There was a perfect storm of inactivity and people being away during the two-day period when Barry and Honey Sherman were murdered and their bodies lay undiscovered in their basement swimming pool room.
Did the killer or killers have intimate knowledge of the Shermans’ schedule?
On the third anniversary of the murders, the Star’s ongoing investigation takes a hard look at the timeline information, including documents released by a Toronto judge last week. For example, Honey’s personal assistant was given two days off, Honey’s sister was heading out of town, Barry’s second-in-command was away for three days and the Shermans had no pressing engagements.
Barry Sherman, the founder of generic drug giant Apotex, and his wife Honey, a tireless crusader for philanthropy, were found murdered in their Toronto home on Friday, December 15, 2017. They died of ligature neck compression; their bodies were found in a semi-seated position beside their basement pool, facing the wall, black belts looped around their necks and tied to a low railing above.
This story is based on search warrant documents, interviews with Sherman family and friends, and copies of email correspondence. Our timeline begins five days before the murders.
Saturday, Dec. 9: Honey has just returned from a trip to sunny Miami to see the Art Basel art fair. She is at home at 50 Old Colony Rd., where she and Barry have lived since they built the 12,000 square foot house in the early 1980s. It’s where they raised their four children, Lauren, Jonathon, Alexandra and Kaelen. The house was for sale — asking price $6.9 million. In the early afternoon, one of Honey’s physical therapists (friends say she had a “small army who kept her limber”) is upstairs treating her in the master bedroom. A realtor who works for the Shermans, Elise Stern, pops by to show the house, but the prospective buyer cannot be present and so Stern uses FaceTime to tour the home.
Barry is at his Apotex office, even though it is Saturday, normal for the founder of the generic drug giant. Apotex is in a difficult financial stretch; there have been recent layoffs and more to come. In an email he writes to a family member the month before he says he expects to have to pay a $580 million “judgment” from a drug patent case in early January. Still, he has a sense of humour. With emails bouncing back and forth among various family members over the upcoming wedding of daughter Kaelen, he responds to one person’s advice that the couple should “never go to bed angry.” Barry quips: “I thought it was ‘NEVER GO TO BED HUNGRY. No wonder I’ve had trouble keeping my weight down.”
It’s almost Hanukkah and Honey’s daughter Alexandra is emailing her mother to make plans for a small get together, a date that will change several times, for an event that will never happen due to the murders. At 1:26 p.m. that Saturday, Alexandra emails her parents, copying her husband Brad: “Hi mom and dad, Would you like to come over on Tuesday or Wednesday evening? We can (light) the Hannukah candles with (child’s name) and maybe you can bring us some egg-free latkas?”
Sunday, Dec. 10: Honey was a night owl, replying to emails at all hours. At 2:50 a.m., Honey replies to daughter Alexandra’s suggestion of Tuesday or Wednesday. Honey replies (copying Barry and Alexandra’s husband Brad) “Both work for me. Barry? Xoxo.” While over the years there have been many holiday dinners with the whole Sherman family, this year people are travelling. Lauren, the eldest, who lives with her son in British Columbia, is in Mexico. Jonathon and husband Fred Mercure are winding up a trip to Japan, a country that Honey and Barry were planning to visit a few months later. Barry had emailed Jonathon during the trip (on Dec. 7) and with characteristic Barry wit, writes: “Hope you are having a good time in Japan. Say hello to the Emperor for me. Are you having an Xmas party this year?”
Though Barry is no hockey fan, the Toronto Maple Leafs (he said the team’s name “makes no sense”) are in town and Barry and Honey are joining friends Leslie Gales and Keith Ray for dinner at the Hot Stove Lounge before the game. Chatting about his lack of security awareness, Gales suggests he get a driver or a bodyguard. “We don’t believe in that stuff,” Barry replies. “If they are going to get you they are going to get you.” During the game, Honey’s sister, Mary Shechtman drops by. The notoriously cheap Barry and Honey, who did not have seats (they were guests of Leslie and Keith) joke about Mary having Leaf tickets when they did not. The Leafs defeated the Edmonton Oilers 1-0.
Monday, Dec. 11: Sheila Stanley, Honey’s personal assistant, arrives as she always does at 10 a.m. at Old Colony. She works for Honey each weekday from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. As she later tells the police she manages Honey’s schedule, makes her bill payments and even helps “dressing Honey for events.” Honey’s sister Mary handles travel plans. Honey’s schedule is accessible from her iPhone and iPad and as Stanley tells police, no password is needed. The one major change to the week is that Stanley has been given Thursday and Friday off because her family is heading to Mexico for a winter vacation.
The Shermans had only a few plans at the start of the week. Barry always attended the Frank D’Angelo Christmas lunch (scheduled for the Tuesday) but this year he emailed D’Angelo, “Regret, can’t do. Have a large meeting scheduled for noon, Dec. 12.” For more than a decade, Barry and Frank had been friends, and Barry had funded many of D’Angelo’s ventures, including acting as executive producer on a series of movies starring D’Angelo. Barry’s Tuesday meeting was to discuss plans for the $30 million home in Forest Hill that Honey had convinced Barry to build. Joe Brennan and his team from Brennan Custom Homes were waiting to hear if the meeting would be at Apotex or Old Colony.
Meanwhile, daughter Alexandra writes to her parents early Monday morning (copying husband Brad) about upcoming dinner plans. “Can we say tomorrow? Tuesday?” Barry responds a few minutes later, “Ok.” Honey responds an hour later, “We have a dreidel!”
Tuesday, Dec. 12: The architects meeting is switched from Tuesday to Wednesday, to be held at Apotex. Stanley is working away at Old Colony with Honey that Tuesday. Honey has lots of plans with friends once she (and later Barry) will be in Florida starting the following week. Emails shared by friends confirm this and also show the very social Honey double and even triple booking events. Old Colony is filled with painters primping the house for a Wednesday showing. There’s an offer in, but it is too low.
Meanwhile, Barry is at the office working on new drug plans and trying to figure out how to pay the pending $580 million judgment. It would only be a drop in the proverbial bucket, but Barry has the week previous won a lawsuit his four cousins launched in the 1990s, alleging that Barry owed them one-fifth of Apotex. A judge dismissed the case and ordered Kerry Winter and the other cousins to pay Barry $300,000 in legal costs. Barry had asked for $1 million. (The $300,000 judgment has never been enforced.)
This is to be the night for the Hanukkah dinner but in the afternoon, Honey emails Alexandra (copying her husband Brad and Barry) at 2:39 p.m. and asks, “cld we have channukah on fri? just found some eggless recipes for latkas on thenet — cld make them fri in order to celebrate — cld also drop by today tues or tomorrow wed — but without latkas — pls let all know what you prefer,” Honey writes, then asks for gift suggestions. Alexandra writes an email to Honey and the group a few minutes later, saying “Can we hold off on tonight’s visit and just see you on Friday?” She thanks her mom for going to the trouble, due to her child’s food allergy, of making egg free latkas. “I know it is a hassle and it means a lot to us.”
Also in the works in the early part of that week were plans for Barry and Honey to attend a Hanukkah event the coming Sunday with Kaelen’s fiancé’s parents, and then to have dinner that night with the Ulsters in Toronto (Joel Ulster was Barry’s best friend going back to Forest Hill Collegiate Institute in the 1950s).
Late that Tuesday evening, son Jonathon and husband Fred arrive back from their trip to Japan. Jet lagged, they went to their home in King City, arriving by around 7 p.m. One thing that was on Jonathon’s mind was starting a family, using surrogates, paid for by Barry.
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That night, Barry calls Frank D’Angelo to apologize for missing the Christmas lunch. D’Angelo said “I busted his balls” for missing the lunch and they agree Barry will be there next year.
Wednesday, Dec. 13: Jack Kay, Barry’s longtime second-in-command at Apotex, heads to the airport with his wife Pat. For 35 years, as Kay puts it, “the two old men” sat close to each other in their shared office space at Apotex. But at Honey’s instigation, Jack had bid on tickets to an Andreas Bocelli concert in New York on the Thursday night. Jack and Pat went a day early to take in the city’s sights.
It’s a very busy morning at Old Colony. Denise Gold, part of the army of physical trainers, has arrived to train Barry at 8:30 a.m. for one hour (upstairs in a home gym) and then Honey from 9:30 to 11:30. Both the Shermans wear, as they always do, their decades-old gym clothes. Honey has told Gold that whenever she gets a small hole or tear in her shorts, she mends them. Painters continue their work. Realtor Elise Stern arrives for a showing in the afternoon. Personal assistant Sheila Stanley is there. A masseuse who always comes on Wednesday does a two-hour session with Honey in the afternoon.
Barry heads to the office mid-morning. He is wearing one of two belts Honey recently purchased at Canadian Tire for $9.99 each, and “proudly” shows off how good it looks to Honey and Denise Gold.
One order of business for Barry is to authorize a new payment son Jonathon has requested for the surrogacy. In an email Jonathon asks his father to wire transfer $17,677 USD that Wednesday morning and Barry replies at 10:51 a.m. with an email to a staffer at Sherfam, the family holding company, instructing her to send the funds. The week before, Barry had (according to documents) sent $311,609 to a U.S. company in West Virginia that was handling the surrogacy. Barry sent the money, though he commented the cost “seems very high.” Barry and Honey used surrogates for three of their four children, but that was years before.
Wednesday afternoon is uneventful at Apotex. Barry is trying to figure out where to come up with the $580 million for the patent case he lost (in his world, as colleagues have told the Star, Barry can lose a case, but then six months later gamble on a new patent case he is fighting and win back twice as much). Jeremy Desai, his CEO, is heading to a small staff Christmas event at 5 p.m. and was going to pop in to Barry’s office, but sees Honey’s Lexus parked out front and decides not to disturb them.
Barry and Honey are in a small boardroom, with three architects. The meeting begins at 5 p.m. and lasts one hour. The Apotex surveillance videos obtained by police shows Honey and the architects walking out just after 6 p.m., Honey gets into her car and drives off, as do the architects. Barry stays at his office.
At 6:21 p.m., Honey calls friend Elly Appleby. In an interview, Elly told the Star Honey was calling to check up on Elly’s husband, who had just had a major surgery (it went well). “Honey was a very caring person, they were both terrific. We had a lovely, lovely friendship,” Appleby said. Honey sounded completely normal and was “on her way home.”
Honey was planning to fly to Florida on Monday, with Barry to follow a week later. The time is not recorded in the police documents that have been released, but Honey’s sister Mary told police Honey called her that Wednesday. They spoke briefly as Mary was packing for her trip. “I should have been there to protect her,” Shechtman recently told the Star, saying she wished she had gone over to visit her sister that Wednesday night.
Honey’s phone records (Barry’s have not been released) show numerous calls and emails to Honey over the next 36 hours. According to the Star’s research, it appears likely Honey (who may have stopped to do some Hanukkah shopping) was home by 8 p.m., and Barry by 9 p.m. Records show Barry sent his last email from his desktop computer to Jack Kay (who was now in New York) at 8:23 p.m. Kay replied at 9:48 p.m., but did not get a reply back.
Police say the Shermans were murdered between 9 p.m. and 12 midnight on Wednesday, Dec. 13, but have not said how they have determined this.
Thursday, Dec. 14: Phone and email records of Honey Sherman show a few people trying to reach her, including sister Mary Shechtman and realtor Elise Stern. Both were looking for permission to show the house Friday.
Daughter Alexandra and her husband Brad told police they sent photos of their children by text message on Thursday, getting no response. That Thursday night, son Jonathon had a planned dinner with friends from his summer camp days (including friend Josh Scheinert) at the Country Style Hungarian restaurant on Bloor Street in Toronto. Scheinert says the friends grew up with fond memories of the Old Colony house. At the dinner, the old camp friends joked about having one last party at the house, and those at the dinner felt awful when they realized the next day that the Shermans were “lying dead at that time in the house.”
Friday, Dec. 15: Honey’s phone records show more missed calls on her phone that morning (from the condo cleaner at their Florida residence, a Toronto friend, and one from sister Mary (oddly, at 11:49 a.m., which is after Mary was notified by realtor Elise Stern that the bodies were found).
Toronto Police were summoned to the house by an 11:44 a.m. call to 911 by realtor Stern, who discovered the bodies.
By 6 p.m. Friday night shocked family were gathering at Alexandra and Brad’s house in Forest Hill. Kaelen and her fiancé arrived in the early afternoon. Jonathon and Fred had driven that morning to Apsley (near Peterborough) to check out their new cottage, and drove back to Toronto. Lauren, who was in Mexico, headed to Toronto. Mary (Honey’s sister) booked a private jet from Florida to Toronto.
Homicide detectives say the Sherman case is active and ongoing. They are currently spending a few months going over information the Sherman family’s private investigation team handed over in August.
Kevin Donovan is the Star’s chief investigative reporter based in Toronto. He can be reached at 416-312-3503 or via email: [email protected]
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