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Today marks the tragic anniversary of Renée Sweeney’s murder

On the anniversary of her sister’s death, Kim Sweeney tells the fear that violence brought to her family will never leave her
Renée Sweeney.

More than half of Kim Sweeney’s life has been marked by fear. 

After her sister, Renée, was murdered in a shocking and grisly crime at a video store that left the community shaken on this day, Jan. 27, in 1998, the younger Sweeney was never the same. Her mother, who was already struggling with multiple sclerosis, never walked again. 

From the moment she heard about her sister's murder, she has avoided, at all costs, walking alone. Whether outside, in a shopping mall, or even to and from her car, she asks for an escort. 

And even though Robert Steven Wright, the man the jury found guilty of the murder after a 2023 trial, has sat in a jail cell since 2018, Sweeney sold that old habits don’t break easily. 

Looking over her shoulder, jumping at every noise, 20 years of believing that her sister’s killer might jump out of the bushes, or confront her in a store, or even hurt her children, has become a part of her. She said she would look at everyone in town with a critical eye, asking, ‘could it be them, could that be who killed her?’

“After all this time, the fear is a part of me,” she said. 

And despite her best intentions, she said her children have also been marked by this fear. 

She didn’t want them to be, but she also couldn’t prevent them from hearing about her sister’s murder, posters with the bloody jacket and glove plastered all over the city; they were bound to hear, to ask questions, and she never lied to them. 

She had to protect them as best she could, she said. 

Siblings Renée and Kim Sweeney. File

This day in 1998 began like any other, until Sweeney’s mother and step-father, Carole and Bill Strachan, were watching the noon news. 

A flurry of activity was on the screen, and all of it in front of the Paris Street plaza store where their daughter Renée worked. Her car could be seen out front. 

Bill Strachan, a police officer, immediately drove to the scene to learn his daughter’s fate. Tragically, she had been stabbed 27 times, and left on the floor. Though attempts were made by a shop clerk and a doctor who happened to be nearby, they could not save Sweeney’s life.

That day, after hearing of the murder, Kim Sweeney drove to her mother’s house. Paralyzed with fear, she was unable to move from her car to the house without an escort. She was sure she was next. 

A death so random, so brutal, how could there not be a chance of danger, she said. 

Both Sweeney’s parents died without their daughter’s murder being solved. 

Sweeney said she tried to live as normal a life as possible, but she hasn’t been as successful as she wanted to be. 

“That was taken away from me.”

For instance, she went to Toronto for the first time last year, despite living in Sudbury all her life. 

Sweeney speaks of the constant reminders of her sister’s murder, whether the posters of the jacket and gloves that were stained with her sister's blood, or her sister's face, a graduation photo staring up at her from a newspaper.  

And while there was a community that cared for her, there were those who wanted to be a part of the spectacle. Whether that came through a conversation that would inevitably lead to interrogation about the facts of the case, or what she said was the occasional point or stare as she tried to go about her day, it was tough, she said. 

However, those who have stood by her, build walls of support. They keep others out, and Sweeney is protected inside. 

It’s not what she wanted for her life, she said, and certainly not what she wanted for her sister. 

But she has her boys, strong, kind, empathetic young men, and friendships forged in fire, never to be broken; the kind for which many only dream. 

But Sweeney said she will never be the same, especially on the days that remind her of the pain. 

Though she hoped the trial would give her closure, the appeal filed and charges of forcible confinement and sexual assault now laid against Wright (though not proven in court) make it difficult to move on, Sweeney said. 

For now, she will try. She will be soothed by memories, those of her sister reading her Care Bears books when they were children, memories that are sweet only now, as they only made her weep before. 

She remembers hours on the phone as they grew into the women they’d always wanted to be, but also, the way she hurt every time she went to call her sister, and had to remember that she was gone. 

Grief is a thunderstorm that never passes, only abates for a time, before the lightning strikes again. 

For Sweeney, that lightning is always around the corner, and it may always be. 

Jenny Lamothe is a reporter at

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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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