go out in public in possession of a knife on occasion ... Ms. Sevigny described Mr. Fetterly as having a volatile temper. He could be nice one minute and then turn into a different person the next.”
Before Sweeney’s murder, she hadn’t seen him for two years, but in February 1998, he called her and said he had come into “a little bit of money and wanted to get her and their daughter a coffee.”
Fetterly’s now deceased mother, Alma, was the subject of the second agreed statement of facts. She told police Feb. 10, 1998, that her son lived in Mildmay, Ont., (near Walkerton) and that he lived alone
She said Fetterly was at her Sudbury home in early December 1997, but left after they had a dispute.
“He owed her money for the phone bill and rather than paying it he went out and blew his money on booze and drugs,” his mother told police.
She took Fetterly back home Dec. 13 and didn’t see him again until Feb. 1 or 2, when he called to say he was coming home, taking both the bus and hitchhiking part of the way.
“He had been at (Riverside Drive in Sudbury) ever since, except the night of Feb. 9 when he didn’t make it home,” his mother said.
She also said he did not wear glasses.
The next agreed statement of facts dealt with Fetterly’s arrest Jan. 30, 1998, for stealing six porn magazines and one adult calendar from a convenience store in Walkerton.
When police saw him walking near the scene, “he was then observed dropping magazines on the sidewalk. Upon further investigation, he was seen kneeling over the pornographic magazines. John Fetterly was arrested for theft and possession of stolen property.”
“There was no actual or attempted use of violence by John Fetterly when he stole the magazines nor was there any threatened use of force,” the statement said.
He told police he had not been in Sudbury for about a year, which was not true, based on his mother’s evidence.
“Mr. Fetterly was not in police custody on Jan. 27, 1998,” the statement said.
Finally, information from Fetterly’s former neighbour in Mildmay was also entered into evidence.
Charlotte Kupferschmidt told police she believed Fetterly was in his apartment Jan. 26, 1998, the night before the murder.
“She arrived home around 11:45 p.m. and parked her car,” she told police.
“She saw Mr. Fetterly looking out of the east window of his apartment. He had a few whiskers. That’s all she noticed. She couldn’t tell what he was wearing.”
She heard the sound of a TV coming from his apartment and she said she could still hear it when she went to sleep around 1 a.m.
“After completing her Feb. 12, 1998, statement, Ms. Kupferschmidt told the officer who was taking the statement that she was not sure if she saw Mr. Fetterly on the Monday night or the Sunday before that, Jan. 25, 1998.”
She didn’t see him again until Feb. 1, 1998.
NEVER SAW HIM DRIVE
“Ms. Kupferschmidt told the police that she has never seen Mr. Fetterly drive. When asked ‘have you ever seen him in any cars?’ she replied, ‘whenever I see him he is walking. Just his mom and dad when they came down. One day I seen him hitchhiking towards Walkerton. That was before Christmas.’”
She added it takes two hours to walk to Walkerton from Mildmay.
When asked what Fetterly wore that winter, she said, “I know he had a jean jacket he wore all the time. He wore a sweater under it but I am not sure of the colour. I only saw him in white running shoes. I don’t recall seeing him with any gloves. He always wore a ball cap backwards on his head.”
With that, the defence ended its case. Closing arguments will take place Monday in front of the jury, with Gordon giving his charge to the jury later Monday or Tuesday.
CTVNewsNorthernOntario.ca will continue to bring updates on the case from the courtroom.
Find all the previous Sweeney murder case 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.
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