One year ago, the Toronto Star obtained police search warrant documents that described the first three months of the investigation into the deaths of billionaires Barry and Honey Sherman. We learned about the discovery of the bodies, the police missteps, including the focus on murder-suicide, and how the four Sherman children insisted that was “ridiculous.” Today, the Star reveals the next three months of the investigation — the period from April to June 2018 — based on newly released police documents.
Six months into the Toronto police probe of Barry and Honey Sherman’s murders, homicide detectives were nowhere. Whodunnit theories and tips were flying at them — one came from a man who overheard “gossip” in the hot tub at a fitness club. An aunt and a nephew figured it might be a “religious” crime. And the four Sherman children were pointing fingers at several people. Everything had to be checked out.
“Currently several persons have been implicated, through witness statements, as responsible for the murders of Bernard Sherman and Honey Sherman,” a homicide detective wrote in an application for a production order in June 2018. But the detective noted that “to date, there is no evidence to elevate any of the forementioned parties to the status of a suspect.”
The detective had a long list of cellular phone numbers and they wanted access to the call log and geolocation data that would tell them who was and was not around the Sherman residence at 50 Old Colony Rd. the evening of Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017. The cellular phone companies that were the subject of two production orders (similar to search warrants) were Bell, Telus, Rogers and Freedom Mobile.
The information in this story comes from an ongoing Toronto Star investigation, including search warrant documents released by the Ontario Court of Justice following a successful challenge of a blanket sealing order. The telephone numbers in the request remain redacted.
Barry, founder of generic drug company Apotex, and his wife Honey had been found dead beside the basement swimming pool in their home, each with a man’s leather belt around their neck, tied to a low railing above. The cause of death was ligature neck compression. A small mark on Honey’s right eye, believed to be the result of her being struck, caused police to quickly label Honey’s case as murder. Toronto homicide detectives considered for six weeks the possibility that Barry killed Honey, then killed himself. Five weeks after the bodies were found, a Toronto Star story prompted police to interview the pathologist hired by the Sherman family to conduct second autopsies. The police interview of this more experienced pathologist led to Barry’s death also being classified as a murder.
These police documents provide new information on the Sherman’s last hours (police say they died between 9 p.m. and midnight on Wednesday, Dec. 13). Police last week released a video recorded in those hours showing an unknown man with an odd gait walking near the Sherman home who is now a “suspect.”
As previously reported, Barry and Honey met with builders of their new home at the Apotex offices at 5 p.m. The meeting was to have been at Old Colony, but for some unknown reason was changed to Apotex. Builder Joe Brennan recalled to police that while Barry normally worked late, he commented that he had a reason to be home earlier than usual.
Honey left Apotex before 6:30 p.m., in her champagne-coloured Lexus SUV, and the three builders left in another vehicle. Honey “pocket dialed” one builder by mistake and he heard her “giggling for about 20 seconds” before she ended the call. While Barry stayed at work until about 8:30 p.m., Honey drove to Bayview Village shopping centre. The documents indicate she went to a CIBC branch between 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. and also to the MAC Cosmetics store inside the mall. It was not until four months after the murders that the police went to Bayview Village looking for security video. Most of the video had been overwritten but they were able to obtain footage of Honey at the CIBC branch. This part of the police documents is heavily redacted, but given that the branch would be long closed by the time Honey arrived it is possible the video police have shows Honey taking out cash from the ATM.
Police have continued to seal any information regarding what time the Shermans arrived home. The Star’s previous reporting suggests Honey was home by 8:30 p.m. (the Bayview mall is less than a 10-minute drive from Old Colony) and Barry shortly after.
As they worked to complete a timeline of events, detectives conducted interviews with family and friends.
Mary Shechtman, Honey’s sister and aunt to the four Sherman children, told police she “believes that there may be a religious motive,” noting to detectives that the Shermans were “strong supporters of Israel and Honey was very vocal about being Jewish.”
Ted Florence, a nephew of Barry and Honey (his mother is Barry’s sister) told police something similar, saying it “could also be a religious hate crime because the Shermans were involved in the Jewish community.”
There is no indication police ever found evidence of a religious connection.
More specific allegations were made to police by the four Sherman children — Jonathon, Lauren, Alexandra and Kaelen — and a handful of Sherman friends interviewed by police.
There are extensive redactions in this part of the police documents — the names of at least three men who separately knew their father and the children’s theories as to why they were involved.
Jonathon gave two sworn statements. In one he said “there are people out there who would have a grudge against them and would have a reason to hurt them.” Jonathon’s husband of three years, Fred Mercure, also suggested a name of someone to investigate.
Lauren, the eldest Sherman child, who lives in Whistler, B.C., also pointed police in a direction. In the portion of her statement that was not redacted she said it was “ridiculous” to think that her parents killed themselves, or their father killed their mother. She described them as “really lovable people.” She did tell police that when she was growing up her parents were the “swearing and screaming type” but said they “never got physical.”
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Daughters Alexandra and Kaelen, and their respective partners Brad Krawczyk and Jared Render, also provided their suspicions, the documents reveal.
The Star knows, through interviews with family members including Jonathon and Alexandra, the identities of at least two of the individuals — both men — put forward by the children as potential suspects. We are not identifying them at this time. Both men were interviewed by the police and the Star, both provided alibis to police and the Star for their whereabouts, and said they had nothing to do with the murders.
By the summer of 2018, police had interviewed about 150 people, made up of family and friends of the Shermans. That included five men who passed around “gossip” first overheard in a hot tub at the Mayfair fitness club in North York. As police were told, there was a rumour going around that a “private investigator had Honey’s phone or GPS and was able to track her movements before she arrived home” the night she was murdered. As police discovered, the man who overheard the conversation (he did not know the Shermans) kept his eyes closed and never saw the two men having the discussion across from him in the hot tub. Like so many bits of rumour and gossip in the Sherman case (a prevalent rumour police and the Star have heard is that Bill and Hillary Clinton were somehow involved) this one led nowhere.
Police hit upon a plan involving cellular telephone communications. Police decided to gather all of the cellular numbers for any person in the Sherman family’s orbit — including most family members, many friends and business associates including employees of Apotex — and then determine if those phones were either anywhere near the Sherman home that night or if they were in communication with anyone who was.
The science behind such a request is this: If you have your cellular phone turned on, it “pings” off a telecommunications tower and provides the approximate location of the cellphone. In their application to get permission to legally breach the privacy rights of many cellular phone subscribers police say they were trying to “include” or “exclude” people from being persons of interest in the murders. A person of interest is one rung below a suspect, police have explained. The application was granted by Justice Leslie Pringle of the Ontario Court of Justice for most of the numbers, but she denied police access to 11 numbers. The actual numbers requested are redacted in the police documents.
A flaw in this investigative approach, of course, is that anyone using a “burner” phone (a disposable phone with air time purchased with cash) would not be picked up.
The Star does not know which cellular phones were requested by police. Jonathon told the Star last year that “I would hope they have looked at all the family.” Jonathon has enlisted the services of a New York lawyer to help with his own investigation of the murders, he told the Star. He has also told the Star that his sister Alexandra thinks he was involved, a notion he hotly contested when he spoke to the Star last December. He was in Japan with husband Fred prior to the murders, returning home on the evening of Monday, Dec. 12. He said he and Fred were home on the night of the murders recovering from “jet lag” and he provided the Star with a photo of a hand — Jonathon said it’s his hand — holding a piece of paper containing his “cryptocurrency codes” taken at his home north of Toronto at 7:17 p.m. the night of the murders.
Police said in a press conference last week that their review of this Everest-sized mountain of cellular data has concluded. Based on the Star’s experience with the Sherman sealing orders, police would not have revealed this information if they had discovered proof that one of the cellular phones they tracked was in the area of the Sherman home that night.
The newly released documents also reveal that police, during this first six-month period, spent time trying to understand the Sherman family dynamics and Barry’s business and investments.
Alex Glasenberg, who runs Sherfam, Barry’s investment and holding company, told police that he and Jack Kay, Barry’s second-in-command at Apotex, had prior to the murders been trying to convince the 75-year-old Barry to sell Apotex. Barry was not interested, the documents show. Glasenberg said he was quite involved with assisting the four children in financial matters and, as an example, he had once convinced Barry to give daughter Alexandra and her husband Brad $10 million to invest in Sherfam. Glasenberg said Barry gave the four children salaries — all different amounts — and the youngest, Kaelen, received the least. Glasenberg told police that while Barry had set up trusts for each child, Barry held “all the voting shares.”
Police interviewed Jonathon’s husband Fred, and Jonathon’s previous boyfriend Andrew Liss. Fred told police that Barry was a “nice person” but Honey was harder to read and he felt she did not like him at first but that their relationship was improving. He said that the Shermans once toured his family through the basement, showing off their pool, and Fred said he would “go downstairs when he wanted to get away from people during family dinners.”
Andrew Liss told police that he started dating Jonathon when Andrew was 14 (Jonathon would have been 18 at the time) and that Barry invested $50 million in a house “building and selling” business Andrew founded in his early 20s. Barry’s condition, Andrew told police, was that Jonathon sign a document agreeing to work at Apotex and have nothing to do with Andrew’s business.
“It was Barry’s dream that Jonathon would take over Apotex but Jonathon had his own dreams,” Liss told police. As with many parts of these search warrant documents, police do not explain why these statements are included. Neither Liss or Mercure have responded to interview requests from the Star over the past several years.
As to his relationship with Barry and Honey, Andrew told police he respected Barry but “Honey did not like him because Honey thought Andrew made Jonathon gay.” The business collapsed, Jonathon and Andrew broke up, Andrew recalled and he felt “betrayed because he considered (the Shermans) as family.”
In a previous interview with the Star, Jonathon said his being gay was something that upset Honey in earlier days but she and Barry made Fred “feel welcome.” He said Barry, whose best friend and first business partner from the 1960s is gay, was more accepting, but once told him that his would be a “harder life.”
Liss said the information in the police documents are “none of anyone’s business.” He said “Jon is a great, caring, and sensitive person who doesn’t deserve any of what’s going on” and “he deserves better and so did his parents.”
Lauren, the eldest Sherman child, told police that their father “had always wanted herself and her brother, Jonathon to succeed him and take over the company but they did not.”
Tomorrow: The discovery of the man with the odd gait
Kevin Donovan can be reached at [email protected] or 416-312-3503
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