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Ontario Cold Case: Brutal murder of 23-year-old Renee Sweeney unsolved 20 years later

UPDATE:

Sudbury’s Kim Sweeney says she doesn’t remember much about the minutes, days and weeks following the news of her older sister Renee’s brutal death.

On Jan. 23, 1998, a man is said to have entered the store shortly after 11 a.m., and approached the counter.

He stabbed Sweeney 30 times, stole $200 from the cash register and then fled the scene.

Police tracking dogs were able to recover a lightweight windbreaker type jacket and white cotton gloves a short distance away but they were never able to find the man responsible.

Kim was in school at the time when she got a call from her stepfather telling her that something had happened and she needed to come home. Her first thought was that something must have happened with her mom, who had Multiple Sclerosis.  

“I had a bad feeling about the whole thing and wondered why I wasn’t being told to go to the hospital instead but I got in my car and headed home right away anyways,” she said. “I would usually drive past Renee’s work but for some reason I didn’t that day.”

When she got into the house and heard her mother crying, she knew something else was going on.

“They told me that Renee had been shot, because that’s what they thought initially,” Kim continued. “So I went to grab my coat wondering why we were all just standing around the house, but then they told me she wasn’t with us anymore – and I just dropped to my knees.”

From that day forward, their lives changed forever.

“My mom never walked again,” she said. “It was just too hard for her to deal with. Her condition deteriorated pretty badly after and she never really came back from it.”

And in Nov. 2017, her mother passed away without ever getting any closure on the death of her oldest daughter.

“I wish that she had a chance to close that book,” Kim continued.

Kim and Renee’s biological father, who also had MS, took his own life in 1990 and her stepdad also passed away in recent years leaving Kim little no remaining family members. 

What breaks her heart the most, she says, is the fact that her own two young children will never get a chance to meet their aunt.

“They would have loved her,” she said. “And she would have loved them.”

She wonders what Renee would have done with her life and where she would be today.

“I still think about it, and her, every day,” said Kim. “I just keep having these same questions run through my head. Why would someone do this? Why her? Is he still out there?”

The job, Kim added, was just that – a job.

“She worked there because she needed to make some money while she was at school, it worked with her schedule and it was quiet so she could do her homework when no one was there,” she continued. “She was just a young woman trying to support herself. She didn’t deserve this.”

While the suspect, believed to be a white man in his 20s did leave DNA behind at the scene as well as on the discarded jacket, he has never been found.

In 2017, the Greater Sudbury Police Service announced they had been working with Parabon NanoLabs, a Virginia-based technology company that specializes in DNA phenotyping and released an updated image of what the suspect would have looked like at the time of the murder, but the case remains unsolved.

He is described as having been in his early 20s with dark, short hair, weighing 140 to 150 lbs, roughly 5’10 to 6 ft tall with a slim build. He was also believed to have been wearing glasses.

The reward, originally posted at $25,000 has grown to more than $30,000 with interest over the years and despite all of the time that has passed – Kim still holds out hope that someone, somewhere still has information.

“I think that sometimes people just don’t want to get involved but I can’t express how important it would be to be able to finally get justice for my sister,” she concluded. “If there is any information, or anyone who remembers anything, I hope they remember and realize that the case has not been closed.” 

Any member of the public with information about the Renee Sweeney case can call: Greater Sudbury Police Service at ; or Sudbury Rainbow Crime Stoppers at .

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