No body, no closure: Sisters seek justice as emotional Sheree Fertuck trial looms
Sheree Fertuck's estranged husband Greg is charged with 1st-degree murder, though her body hasn't been found
A lot can happen in four years. The last time anyone saw Sheree Fertuck, she was leaving her family farmhouse after lunch with her mom on Dec. 7, 2015.
Sheree, 51, climbed into her semi-truck to go back to the gravel pit where she worked and she was never seen again.
Today, Sheree's mom has died of natural causes. The family farmhouse has been sold. Her gravel-hauling business has shut down. And her estranged husband, Greg Fertuck, is in jail, awaiting trial for her alleged murder.
On the fourth anniversary of Sheree Fertuck's disappearance, her sisters, Teaka White and Michelle Kish, spoke to CBC News for the first time about the loss of their oldest sibling, the potential of an emotional trial, and their hopes that new information can end the search for her body.
"At this point, it's just been so long and I think we just need closure for that, and we want to give her a proper funeral and burial and whatnot," said Michelle Kish.
"And justice. We want whoever did this to her to be convicted and put in jail for a very long time."
Sheree's disappearance is the focus of a seven-part CBC investigative podcast called The Pit, the culmination of a year-long effort to uncover new information about the case.
A day after she went missing, Sheree's semi-truck was found abandoned at the gravel pit where she worked near Kenaston, Sask., about 80 kilometres southeast of Saskatoon. Her coat, keys and cellphone were still inside.
In June 2019, her estranged husband was charged with first-degree murder and causing an indignity to a body in connection with her alleged homicide. A month later, he told CBC he is innocent and that he will plead not guilty to the charges.
Greg Fertuck was arrested at the conclusion of an undercover police operation using the controversial Mr. Big technique, in which undercover officers try to elicit a confession by posing as members of a fictitious criminal organization.
He told the undercover RCMP officers he "got rid of" Sheree and "threw her in the bush," then led them to a rural location near Saskatoon to hunt for the body. He later told CBC it was not true — that he made the story up because he was afraid of the men, who he thought were criminals.
"We went out supposedly looking for the body — well, there is no body," Fertuck said in an interview last July at the Saskatoon Correctional Centre. "So we just drove around to these different places because it was all BS. I didn't kill her and there was no body out there."
A team of RCMP officers searched a section of rolling green fields near the gravel pit in the days after Greg Fertuck's arrest, but Sheree's body has not been found.
In Teaka White's basement, there is a black-and-white photograph taken at the family farm near Kenaston, about a 30 minute drive from her own home in Davidson, Sask. She and her four siblings are hanging from the side of a piece of heavy machinery. Sheree is smiling at the bottom left, her parents, Juliann and Michael Sorotski, are to her right.
Their mom never gave up hope that her daughter would be found, White said.
Sorotski was the matriarch of the family. She spoke to reporters every year on Dec. 7 to keep her daughter's case in the public eye.
We're going to hear details. We're going to hear all that evidence — that's going to be hard.- Michelle Kish, Sheree Fertuck's sister
But privately, her world grew smaller after Sheree's disappearance. She limited her trips to town so she could stay close to the phone and always took calls from telemarketers — hoping it would be her daughter's voice on the line.
"My mom never got any closure, right? … For three years, I'm sure she thought about Sheree day-in and day-out, which, in turn, I'm sure led to her sickness and her death," said White.
In early 2018, Sorotski had told CBC she was optimistic her daughter's case would be solved. But she died from cancer in July of that year without any answers.
'It just ate her alive'
White doesn't think the person responsible for her sister's disappearance has any understanding of the domino effect it has had on the people left behind, including Sheree's three children and two grandchildren.
"I have to believe that mom and dad and Sheree are all together [now], because that's what I believe. And I'm sure mom has all her answers now," said White. "She's at peace, she's not worrying, she's not suffering. But [it's] bad for us left behind.
White said it's been especially hard for Sheree's children, who were teens when their mother disappeared and very close with their grandmother. "When Sheree went missing, mom, she basically stepped in to help those kids."
Sheree's other sister, Michelle, said knowing their mom died without answers has been one of the hardest things for the family to handle. "It just ate her alive, the not knowing, the wondering, the hoping, the praying. It consumed my mom."
Kish lives in Chestermere, Alta., having moved away from her hometown of Kenaston in 1989.
On a calm morning in November, bright light reflecting off fresh snow outside, she recalled her memories of growing up on the family farm.
"Sheree was … kind of the tomboy of us girls, I would say," said Kish. "She didn't have a lot of boyfriends but she had a lot of friends."
Kish remembers Sheree as a responsible older sister — a protector for the younger siblings, who was always home by curfew.
Sheree would help out with the family's gravel business while Michelle worked with her mom in the kitchen and garden.
When they were both grown and married, Michelle remembers noticing Sheree was having problems at home.
"That's probably one of my biggest regrets … that I didn't maybe offer an ear more often or ask her about it," said Kish, crying. "I mean, we knew what was going on and I'm sure she knew how we felt. I do regret that I didn't, I don't know, try to help more.
"I guess you just figure that everybody deals with their own situations and that's life, right. It's not like she reached out. But I know if I ever brought it up, she would talk about it."
Kish said she was worried her sister's case would go cold as the years passed and no charges were laid.
Although police kept the family updated, they were unaware a full-scale undercover operation was underway in early 2019.
"Cases do go cold, right? You hear that all the time," said Kish. "And I just thought 'Oh God, like, this can't be one of them. Something's gotta come of it."
Both Kish and White are pleased that the RCMP have laid charges. They plan to go to court for a preliminary hearing scheduled for January, if they can make it to Saskatoon. That hearing will decide if the case ultimately goes to trial.
Neither has seen Greg Fertuck for years, and both are preparing themselves for a difficult time.
"Now we await trial, it's going to drudge everything up again," said Kish. "And we're going to hear details. We're going to hear all that evidence — that's going to be hard.
"We don't know what we're going to hear, it could be so horrible."
'I don't think she's far from the gravel pit'
Mr. Big operations, like the one used to arrest Greg Fertuck, have been criticized in the past for drawing false confessions. Previous trials involving the technique have called into question the legitimacy of the confessions and related police conduct.
"I think because [Mr. Big stings] are controversial, I'm really crossing my fingers and hoping that they did it all the right ways and did it legally, so that it can be admissible in court," said Kish.
She hopes the trial can somehow lead the family to Sheree's remains, so her loved ones can say their goodbyes.
White believes her sister's body is somewhere near the gravel pit. She thinks Sheree could be somewhere in an area that's already been searched — now even harder to see because of the passage of time and the harsh Prairie winters.
"I've always said I don't think she's far from the gravel pit, just for the simple fact that you're not going to run the risk of having somebody [be] seen with her, right?" said White. "There's so much bush out there that it's unbelievable."
Until Sheree is found, Dec. 7 will continue to be a reminder of the unanswered questions that surround her disappearance.
"When December comes, yeah, of course we're thinking about it," said Kish. "Then you just hope and pray that they figure it out and justice is served and then you go on."