Sheree Fertuck tried to legally end her relationship with her estranged husband, but the separation was never finalized, court heard on Tuesday, the sixth day of Greg Fertuck's first-degree murder trial.
Instead, the two spent years fighting about property division and money, Sheree Fertuck's lawyer, Tammi Hackl, testified.
"She wanted a divorce," said Hackl, a lawyer specializing in family law.
But Sheree had demands she wanted met before they split. Her biggest concerns centred around the family home, about one-third of Greg's pension, child support, and what she believed to be a fair division of assets — not a 50-50 split, Hackl testified.
Greg Fertuck is on trial Saskatoon's Court of Queen's Bench, accused of killing Sheree on Dec. 7, 2015 — the last day she was seen alive. The 51-year-old woman's body has never been found.
He has pleaded not guilty.
The Crown's case relies on a complicated undercover police operation, known as a "Mr. Big" sting. Court has heard the months-long sting elicited a confession from Greg, who told undercover officers that he shot Sheree twice at the gravel pit where she worked.
Hackl told the court on Tuesday that the couple split in late 2011 and Sheree started divorce proceedings in 2012.
Sheree never indicated she and Greg were reconciling, Hackl said, but she was concerned about legal costs and was keen on settling the divorce out of court.
Court heard Greg had taken out a $50,000 loan against the house and Sheree's name was removed as an owner of the home to ensure he alone would be responsible for that. She wanted the home to be hers.
Hackl testified that at one point, Sheree asked her to seek to have Greg's wages garnished in an effort to get child support that he wasn't paying. By the time a pretrial proceedings began in 2018, Greg reportedly owed between $26,000 to $33,000 in unpaid child support.
Hackl said that Sheree also blocked Greg from accessing money, determined to settle the legal separation first. He needed her permission to access funds in his locked-in retirement account. Greg allegedly wanted $15,000 of the $427,000 but Sheree wouldn't grant permission, court was told.
Hackl said her last conversation with Sheree was in October 2015.
Sheree told Hackl she believed Greg was ill and was worried about what would happen with their division if he died. Hackl said she advised Sheree to push toward a formal settlement but Sheree again insisted she wanted to resolve the property and child support issues out of court.
Hackl said Sheree's property guardian, her son, waived the child support arrears and that Sheree's estate ultimately came out $16,000 ahead in the agreement. The total amount of assets up for division equalled $790,000 at the time of the 2018 matter.
DNA evidence, statement from mother
Hackl was one of several Crown witnesses to testify Tuesday.
At the end of the day, court also heard an audio statement Juliann Sorotski, Sheree's mother, made to police two days after Sheree went missing. At that point, police were asking Sorotski, who died in 2018, about potential suspects in Sheree's disappearance.
Sorotski suggested that a business competitor of Sheree's could have been a potential suspect in her disappearance, but she also pointed to Greg as a possible suspect. She said in the statement he had been physical with Sheree and verbally threatened her before.
Sorotski told police that Greg told her "I should have just got rid of her [Sheree] and then I would be done with her." She recalled telling him, "You're going to end up in jail and the kids will have nobody."
Susan Borys, a DNA expert, also testified on Tuesday. She spoke about a blood spot found on Greg's truck.
Earlier in the trial, an RCMP officer testified about examining Greg's truck for forensic evidence a little more than a week after Sheree disappeared. Officers detected a tiny blood spot on the tailgate of his vehicle.
Borys testified by video from Ottawa, where she is team lead of the DNA analysis unit with the the RCMP National Forensic Laboratory Services.
She said the DNA taken from the blood spot in Greg's truck was "identical" to the profile taken from the DNA on Sheree's razor. The chance of the sample matching with an unrelated Caucasian Canadian at random would be exceptionally small, she testified — one in 68 quintillion (68 with 18 zeroes).
The lab also analyzed other areas in the truck, boots and shop towels, but no conclusive results were detected Borys told the court.
She testified that cleaning agents such as detergent, OxiClean or bleach could potentially degrade DNA evidence.
During cross-examination by defence lawyer Mike Nolin, she confirmed that there are limitations of DNA testing.
"I can't say how the DNA got there or when it got there," Borys said.
She also confirmed that she did not receive samples from Sheree's alleged competitors in the gravel business. The lab also didn't receive samples from Sheree's mom, who owned the home where Sheree's razor was located.
The judge-only trial is being presided over by Justice Richard Danyliuk, who will decide what evidence from the Mr. Big sting will be admissible to the trial once the Crown concludes its case.
The trial is scheduled for eight weeks and continues Wednesday, when Sheree and Greg's son is expected to testify.