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Officer says he falsified duty notes in Sweeney murder

Former Sudbury Regional Police forensic officer Rick Waugh also testified today that the blood evidence found under Renée Sweeney’s fingerprints was found to be of little value
Sudbury courthouse, Elm Street

A former Sudbury Regional Police officer testifying in the Robert Steven Wright murder trial admitted on the stand today to falsifying his duty notes, although he said he did it under duress.

Today was day eight of Wright’s second-degree murder trial for the killing of Renée Sweeney, the Laurentian University student who was stabbed to death at her workplace on Jan. 27, 1998. Wright’s highly publicized arrest in 2018 was achieved, Greater Sudbury Police said at the time, due to the weight of forensic evidence they allege ties the now 43-year-old man to 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 in which the video store where Sweeney worked was located. Since his arrest, he has been denied bail four times.**

Testimony today (March 7) continued on the forensic investigation done by then Sudbury Regional Police Const. Rick Waugh, which began yesterday.

Waugh worked under then Sergeant Leo Thibeualt, who testified on March 1

Among a complete retelling of his evidentiary findings, Waugh testified that on Feb. 10, 1998, two weeks after the murder, he falsified his duty notes in relation to one of the two fingerprints found on the cash box near the victim, labelled and referred to as R-46 in his notes. The other fingerprint is labelled R-127.

“My entry in my notebook on Feb. 10 is not accurate as to how the fingerprint was identified,” said Waugh. “I listened to people I shouldn't have listened to, Evanochko, and he told me that because it was my case I needed to take the lead and make the identification. My notes reflect that I made the identification,” which he now says he did not, in fact, make. 

“Evanochko” refers to former Sudbury Regional police officer and forensic investigator, Bill Evanochko. On March 1, former Sudbury Regional Police forensic officer Todd Zimmerman testified that he recognized several points in a fingerprint he took from John Fetterly, who had been arrested on another matter, that he thought might link him to the Sweeney murder. 

Zimmerman testified he took his suspicion to officer Bill Evanochko, who was working in fingerprint identification. Zimmerman said Evanochko told him he, Evanochko, had identified the cash box print as Fetterly’s, testifying “that he ID’d the right thumb of Fetterly as making the imprint on the cash box.”

Waugh said he falsified his duty notes under Evanochko’s direction, but did not agree at the time that the cash box print belonged to Fetterly. He said he felt compelled to concede to the wishes of a superior officer.

He testified he continued to look at the prints, doubting the accuracy of the match, and was “shocked” when Fetterly was charged with Sweeney’s murder on Feb. 10, 1998, while already in custody on an unrelated matter.  

“I was shocked, I was upset, I was surprised,” testified Waugh. “First of all, I thought it was a joke.”

Waugh testified he was then sent to Mildmay, a community near Bruce County in southern Ontario, where Fetterly was registered as residing at an address on Absalom Street. 

From the residence, Waugh seized several items, he said. Those included a direct deposit form for family benefits, which showed Fetterly’s name and address, as well as a prescription pill bottle with the man’s name on it. 

A photo Waugh took of the bottle was shown to the jury. Beside the bottle in the photograph is a sheathed 10-12-centimetre (four to five inch) knife with a short, ornate handle.

Fetterly was arrested for the murder and police performed a search of his home and his mother’s home on Riverside Drive in Sudbury, where he was believed to be residing. They seized several knives in different areas of his mother’s house. 

Waugh took the jury through his evidence collection, aided by the evidence photos he took of both the scene and the individual items, each marked with the letter ‘R’ and a number denoting the order in which they were processed.

The fingerprint — R-46 — was attributed to Fetterly. There was another print, a thumb impression, marked R-127. Both were found on the cash tray behind the counter. 

Waugh testified he found no other prints in the store.

He testified the RCMP reported to the Sudbury Regional Police forensics office that they found the crime scene print was not a match for Fetterly and he was released with an apology on Feb. 12.

Waugh did note there were two more pieces of evidence related to Fetterly that he received on May 26, 1998: two cigarette butts, recently smoked by Fetterly. They were obtained by another officer and given to him to be put into evidence.

In addition to the fingerprints, Waugh offered testimony regarding the Brooks brand running shoe print found in the bathroom of the video store where Sweeney worked. The print was found after a chemical called Leucomalachite Green (LMG) was used to locate blood not visible to the naked eye. 

Waugh testified he took the shoeprint and called the then-president of Brooks Canada for help identifying the type of shoe it might have come from. He was directed to Sears in the New Sudbury Centre, as Sears was the only retailer of that specific model. 

Waugh testified he found a version of the shoe there that matched the print. It was a mostly black cross-trainer, black tread and black interior with white sides and black trim. Waugh said the sales clerk told him that of the 17 that had come to the store, they had only sold four pairs.

During Lacy’s cross-examination of Waugh, he noted that there was another shoe print found in the store, on a video box. It read “ooks” as though the “Br” had not imprinted, said Waugh. 

He also noted the knife in the picture Waugh took at Fetterly’s Mildmay residence was not immediately entered into evidence. Waugh testified that an officer Moxam (no first name or rank given) seized the knife as evidence, but did not turn it over to Thibeault until two days later, on Feb. 13. Though he was the officer noting the evidence found, Waugh did not receive the knife from Thibeault until Feb. 17, 1998.

Lacy then focused on the types of items that Waugh documented at the video store murder scene and how that documentation was performed, zeroing in on Waugh’s admission to falsifying his duty notes. 

“You attempted to obstruct justice and falsified your notes. Yes?” Lacy asked Waugh. “The pressures associated with a case like this can even affect a trained police officer … . You’re not perfect and you make mistakes, yes?” 

“Yes,” Waugh said.

“You fell into error as a result of peer pressure, correct?” Lacy asked, and Waugh agreed. 

Lacy focused questioning on the methods of collection Waugh used, and the areas where Waugh’s technique may have been lax and led to contamination of the evidence. 

This included items that were located inside the bathroom that was treated with blood-detector LMG. Photos of the bathroom before application of LMG were shown: a coffee cup to the left and soap dispenser to the right of the faucet on the sink. There is a tissue box and what appears to be air freshener on the lid of the toilet. When the photos featuring the reaction of the LMG with the blood are shown, those items are not present. 

Waugh said, to his knowledge, they were not tested, fingerprinted or photographed clearly.  

Neither was the locking mechanism on the front door where blood was found using LMG, or the poster on the door, he said in response to Lacy’s questioning. 

Lacy also asked Waugh about Sweeney’s hands, and if each hand had been bagged individually to protect evidence that might be under her fingernails. Waugh said they had not been. 

Lacy also asked if it was possible that Sweeney’s hands had been moved as she was covered in a sheet and placed into a body bag by the removal service and if so, could her own blood have contaminated what evidence had been under her fingernails. 

Waugh said he did not know for sure, but under further questioning, added that when he sent Sweeney’s fingernail clippings to the Centre for Forensic Sciences for further testing, he was told the quality of blood on them made meaningful analysis difficult. 

“There was too much blood for them to be of value,” Waugh said the centre reported.

Given that in his opening statement Crown prosecutor Kevin Ludgate said Robert Steven Wright’s family DNA was found under Renee Sweeney’s fingernails, the Centre of Forensic Science’s finding that the blood evidence found under those fingernails wasn’t of value was surprising testimony.

Waugh will take the stand again tomorrow, March 9 at 10 a.m. for further cross-examination by Lacy and re-examination by Ludgate. 

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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