Family offers $10-million reward in Sherman murder case
The family of billionaires Barry and Honey Sherman is offering $10-million for any information that leads to the arrest and prosecution of a suspect in the couple’s murder, while also accusing Toronto police of failing to collect critical pieces of evidence in their investigation.
A call centre has been established to accept tips from the public, which the family hopes will “reignite an investigation” into the unsolved case, the family’s lawyer Brian Greenspan said.
“The leads will be analyzed and vetted and any meaningful information will be conveyed immediately to the Toronto Police Service,” Greenspan said at a press conference on Friday.
Greenspan outlined the family’s ongoing frustration with the Toronto police investigation into the deaths of the couple, who were found dead beside an indoor pool in the basement of their mansion last December.
Greenspan said police investigators “fell well below” professional standards and failed to collect key pieces of evidence inside the house, including 25 palm and fingerprint impressions found by private investigators hired by the family.
“We know today, more than 10 months after the murders, this simple task has not been completed,” Greenspan said.
He also accused police of not vacuuming the crime scene – a practice he says is “typical” of a murder investigation – to search for trace amounts of hair, fabric and other DNA.
Greenspan said private investigators vacuumed when they received access to the home six weeks after the deaths, but by that time the scene was already contaminated.
He also accused police of failing to “comprehensively” examine locks in the house and not properly assess all points of entry. Police initially said there were no signs of forced entry at the home.
The “most perplexing and upsetting” aspect of the police investigation for the Sherman family, Greenspan said, was the “failure to recognize the obvious … the bodies of Barry and Honey Sherman were staged post-mortem in a very deliberate manner.”
The bodies were found hanging by belts from a railing beside the pool. Both bodies were in a semi-seated position.
The Sherman family was upset by initial media reports that cited police sources and suggested investigators were leaning toward a murder-suicide theory. The family has rejected the idea from the outset.
“This entire process has caused needless additional pain and suffering to the Sherman family,” Greenspan said.
Toronto Police deemed the deaths a “targeted” double homicide in January.
Police: ‘Investigation was done well’
Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders defended the ongoing investigation by outlining its scope, which includes more than 50 police officers, more than 200 witnesses interviewed and over 2,000 hours of video.
“The investigation was not taken lightly and still is not taken lightly,” Saunders said at a press conference held two hours after Greenspan’s comments.
“The investigation was done well and continues to be done well.”
Saunders rejected Greenspan’s assertions around the murder-suicide theory, saying police considered the case suspicious from the start. Instead, Saunders appeared to point the finger at the media.
“At no point in time did the Toronto Police Service say that this was a murder-suicide. People took the ball and ran,” he said, gesturing to reporters in the room. “We did not say that. And I want to be very clear on that.”
The Sherman family has hired a team of experienced private investigators to conduct a parallel investigation. Among the team are three former members of the Toronto police homicide squad: Tom Klatt, Mike Davis and Ray Zarb.
Brian Dalrymple, who worked with the Ontario Provincial Police’s forensic identification services for 28 years, is also on the team.
Despite their frustrations with police, the Sherman family is open to working with police in a public-private partnership through their private investigators, Greenspan said.
“It remains the belief of the Sherman family that by working together, we will increase their chance of finding justice,” he said.
Saunders would not commit to such a partnership, and instead raised a litany of questions about how such a relationship could meet professional and legal standards.
“It has to withstand the integrity of the court of law. It has to withstand the continuity piece, and it also has to go through that bias lens – what is that private sector? What is that vested interest in that private sector? Who is paying that private sector?” Saunders said.
“So these are things that have to be scrutinized and have to be weighed out.”
Call centre up and running
As for the $10-million reward, Saunders said police support the family’s decision, but added that, “We know that historically, rewards don’t necessarily help when it comes to concluding cases.”
“But this is an opportunity that may offer great assistance – certainly it will put the investigation back in light again,” he said.
The reward may be a sign that private investigators have few leads, according to former Toronto homicide investigator Mark Mendelson
“The fact that the reward is now being issued is sort of a telltale that they’re no further ahead than anybody else is,” he told CTV News Channel on Friday.
Mendelson, who spent 14 years as a lead investigator with the Toronto homicide squad, expressed doubts about the efficacy of a reward. He said he offered plenty of rewards throughout his career, but never wrote a cheque.
The issue with such an offer – particularly one worth $10 million – is that it can trigger a landslide of false information, Mendelson said.
“And someone has to sift through all that. And look at is it credible, is it honest, is it reliable, is it admissible,” he said.
“This will open up a whole new administrative nightmare that they’re going to have to deal with.”
The call centre is open and accepting tips and information 24/7 from within Canada and internationally, Greenspan said. The Canadian phone line is 1-833-668-0001, while the international number is 011-905-849-7373.
Barry Sherman, 75, founded the Canadian pharmaceutical company Apotex in 1974. The company eventually grew it into the largest Canadian-owned drug company.
Honey Sherman, 70, was a well-known philanthropist who served on number of boards, including the York University Foundation and the Simon Wiesenthal Center.