A five-week murder trial for a man accused of killing his wife was set to start Monday but has been adjourned due to COVID-19 concerns.
The trial for Gregory Mitchell Fertuck has been rescheduled to Sept. 7, 2021, in Saskatoon Court of Queen’s, Bench according to a fiat issued March 26 by Saskatchewan Justice Richard Danyliuk.
“It is a first degree murder trial of some complexity, including evidence of an undercover police operation,” said Justice Danyliuk.
“The difficulty in proceeding as scheduled flows from COVID-19 and, in particular, the spike in COVID-19 variant cases in the Regina area as well as the health directives strongly discouraging travel. It is anticipated that over the next five weeks numerous witnesses, perhaps a dozen or more, would have to attend personally from Regina to testify in this case.”
There are key Crown witnesses that require personal attendance to ensure a fair trial and there are significant public health risks in allowing so many witnesses to travel to Saskatoon from the Regina district, said Justice Danyliuk.
“This Court takes the risks created by COVID very seriously. To ignore them would be foolhardy.”
Justice Danyliuk said today the defence sought an adjournment rather than take undue risks with the health and safety of the participants as well as the public.
“The defence waived the effects of any delay under the Charter,” he said. “The Crown’s preference was to proceed in some fashion.”
Justice Danyliuk said after reviewing the matter he concluded that in these unique circumstances there was no prudent choice other than to grant the defence’s request to adjourn the trial in its entirety.
“I understand fully the difficulty caused by such an adjournment but the safety of the people of Saskatchewan requires it.”
Many court matters can be handled remotely through the use of technology but this isn’t one of them, said Justice Danyliuk.
“That requirement, coupled with the current risks of travel in and out of Regina, results in proceeding with this trial as scheduled impossible. The health and safety risks are just too great.”
Fertuck, 67, is charged with first-degree murder and offering an indignity to human remains in connection to the disappearance and murder of his 51-year-old wife Sheree Fertuck in 2015.
Sheree, a mother of three and a gravel truck driver, was last seen on Dec. 7, 2015, leaving her family’s farmyard east of Kenaston to haul rock to a nearby gravel pit.
RCMP searched the area but Sheree’s body was never found.
In April 2016 police determined that Sheree was a victim of a homicide. Fertuck was arrested June 24, 2016, near Saskatoon.
Lisa Joy, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Battlefords Regional News-Optimist