Robert Wright

On December 12, 2018, the Greater Sudbury Police Service arrested 39-year-old Robert Steven Wright for the January 27, 1998 murder of 23-year-old Renée Sweeney in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada.

Sweeney was stabbed to death while working in the Adults Only Video Store on Paris Street – a very street in Sudbury. After the murder, the suspect was seen running down the street by a pair of women. A sketch of the suspect was prepared at the time. A blood-stained jacket was found at the scene, as well as a running shoe and a white cotton glove. Bloody fingerprints were also found on a cash tray.

Parabon Nanolabs first performed forensic phenotyping of the suspect in January of 2017, and a snapshot was released to the public. Parabon then conducted the FGG investigation in partnership with the Greater Sudbury Police Service.

At trial, the testimony of the DNA analyst indicated that the sample source was nail clippings from Sweeney’s right hand, and a High Sierra jacket found at the scene. The initial confirmation was made through kinship testing with Wright’s mother. Wright’s brother and then Wright himself were tested through surreptitious sampling. DNA from Wright’s father was found on a pair of white cotton garden gloves.

At the trial, Justice Robbie Gordon told the jury that the evidence from the genetic genealogical research was intended to show how Wright came to the attention of the police, and was not to be used as evidence to infer guilt – evidence of guilt is to be assessed by the forensic STR profile.

In August of 2019, the charges against Wright were downgraded from first-degree murder to second-degree murder. Wright was an 18-year-old high school student at Laurentian Composite at the time of Sweeney’s murder. Wright’s lawyers were denied a change of venue, stating that an impartial jury could be selected in Sudbury. Wright also unsuccessfully sought bail review a number of times, and his case was delayed for over 4 years before coming to trial. This will likely result in a pre-trial credit of 6 years should he be convicted, which may result in significantly reducing the time he needs to wait in order to seek release on parole.

Sweeney’s parents have both passed away, and her only remaining family is her younger sister, Kim Sweeney. She stated that she has been terrified of her sister’s killer for many years, and that it changed how she has lived her life. She states that the delays in the trial process have also been very hard on her.

Sergeant Robert Weston testified that hundreds of men were asked to provide DNA samples to test against the profile developed from biological material left at the crime scene. They were all eliminated as suspects. Police also stated that about 1600 potential suspects were investigated and eliminated during the course of the investigation. It was reported by the CBC News that this was, at the time, the largest mass collection of DNA of any police investigation in Canada’s history.

There was a wrongful arrest in the early days of the police investigation in this case. On February 11, 1998 police in Sudbury arrested and charged 31-year-old John Fetterly with first-degree murder. The charges were dropped, and he was released the next day. At Wright’s trial, then-office Rick Waugh testified that he had falsified evidence that Fetterly matched the fingerprints found at the crime scene, when they did not.

Wright was working as a laboratory technician in North Bay Regional Hospital at the time of his arrest. Wright’s murder trial was held in the Ontario Superior Court in February and March of 2023.

Wright testified in his own defence, claiming that he had found Sweeney in the shop and when he saw that she was injured and bleeding, he shook her shoulder and checked her pulse. He states that she must have scraped him during this exchange, and this is how his DNA ended up under her fingernails.

Wright claimed that he was feeling overwhelmed, and he had to grab onto something to stabilize himself. He explained that this is how his fingerprints and DNA ended up on the cash tray on the counter of the shop. He testified that he did not steal the missing cash. Wright then claims that he ran from the scene and discarded his bloody jacket and gloves because he was afraid of being blamed for Sweeney’s death.

The defence stated that the DNA evidence only connected Wright to the scene of the crime at the time it took place, but not the crime itself. They maintained that his DNA ended up under her fingernails when he checked her pulse, and that someone else had entered the store before him, killed Sweeney, washed up, and fled the scene.

Crown contended that the time that an alternative perpetrator would have had to have done this was on the order of about 3 minutes, and that they left no physical traces of their presence at the crime scene. They also noted that Wright’s behaviour evidenced a consciousness of guilt, and that he took steps to escape and hide his involvement with the crime.

The jury convicted Wright the following day, on March 29, 2023. The defence plans to appeal the verdict. They state that the case is a miscarriage of justice, as it is obvious that there was reasonable doubt as to the guilt of Wright.


Carmichael, Harold. “Jury Finds Robert Steven Wright Guilty of Renee Sweeney’s Murder.” Toronto Sun, March 29, 2023. Accessed March 31, 2023.

Carmichael, Harold. “Twenty-Five Years After She was Murdered, Renée Sweeney Case Headed to Trial.” Sudbury Star, January 2, 2023. Last modified January 3, 2023. Accessed March 9, 2023.

Juric, Sam. “Crown Asks Steven Wright How His DNA was Found Under Sweeney’s Fingernails.” CBC News, March 14, 2023. Accessed March 31, 2023.

Juric, Sam. “‘Worst Decision in My Life was to Run’: Steven Wright Testifies at Renée Sweeney Trial.” CBC News, March 13, 2023. Accessed March 31, 2023.

Lamothe, Jenny. “Crown, Defence Make Final Arguments in Wright Murder Trial.” Elliot Lake Today, March 28, 2023. Accessed March 31, 2023.

Lamothe, Jenny. “Fingerprint, Shoeprint, DNA Experts Testify at Wright Hearing.” Elliot Lake Today, March 10, 2023. Accessed March 10, 2023.

Lamothe, Jenny. “Officer Who Made Wright’s 2018 Arrest Takes the Stand.” Soo Today, March 8, 2023. March 9, 2023.

MacDonald, Darren. “Trial Hears Details of How DNA Led to Arrest in Sweeney Murder Case.” CTV News, March 8, 2023. Accessed March 9, 2023.

White, Erik. “A Timeline of the Renée Sweeney Murder Case in Sudbury.” CBC News, February 21, 2023. Last modified February 24, 2023. Accessed March 8, 2023.



First Name Robert
Last Name Wright
Other Names
Victims 1 (Details)
IGG Started 2018-00-00
Case Cleared 2018-12-12
IGG Org Parabon


Case ID Name Age Case Opened Location Investigating Org Most Serious Charge Disposition Court
1867 Renee Sweeney 23 1998-01-27 Sudbury, ON Greater Sudbury PS Second degree murder Accused was convicted after a trial Ontario SUP CT

Last updated: February 9, 2024

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Case data and narrative licensed under CC BY 4.0: Dowdeswell, Tracey (2023), “Forensic Genetic Genealogy Project v. 2022”, Mendeley Data, V1, doi: 10.17632/jcycgvhm96.1. All other content, including photos, have been added.