Greg Fertuck's murder trial adjourned for final decision after closing arguments

A sketch of Greg Fertuck appearing in Court of King's Bench in Saskatoon on Feb. 20, 2024.  (Kyle Martin/Kyle Martin Designs - image credit)
A sketch of Greg Fertuck appearing in Court of King's Bench in Saskatoon on Feb. 20, 2024. (Kyle Martin/Kyle Martin Designs - image credit)

Greg Fertuck insists he did not kill his estranged wife, despite what he told undercover police officers back in 2019.

He maintained this denial during final submissions at his murder trial in Saskatoon on Monday.

Fertuck is charged with first-degree murder and offering an indignity to a human body. He is accused of killing his 51-year-old estranged wife Sheree and disposing of her remains in 2015.

He was arrested for murder after confessing to the crime. This confession came in 2019 at the end of an elaborate undercover police investigation known as a Mr. Big sting.

The judge-alone murder trial began at Saskatoon's Court of King's Bench (then called Court of Queen's Bench) in September 2021. The case has been delayed several times for various reasons, including COVID-19 and the discovery of the alleged murder weapon.

Fertuck has been representing himself in court since his lawyers withdrew from the case in October 2022.

During final submissions, Fertuck said he had no reason to harm Sheree and suggested the judge consider others who may have had reason. He noted that some of Sheree's work equipment had been vandalized prior to her disappearance.

He described the case against him as an "RCMP witch hunt," and suggested the Crown and police were only pushing forward because they spent "$670,000" and "don't have the evidence to prove their work."

After Fertuck spoke, the Crown spent nearly two hours going over the reasons prosecutors believe they've proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Greg killed Sheree.

Escalating tensions

It's been more than eight years since Sheree disappeared. She was a mother to three children, a grandmother to one and had a dog named Charles. Friends and family described her as a strong, reliable woman with no ongoing health concerns or issues.

She was involved in a contentious ongoing family law proceeding with Greg, involving divorce and property division.

Sheree hauled gravel with her semi truck out of a pit near Kenaston, Sask. Sometimes Greg worked for her. He was picking up shifts for her around the time she disappeared.

Crown prosecutor Cory Bliss said Fertuck had a clear motive to kill Sheree: frustrations over money.

At the time of her disappearance, Fertuck owed Sheree thousands of dollars in child support, couldn't access his large pension without her permission and was in financial distress, with accounts "consistently in overdraft."

A cancelled cheque

The final straw for Greg happened the morning Sheree disappeared, Bliss said.

That day, Sheree told her mother she was upset because she was going over the business books and realized Greg had claimed more hours than he had worked. She thought he had been overpaid.

Evidence shows that on the morning of Dec. 7, 2015, Sheree left a message on Greg Fertuck's phone, called the local credit union and inquired about cancelling a cheque, and then spoke on the phone with Greg for about one-and-a-half minutes.

She had a typical lunch with her mom and brother and then headed back to work at the gravel pit.

Sheree was never seen by her family again.

Sheree Fertuck's body has never been found.
Sheree Fertuck's body has never been found.

Sheree Fertuck was 51-years-old when she disappeared. (Submitted by Johanna Branigan)

The Crown says that in the beginning of the investigation into her disappearance, police considered multiple suspects. All but Greg Fertuck were ruled out.

Fertuck's cellphone records placed him at the gravel pit around the time of Sheree's suspected death. Police also discovered a spot of Sheree's blood in the back of his truck. There was known animosity between them.

In October 2017, Greg admitted to police that he was at the gravel pit that afternoon but insisted he didn't see Sheree. This wasn't enough for police to arrest Fertuck for murder.

The sting

Officers launched the undercover sting against Fertuck in 2018. They roped him into a fictitious blue-collar organization, where Fertuck worked — and formed friendships — with undercover officers. This group was meant to look like it operated in illegal circles, and Fertuck was under the impression they had connections that could help people get away with crimes.

By June 2019, Fertuck had been associating with the "gang" — the undercover officers — for several months. As the sting operation reached its climax, plainclothes police began to tail Fertuck. They let him know he was still a suspect in Sheree's disappearance.

The Crown says undercover officers encouraged Greg to tell the "truth" to the organization's boss, because he and his guys had the power to make problems like this go away for good.

Fertuck told the boss that, after an argument over money, he used a Ruger 10/22 rifle to shoot Sheree twice: once in her shoulder and then again in the back of the head to "put her out of her misery."

"That is murder," Bliss said.

Fertuck told the undercover officer that he was angry because Sheree was "taking everything" that he had worked for.

Greg Fertuck says his confession was made up 

Fertuck previously told CBC after his arrest that he made up a story about killing Sheree because he was afraid of the undercover officers. He did not make this claim in his closing arguments.

On Monday, Fertuck said he lied about killing Sheree because he was enticed by money and perks that came along with the fictitious organization.

He also said he was a lonely alcoholic at the time of the undercover sting, and while the friendships and the money he was paid might seem insignificant to the everyday person, they meant more to him. He also said the evidence shows he's willing to lie or make up stories about acts of violence in order to "look cool" or speak with "bravado."

In the Crown's submissions, Bliss argued against Fertuck's claim of making up the confession.

He noted Fertuck never denied being involved in Sheree's death, never insisted on his innocence, nor did he stray from his detailed story about how it happened. Bliss also pointed out that Fertuck told the crime boss he regretted killing Sheree.

"Why would someone making up a story add that detail?" Bliss questioned.

"He's not bragging, he's not exaggerating, he's not trying to make himself seem like he's a stone cold killer. He regrets it."

The weapon

Sheree vanished in December 2015. Shortly after her disappearance, the ground at the gravel pit was covered in heavy snow, which impeded the police investigation.

During April 2016, after the early spring melt, officers searched the pit for evidence. They found two spent gun shells in the entire area.

Police never released this information publicly.

In 2022, a rural couple randomly discovered a Ruger 10/22 hidden under an old grain bin in a remote area west of Saskatoon. The Crown argues this is the murder weapon.

A firearms expert testified at the trial that the rifle was used to fire the two shells found at the pit. A rifle magazine that Fertuck gave to the undercover police officers to be disposed of fit the gun.

During his closing submissions, Fertuck said the shells found at the pit couldn't be linked to him, saying they were nickel and yet only brass shells were found at his home.

Fertuck told the crime boss that he got rid of the gun in a rural area west of Saskatoon, but on Monday he pointed out that the location of the gun discovered by the rural couple was not totally consistent with that account.

While it didn't exactly match the description of where Fertuck told the undercover police, the Crown argued "its location is consistent with the direction and distance he said he traveled."

Decision scheduled for June

Sheree's body has never been found, despite many searches.

The absence does not discredit the confession, the Crown suggested, as remains can become degraded, scattered, scavenged or submerged over time.

Fertuck told the "crime boss" that he wasn't sure if he would be able to find Sheree's body, but drew a detailed map to the specific rural location where he disposed of the body and then led undercover officers there. He didn't refer to the map, but the directions were to the same spot.

They didn't search that area until 2019 — four years after Fertuck allegedly put Sheree's body there.

Fertuck insists he is innocent.

The onus is on the Crown to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt.

Bliss argued this case is a clear example of first-degree murder. He said Fertuck had a plan to kill Sheree when he drove to the isolated gravel pit to confront Sheree, equipped with a loaded, unregistered gun, gloves and thick plastic.

The judge is scheduled to release his decision on June 14, 2024.

The Crown's evidence was submitted as part of a voir dire — a trial within a trial. Prosecutors closed their case after the judge ruled in September 2023 that all evidence gathered in the Mr. Big sting, and other evidence gathered against Fertuck, would be admissible to the trial.

LISTEN | A new episode of The Pit podcast digs into the voir dire decision: