Crown witness testimony at the Greg Fertuck murder trial has drawn into question a theory from the defence that Sheree Fertuck was embroiled in a rivalry with another gravel hauler.
A friend and mechanic of Sheree’s, Gary Decker, would talk with her a few times a week. He told court Sheree never voiced animosity about a competitor from the area.
Sheree and the competitor referred to by the defence worked for the same rural municipality, according to the witness. In one instance, Decker said the competitor told Sheree about another job she could do because his trucks were tied up.
“She never badmouthed him,” Decker testified Friday, saying the competitor never spoke poorly of Sheree either. Decker called the competitor a “very good friend” of his.
Decker described Sheree as a “very friendly person,” who was physically strong and skilled at running her family’s gravel operation.
Decker, a resident of the Clear Spring Hutterite Colony, had Sheree and her mother over for a meal the evening before the disappearance. The witness said everything seemed normal: Sheree was laughing and joking around. She was also looking forward to taking time off work in the coming month to babysit her grandchild.
Prior to going missing, Sheree had hired Greg Fertuck to haul gravel for her, but Decker said Sheree eventually told her estranged husband she “didn’t need him anymore.”
Greg Fertuck had been staying at Sheree’s family farm near the gravel pit. When Decker teased Sheree about whether they had been romantic, Decker said she replied: “absolutely not.”
Defence lawyer Morris Bodnar previously suggested to one of the Fertucks’ adult children, Lanna, that her parents were reconciling. Lanna disagreed.
In his opening statement, Crown prosecutor Cory Bliss said Greg Fertuck spoke with an undercover police officer, and told him he’d murdered Sheree on Dec. 7, 2015. Bliss said the accused shot Sheree with a .22 calibre rifle, used a front-end loader to move her body into a pickup truck and then disposed of it somewhere.
The confrontation, according to the Crown, happened at the gravel pit near Kenaston, Sask., roughly 85 kilometres south of Saskatoon.
Despite Sheree’s body never being found, Greg Fertuck was charged in June 2019. Bliss said it was the culmination of an undercover police operation.
The method is known as Mr. Big sting, where police pose as members of a criminal group and befriend a suspect. The goal is to produce a confession from the suspect, though opponents often compare the approach to entrapment and say it elicits false confessions.
Greg Fertuck has pleaded not guilty to charges of first-degree and offering an indignity to a body.
The Crown has stated it expects all of its evidence at trial to be entered in a voir dire hearing, meaning Justice Richard Danyliuk will have to decide if it is admissible in the judge-alone trial.
Court heard testimony from RCMP Cpl. Linda Schmalz, who obtained Sheree’s cell phone records. Her outgoing calls on the morning she was last seen included a 14 second call with Greg Fertuck at 10:33 a.m., an 83 second call to Affinity Credit Union five minutes later, and a two second call with Greg Fertuck at 11:17 a.m.
Sheree made calls to other people in between speaking with the financial institution and her subsequent call with her estranged husband.
Court heard Thursday that Sheree’s competitor initially won a bid for a gravel contract near Hanley, Sask., but lost it after discrepancies in his deliveries. Sheree took over the contract and installed a scale in her front-end loader to ensure her deliveries were accurate.
On Friday, Dylan Desrosiers, a trucker who worked for Sheree, said she showed him how to operate the loader, use the scale and print tickets reflecting the weight of the gravel he loaded.
Court also heard from volunteer firefighters involved in the search effort, who initially thought Sheree may have been trapped beneath gravel after a pile collapse.
Read more: How do Mr. Big sting operations work?
Desrosiers said he never felt unsafe in the pit.
“You wouldn’t go near the piles of gravel unless you were in a machine, so you’d have nothing to worry about,” he testified.
The Fertuck murder trial is scheduled for eight weeks at Saskatoon’s Court of Queen’s Bench.
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