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Investigating officers take the stand in Wright murder trial

Three officers who were among the first investigators on scene in 1998 following the murder of Renée Sweeney describe the early stages of the investigation
Sudbury courthouse, Elm Street

On the fourth day of the second-degree murder trial against Robert Steven Wright, it was law enforcement’s turn to walk the jury through the initial police investigation. 

That testimony began with the investigation and the canine unit search that took place in the minutes and hours following the Jan. 27, 1998, discovery of murder victim Renée Sweeney’s body on the floor of the Paris Street video store where she worked. 

Wright, now 43, was arrested in December, 2018, for Sweeney’s murder. Wright was an 18-year-old high school student in 1998 who lived at home with his parents in Val Caron, but attended a high school a short walk from the plaza at 1500 Paris Street.**

Today’s witness included three law enforcement officers. Jason Katz, now a detective-sergeant with the OPP Northeast Regional Police, was a uniform patrol officer with Sudbury Regional Police at the time. Retired Sault Ste. Marie Police Chief Robert Keetch was a sergeant with the Sudbury Regional Police in 1998. GSPS officer Brian MacRury, also since retired, was a constable with the canine unit at the time of the murder. 

Katz, testifying first, said he began his day at 7 a.m. on Jan. 27, 1998, attending a court appearance mid-morning. He was travelling back to Walden over the Bridge of Nations when he got the call that someone had been shot at 1500 Paris Street, which was what witnesses initially thought happened.  

He told Crown prosecutor Robert Parsons that he arrived at the strip mall around 11:40 a.m. that day.

"I was coming in hot, emergency equipment activated," Katz said.

Only two years on the job and the first officer on scene, he said he went inside with his gun drawn.

As the windows of the business are opaque, he was unable to see inside, except by opening the door.

“I opened the door and I didn’t know what to expect when I went in there,” he said. “But, I was prepared to do what I had to do to answer the call.”

He went in, he said, and yelled “Police!” He heard a woman's voice from his right, he said, and went towards it. It was Dr. Krista Jonas and Carol Gosselin, who testified Feb. 27 that they attempted to render first aid to Sweeney shortly after her murder. 

Katz said he knew there was a bad scene before he saw the body, judging by the pools of blood on the floor that he noted as he entered. 

“It was more than a finger cut,” he said. 

Katz detailed for the court his next steps as he went through his investigation, noting that he touched nothing on the scene, nor did he witness anyone else move or touch items. 

In the store was Gosselin, Jonas, two paramedics and a student paramedic, said Katz. He made sure they all left the scene. 

“I made sure the building was empty, and from there I treated it as a crime scene.”

Katz kept logs of who went in and out of the store, all authorized. 

Under cross-examination, defense co-counsel Michael Lacy asked if, while he had observed the attendants removing Sweeney’s body, if her hands had been bagged separately. No, Katz replied. He also asked if Katz had a conversation with a man named Ray Hutchinson. 

Katz checked his notes and said he took his information. Under further questioning, Katz agreed when Lacy confirmed that at 2:36 p.m., “you made a notation about interaction with Hutchinson.” The note said Hutchinson, an employee of a computer store in the same plaza as the video store, approached Katz at his vehicle. Katz testified that Hutchinson told him he had seen someone running away from the video store around the time of the incident. Katz took Hutchinson’s name, address, phone and date of birth, before passing it to another officer. 

This testimony aligns with that of the first four witnesses in the trial. All four testified they had seen a man fleeing the store; two testified he ran past them as they entered the video store. They described him as tall and thin, a young man with oval-shaped, wire-frame glasses, and short hair. 

When former Sault police chief Robert Keetch took the stand, he recalled significant snowfall the day he got the call about a murder at the Adults Only Video. He came into town from his Long Lake Road house, and arrived at 12:02 p.m.

He made cursory observations of the scene, and Sweeney, and canvassed the first responders for information.

Keetch took the statements of the man and woman who testified they entered the store and discovered Sweeney. He said he interviewed each person separately, in the back of his car. 

When forensic officers arrived, he re-entered the store for another examination of the scene, before beginning to canvas again. 

He also orchestrated the composite sketch to be created with the couple. However, he testified he did not agree with the release of that sketch to the media, because of the subjective nature of the evidence.

When released, police said the “composite may be of witness/suspect.”

“My opinion is that the release of the composite generated a tremendous amount of tips, and very quickly the investigation became bogged down,” said Keetch. “It took a great deal of effort and a great deal of time to work through those tips.”

Keetch also spoke with the couple, whose names are under a publication ban, to ask if the jacket that had been found during a canine search could be the same item they saw an individual carrying as he ran past them on the way out of the store, just before they discovered Sweeney’s body. 

That canine search had been completed by MacRury and his dog, Officer Oakey, a male german shepherd. 

Retired canine unit officer Brian MacRury detailed the path he took with Oakey, the male German shepherd he worked with. He described the dog as following a human scent in a manner that was strong, solid and without hesitation. He testified he took Oakey to begin in an area where they could be sure the only scent would be the individual they were seeking. MacRury testified he found footprints, but Oakey found a scent, and followed it. It was Oakey who noticed the blue jacket and gloves discarded in the area, though neither MacRury or Oakey approached the evidence. They continued their track, leaving an officer to guard the jacket and gloves, MacRury testified. Though they found a strong track of scent, no other evidence was found. 

Keetch testified that showed a photo of the jacket to the male and female witness, and noted he kept the photo taped to the back of his notebook. 

Keetch became the primary investigator, and after detailing his work to the jury, was asked by Lacy during cross examination if he was familiar with the name John Fetterly. 

Keetch said he was. Keetch said an investigator had linked Fetterly to the case through a right thumbprint that was found on the cashbox.

As well, Hutchinson, the man that told Katz he had seen a man fleeing the scene, gave a statement to police and looked at a police photo lineup. Keetch said Hutchinson picked Fetterly as the man he saw. 

A search warrant was issued for the residence most associated with Fetterly, his mother’s, at 26 Riverside Dr. At the residence, police seized knives in a plastic bag, found in his mother’s dresser drawer, a brown-handled jackknife from a grey work coat, a green work shirt, blue jeans from Fetterly’s room, a potato knife with a black plastic handle from off a coffee table and a buck knife from the bottom of a kitchen drawer. 

Fetterly’s criminal record up to Jan. 27, 1998, was also detailed. It included four assault charges, one of uttering threats and two for theft or break and enter.

As well today, Lacy introduced into evidence a statement from Pierre Rivers, a community mental health worker who knew Fetterly through his work. Rivers’ statement detailed an interaction he had had with Fetterly around the time of the murder. Keetch confirmed for Lacy that the statement was Rivers’, as taken by another officer.

Rivers has since passed away, which is why his statement from 25 years ago, rather than his testimony, was introduced.

In his statement, Rivers told police Fetterly “liked to talk about weapons, especially knives,” and had brought a knife to an appointment with Rivers and another worker. In an incident on Feb. 12, 1998, Rivers stated Fetterly had pulled a large “buck or pocket knife, about 4-6 inches” out of his pocket, “cuffing it by the handle,” but put it back in his pocket when Rivers asked. 

The trial will resume March 1 at 10 a.m. with continued testimony from MacRury. 

Jenny Lamothe is a reporter at

**Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated Robert Steven Wright lived with his parents within walking distance of the murder scene.

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Jenny Lamothe

About the Author: Jenny Lamothe

Jenny Lamothe is a reporter with She covers the diverse communities of Sudbury, especially the vulnerable or marginalized.
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