Jeff Sagen's voice cracked as he stood outside a Saskatoon courthouse and described the relief of finally taking the stand and getting a chance to clear his name in Sheree Fertuck's disappearance.
"It was very hard on my head because I would never have anything to do with something like Sheree disappearing," Sagen said in an interview after testifying Friday at Court of Queen's Bench.
Greg Fertuck is on trial, charged with first-degree murder in Sheree's disappearance in 2015.
Sagen, 56, runs a 7,600-acre grain and cattle operation east of Kenaston, Sask. He also has a side business hauling gravel with his brother Ken. His entry into the gravel business, he testified, came when Sheree taught him how to spread gravel.
They were one year apart in school and had grown up in the area south of Saskatoon.
Sagen and Fertuck competed for contract
The defence had suggested through earlier witnesses, both at the trial and the preliminary hearing, that Sagen had ill feelings toward Sheree because they both hauled gravel and that she had beaten his bid on a lucrative contract months before she went missing.
Prosecutor Carla Dewar asked Sagen whether the pair had a contentious relationship.
"I didn't feel that way at all. I was happy she was working. I knew she was a single parent with kids," he said.
As for the contract, Martin Koyle with Texcana Logistics testified earlier in the trial.
Texcana was the company responsible for the contract and was developing a fertilizer terminal for Blair's Fertilizer near Hanley, Sask., which required a lot of gravel. During his testimony, Koyle explained the finer details of the contract, which he said totalled about $1.5 million.
Koyle said the company had initially hired Sagen over Sheree because his bid prices were lower. However, they started suspecting Sagen of shorting the company with his loads.
They hired a third party to measure the amounts, and the third party reported discrepancies, according to Koyle. He said the company paid Sagen out, holding back the amount they thought they were shorted, and hired Sheree a few months later, when they needed more gravel.
On Friday, Sagen testified that he'd been using a different loader and simply miscalculated the amount he delivered.
"I was embarrassed, and we made it right," he said.
Dewar asked whether he resented Sheree picking up the contract.
"No, she had a family to fend for."
Then Dewar asked Sagen directly whether he had anything to do with Sheree Fertuck disappearing.
"No," he replied.
Trial to hear from RCMP on Monday
Despite being the source of rumours, Sagen said outside court that he believes people in the small farming community did not suspect him in Sheree's disappearance. He added that he had the support of his family.
"They said, 'You got nothing to worry about because you didn't do anything. Just tell the truth and that's all you can do,'" he said.
The trial will turn Monday to RCMP members who participated in the undercover sting that led to the charge against Greg Fertuck.
Though Sheree's body has never been found, her semi-trailer was found at the gravel pit near Kenaston on Dec. 8, 2015 — the day after she was last seen.
The prosecution alleges that Greg shot Sheree twice during a confrontation at the pit, where she worked, and then moved her body to another location. Greg has pleaded not guilty to the charge of first-degree murder.
The theory is based on disclosures Greg made to undercover police officers posing as criminals in an elaborate operation known as a "Mr. Big sting" in 2019.
The admissibility of these statements has yet to be determined by Justice Richard Danyliuk.
The judge-alone trial, which began Sept. 7, is now entering its fifth week.