Toronto police announced today they are investigating the deaths of Barry and Honey Sherman as a targeted double homicide.
Investigators made the determination after six weeks of collecting evidence at the billionaire couple's Toronto home, Det.-Sgt. Susan Gomes, of the homicide squad, said at a Friday afternoon news conference.
"I believe that they were targeted," she said.
The Shermans were discovered fully clothed and wearing coats pulled down over their shoulders on Dec. 15, 2017. They both had belts around their necks attached to a railing near their indoor pool. And both were in a semi-seated position. Police said they did not find any signs of forced entry into the home.
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The deaths were initially ruled as "suspicious" by police. Early in the investigation, a homicide investigator suggested the working theory was murder/suicide, but the four Sherman siblings pushed back saying they didn't believe that and hired a private team of investigators, including a number of former homicide detectives, to conduct an independent investigation.
Earlier this week, a source with direct knowledge of the parallel probe told CBC Toronto that private investigators believe the Shermans were slain by multiple killers.
Gomes said contact with relatives has been consistent and ongoing throughout the investigation. She said she understood their concerns about the pace of the highly complex probe.
'Facts guide our focus. Conjecture and speculation have no place.' - Det.-Sgt. Susan Gomes, homicide investigator
"For them, it's been difficult to balance their patience with their frustration with us and our investigation, not unlike any other family who has suffered such a sudden and profound loss," Gomes said. "They have been understanding, co-operative and hopeful that this investigation can give them some answers."
Gomes said there is an "extensive list" of people that police intend to interview, but would not talk about any possible suspects. Almost 130 witness statements have been taken so far.
"Facts guide our focus," Gomes said. "Conjecture and speculation have no place."
The evidence so far
Gomes said officers have spent thousands of hours on the investigation so far, including:
- The collection of 150 pieces of evidence from the crime scene.
- The collection of 2,000 hours of surveillance footage from the area around the Sherman home.
- The search of two residential properties owned by the Shermans, including a Miami-area condo.
- The execution or orders for 20 judicial authorizations and searches.
Toronto police have searched Barry Sherman's workplace at Apotex Inc., a generic drug manufacturing company that he founded in 1973.
"Legal complexities in some executions have been challenging, given the litigious nature of Barry Sherman's businesses, in particular the search and seizure of electronics in [his] workspace at Apotex," Gomes said
Family supports police
In a statement released shortly after today's news conference, the Sherman family said they had anticipated that police would determine the deaths were a double homicide.
"This conclusion was expressed by the family from the outset and is consistent with the findings of the independent autopsy and investigation," the statement reads.
"The family continues to support the Toronto Police Service in their efforts to seek justice for their parents and pursue those responsible for these unspeakable crimes."
The Sherman home has now been released to the family and it is expected their team of private investigators will scour the house for clues.
'Barry loved life,' friend says
Murray Rubin, a long-time friend of Barry Sherman, said Friday he wasn't surprised police have now classified the deaths as a double homicide.
He told CBC Toronto that he never thought the deaths were a murder/suicide.
"I said impossible. I knew Barry over 50 years. Barry loved life … he loved doing what he was doing. There is no way he would commit suicide or kill his wife," Rubin said.
The 87-year-old said his friend was adored by his thousands of employees as well as the wider community and he is baffled "that a guy who could be so loved by some many, who he treated so well, could be murdered."
"If you knocked at Barry's door, unless you looked like a gorilla, he'd let you in. I don't believe he worried about being murdered. It wasn't in his brain that somebody is gonna kill him," Rubin told CBC Toronto.
And while he welcomed the news from the police today, Rubin said he was disappointed.
"I'm looking for somebody to be involved to a point where they have a person that they're looking into," he said.
"The police have come to the conclusion that anybody that knows Barry for the last number of years came to … that he was murdered, it was a paid killing. Why his wife was included, I don't know, she might have just been in the wrong place at the wrong time. But there is no question it's a murder. The problem is, why? And who?"
Rubin said the last time he saw his friend was a week before the bodies were found and not a day goes by when he does not think about him.
"I would love that they find out who did it, not that it would help Barry. I miss Barry … I miss him every day," Rubin said.
Barry, 75, and Honey, 70, were found dead by a real estate agent in the basement of their Toronto mansion two days after they were last seen or heard from. An autopsy revealed the cause of death for both to be "ligature neck compression," meaning strangulation.
Toronto police said the Shermans were last seen alive on the evening of Dec. 13, though they did not say where. A real estate agent who was involved in trying to sell their home at 50 Old Colony Rd. found the bodies at the home after being unable to reach them.
The mysterious deaths have attracted worldwide interest. The Shermans have been recognized internationally for their philanthropic work and were quite socially active among the city's gala class. They are believed to have amassed a fortune of some $4.77 billion before their deaths.
An earlier version of this story stated that police attempted to search Sherman's Apotex office. In fact, Apotex says police did search his office with the company's full co-operation.Jan 26, 2018 10:39 PM ET