Rural couple discovered rifle used to kill Sheree Fertuck, Crown alleges as new evidence presented

·4 min read
This tactical Ruger 10/22 was discovered by the Williams family in a rural area west of Saskatoon in November 2021. A forensic specialist linked it to shell casings found at the gravel pit where Sheree Fertuck is believed to have been killed, court heard Friday. (Kendall Latimer/CBC - image credit)
This tactical Ruger 10/22 was discovered by the Williams family in a rural area west of Saskatoon in November 2021. A forensic specialist linked it to shell casings found at the gravel pit where Sheree Fertuck is believed to have been killed, court heard Friday. (Kendall Latimer/CBC - image credit)

A Saskatchewan family was moving a wooden grain bin in a rural area west of Saskatoon last November when they discovered a weapon.

"Holy shit. Is that what I think it is?" Courtney Williams recalled her husband's reaction when she showed him the gun that had been tucked away underneath the bin.

It was a Ruger 10/22 rifle with a black folding stock.

Courtney and her husband, Dean Williams, were called to testify Friday at Court of Queen's Bench in Saskatoon at the first-degree murder trial of Greg Fertuck.

Crown prosecutors are suggesting that the gun the couple found was used by Fertuck to kill his wife, Sheree, in December 2015.

She was 51 years old when she disappeared from the rural gravel pit where she worked near Kenaston, Sask.

Greg Fertuck was arrested and charged with murder in 2019 at the conclusion of an elaborate undercover sting operation. During that operation, he told undercover officers that he shot Sheree twice at the gravel pit with a Ruger 10/22 and that he had ditched the gun west of Saskatoon, court previously heard.

Fertuck has since denied that version of events and pleaded not guilty.

Submitted by Johanna Branigan
Submitted by Johanna Branigan

Sheree's body has never been found, despite several police searches. Until a few months ago, no weapon believed to be linked to the case had been found either.

Justice Richard Danyliuk is presiding over the judge-alone trial, which has been underway since September 2021. The Crown's case against Fertuck relies on evidence obtained in the undercover police operation, so the entirety of its case was called within a voir dire — a trial within a trial, intended to determine the admissibility of evidence.

Justice Danyliuk was expected to release his decision on the voir dire March 30.

However, Crown prosecutor Cory Bliss applied to reopen the voir dire after news of the gun surfaced.

'We should probably hand this in'

On Friday, Courtney and Dean Williams told the court that in November 2021, they were moving a bin from a friend's piece of land onto their own. Their friend, who was also called to testify, had purchased the land in 2020.

The couple used fence posts underneath the bin to help manoeuvre it out of the spot. Once they got it out of the way, Courtney went back to clean up the posts.

Courtney said she spotted what seemed like a piece of worn metal with plastic on top.

"I didn't see the hand grip for the gun until I picked it up," she said.

Kendall Latimer/CBC
Kendall Latimer/CBC

The square bin had been raised off the ground a few inches on skids, and Courtney Williams estimated the gun was only tucked a couple of inches underneath it.

Her husband — who is familiar with firearms — had initially planned to keep the gun and use it. The couple took pictures of the gun. They also told their friends about what they found and showed it to them.

After that, Dean's friend sent him a news article about testimony from the Fertuck trial that had been published in the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix newspaper. It described the Ruger 10/22 that Greg told undercover police officers about.

The description seemed to match the mysterious gun they'd come upon. After that, Dean became "extremely nervous" that the gun was possibly linked to a killing.

"I think we should probably hand this in," Dean told his wife. He handed it over to the police detachment in Biggar, Sask., explaining the suspected connection.

Forensic specialist testifies

Crown prosecutor Carla Dewar called RCMP forensic specialist Kenneth Chan to testify as an expert witness on firearms and ballistics.

He had testified earlier in the trial about two shell casings that were located in 2016 by police officers sweeping the gravel pit for evidence linked to Sheree's disappearance.

They were found right by her abandoned semi-truck.

Chan analyzed characteristics from the shell casings found at the pit and compared them with the markings left on casings taken from test fires done with the Ruger 10/22. He said there was sufficient agreement between the characteristics to conclude the two casings found at the pit were fired from the Ruger 10/22 found west of Saskatoon.

The defence was granted time to decide whether they would call their own evidence in response to Friday's reveal. The matter has been adjourned for a case management conference next week.

Justice Danyliuk will need to decide whether to accept this evidence — or any other evidence called during the voir dire — as well as the weight he will give to the evidence he accepts.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting