Monday, December 13, 2021

Barry and Honey Sherman: Toronto Star (Chief Investigative Reporter Kevin Donovan) exposes police fumbling "while the clock ticked" in the four-year-old still unsolved murder case - as, for the first time, the police are releasing images and other information from their case in the hopes the public can help them solve the crime, The Star reports..."This information — police will not say what it is — has been sealed in search warrant documents the Toronto Star has been arguing in court to have released since shortly after the investigation began. Homicide officer in charge Insp. Hank Idsinga and lead investigator Det.-Sgt. Brandon Price will provide the information and an update on their investigation Tuesday morning, sources say. Toronto police have for the past four years maintained they are working hard on the probe, albeit with only one full-time officer on the case for most of that time. The Star has taken a hard look at the probe and found numerous delays in the investigation as it developed. Police have said they cannot answer any questions about the Star’s findings, citing the ongoing investigation."

PUBLISHER'S NOTE: I have been quite shocked by what I have learned about the serious  'stumblings' the Toronto Police Service has made in their high profile investigation of the murders of Barry and Honey Sherman. Indeed, whatever I learned about the unsolved  case - now four years old - did not come from the police. It come from my  former Toronto Star  colleague,  Chief Investigative Reporter Kevin Donovan - and had to be plied from the police  wall of secrecy by the Star's commitment to the story, (Bravo Toronto Star),  skillful  reporting, and a series of costly, time-consuming  applications in the courts. Today's story is of particular interest to this Blog, because of the forensic issues raised by the investigation. As it is quite lengthy,  I am focusing on just  two sections:  "The crime scene: Was it properly secured by police?" - and "Double murder vs. murder-suicide vs. double suicide — did police make the determination in a timely fashion?" A link to the entire story can be found below. Stay Tuned!

Harold Levy: Publisher: The Toronto Star.


STORY: "In Barry and Honey Sherman's murder case, police fumbled while clock ticked" by Chief Investigative Reporter Kevin Donovan, published by The Star on December 13, 2021.


PART ONE: "The crime scene: Was it properly secured by police?"

GIST: " In the early evening hours of Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017, the Shermans had a meeting at Apotex to discuss with architects plans for a $30 million mansion on a pie-shaped lot in Forest Hill. Both were in good spirits, the architects recalled later to police. Barry was particularly adamant that the house should have sliding patio — not French — doors. And in a comment typical of the business titan’s gallows humour, Barry remarked to one architect “about how it was such a large home and why were they making such a large place when he probably only had another 10 or so years left to live.”

The meeting concluded, Honey left Apotex around 6:30 p.m. to buy Hanukkah presents for grandchildren and then headed home. Barry finished up his work, and headed home around 8:30 p.m. Police say they were dead by midnight.

Thirty-six hours later, Elise Stern, the Sherman’s realtor (they were selling their home in preparation for moving to the mansion when it was built) made a horrific discovery in the basement swimming pool room. It was just before noon on Friday, Dec. 15. As described by a police detective in search warrant documents:

“Both Bernard Sherman and Honey Sherman were facing the wall in a semi-sitting position. Their arms were behind them, but not bound. Two black belts were seen looped around their necks and the other end of the belts had been attached to a railing,” a detective wrote in a warrant application, providing a synopsis of the crime scene.

Police crime scene officers, a coroner and a pathologist all came and viewed and photographed the scene.

Controlling who has access to a scene where a crime may have been committed is of critical importance to prevent contamination of evidence. In the first few hours after the bodies were discovered and before homicide detectives arrived, uniformed officers and detectives from the local Toronto police division were allowed to move around the crime scene. Much worse, sources close to the investigation say, the cleaning lady who had been present when the bodies were discovered was allowed by police to continue cleaning until she was interviewed by detectives.

Related to the crime scene, how quickly did police obtain DNA and fingerprint samples from people (personal trainers, a Sherman assistant, friends of the Shermans) who were known to have been in the Sherman home prior to the deaths? Police did not begin collecting those samples for roughly nine months. This is typically done as soon as possible to exclude people as suspects, so detectives can narrow down unknown DNA and fingerprints.

Also related, lead investigator Det.-Sgt. Susan Gomes did not go to the crime scene when the bodies were there, and did not visit until four days later. Toronto police noted that another homicide detective, Det. Brandon Price, was at the scene. Price, since promoted to detective sergeant, is now the lead homicide detective on the Sherman file. Gomes, promoted to inspector, is no longer with homicide."


PART TWO: "Double murder vs. murder-suicide vs. double suicide — did police make the determination in a timely fashion?"

GIST: "Within a few hours of the bodies being found, police sources were telling the media that it was believed to be a case of murder-suicide. The official autopsies, performed by Dr. Michael Pickup, revealed the cause of death to be “ligature neck compression” but as to whether it was double suicide, murder-suicide, or double murder, Pickup made no determination. Search warrant applications reveal police spent a great deal of time looking for a suicide note, interviewing family and friends about the Sherman’s mental health, and almost no time in the first six weeks probing the double murder theory. This, despite Sherman son Jonathon telling police in one of two sworn statements he gave (Dec. 23 and Dec. 24) that “there are people out there who would have a grudge against them and would have a reason to hurt them.” 

Angry at the media stories quoting police sources, the Sherman family hired Dr. Michael Chiasson, Ontario’s former chief forensic pathologist, to conduct second autopsies. Chiasson concluded it was a case of double murder (he noticed markings on the wrist indicating to him they were both bound at one point, and other observations related to how they had been strangled earlier and the belts were just used to keep them in position). The Sherman private investigation team invited Toronto homicide officers to be present at the second autopsies. The Toronto detectives declined. They also did not interview Chiasson, though Chiasson would have been happy to speak to the police about his findings.

On Jan. 19, 2018 (six weeks after the bodies were found), the Star published the findings of the second autopsies. Toronto police then interviewed Chiasson, and on Jan. 26 held a press conference announcing the Shermans were victims of a “targeted” double murder. 

Police have told the Star they have a “theory” of the case and an “idea of what happened.” Sources have told the Star homicide detectives are struggling to prove their theory, and hope that the public can help.""

The entire story can be read at:

PUBLISHER'S NOTE: I am monitoring this case/issue. Keep your eye on the Charles Smith Blog for reports on developments. The Toronto Star, my previous employer for more than twenty incredible years, has put considerable effort into exposing the harm caused by Dr. Charles Smith and his protectors - and into pushing for reform of Ontario's forensic pediatric pathology system. The Star has a "topic"  section which focuses on recent stories related to Dr. Charles Smith. It can be found at: Information on "The Charles Smith Blog Award"- and its nomination process - can be found at: Please send any comments or information on other cases and issues of interest to the readers of this blog to:  Harold Levy: Publisher: The Charles Smith Blog;

FINAL WORD:  (Applicable to all of our wrongful conviction cases):  "Whenever there is a wrongful conviction, it exposes errors in our criminal legal system, and we hope that this case — and lessons from it — can prevent future injustices."
Lawyer Radha Natarajan:
Executive Director: New England Innocence Project;
FINAL, FINAL WORD: "Since its inception, the Innocence Project has pushed the criminal legal system to confront and correct the laws and policies that cause and contribute to wrongful convictions.   They never shied away from the hard cases — the ones involving eyewitness identifications, confessions, and bite marks. Instead, in the course of presenting scientific evidence of innocence, they've exposed the unreliability of evidence that was, for centuries, deemed untouchable." So true!
Christina Swarns: Executive Director: The Innocence Project;

FINAL, FINAL, FINAL WORD: "It is incredibly easy to convict an innocent person, but it's exceedingly difficult to undo such a devastating injustice. 
Jennifer Givens: DirectorL UVA Innocence Project.