Victim impact statements heard in Renee Sweeney murder case
People close to Renee Sweeney and her family finally had their say in court Friday.
They were able to give victim impact statements 25 years after Sweeney was killed.
She was stabbed to death Jan. 27, 1998, while she was working as a part-time clerk at Adults Only Video on Paris Street in Sudbury.
The case was a mystery for 20 years until Robert Steven Wright was arrested for her murder in December 2018. Advancements in DNA technology linked him to DNA found under Sweeney’s fingernails. His fingerprints were also found under the cash drawer in the store and a witness saw him run from the scene.
Wright, now 43, was found guilty in March of second-degree murder. Seven of the jurors recommended he serve the full 25 years, two said 23 years before he’s eligible for parole, one said 22 years and two said 20 years.
Friday was the sentencing hearing.
FRIENDS AND FAMILY SPEAK
“Do you know what it's like to have lost your best friend to a senseless murder?” said Sweeney’s sister, Kim, in her statement.
“I have … There aren’t any words in the English dictionary that describe the hell that losing Renee has caused my family.”
Kim Sweeney said she had endured “7,623 days of personal torment” since her sister was killed.
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Robert Steven Wright, seen in photos close to the time of Renee Sweeney's murder in January 1998, is on trial for second-degree murder in Sudbury. (File)
As such a high-profile case, she said she was constantly reminded of what happened to Renee.
“I had to look at that jacket that was covered in the blood of my sister and be reminded of the brutality,” Kim said, a reference to the poster of the jacket Wright wore that police released during their investigation.
“I'm asking him to sentence him to the maximum sentence possible. We have lost 25 years of our life. He should get 25 years to think about what he's done.”
WRIGHT MAINTAINS HIS INNOCENCE
Wright spoke briefly at Friday’s hearing, again denying he was responsible for the crime.
“I would like to express my sincere sympathy to Renee's family and friends for what you've had to go through in losing a loved one,” he said.
“I empathize…. with their sadness and loss. However I am not responsible. I did not kill Renee Sweeney. That is the truth.”
His defence attorney, Michael Lacy, argued Wright should be eligible for parole after serving 10 years.
“In our submission, that is the appropriate eligibility for Mr. Wright,” Lacy said.
“The recommendations of the jury represented a misunderstanding of the instructions you gave him – or they demonstrated a lack of judicious in what is appropriate parole eligibility.”
The high-profile nature of the trial may have “influenced” the jury recommendations, Lacy added.
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 attack was clearly not premeditated, he said, and Wright was only 18 at the time. Since it happened, he has not gotten into trouble or behaved in an anti-social manner.
“I submit to your honour that he comes from a family that is going to be there and support him throughout this process,” Lacy said.
“The fact that the last 25 years and his pro-social involvement in the community demonstrates that he is someone that can be returned to the community safely.”
Crown prosecutor Rob Parsons said the facts of the case supported a sentence of 18 years before parole eligibility.
He said Wright left Sweeney to die and caused endless agony to her family, all because he had been caught stealing.
“It was a robbery gone wrong,” Parsons said.
“But can (you) imagine doing that to another human being over money and pornographic materials?”
Justice Robbie Gordon is expected to announce his sentence at a hearing June 29 at 9 a.m.
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