New role for lead investigator in Sherman murders

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The recently promoted Toronto police officer leading the Barry and Honey Sherman murder investigation is also now running the force’s citywide operations centre, police have confirmed.

Whether this is a sign that the investigation is wrapping up or at a standstill, is not explained in any of the public information the Star has been able to obtain regarding the case. Toronto police maintain the Sherman probe is “active” — but its lead investigator is now wearing a senior officer’s uniform and no longer working in homicide.

Susan Gomes has been the homicide investigator in charge of the Sherman case since the billionaire Toronto couple was found dead in their home a year ago.
Susan Gomes has been the homicide investigator in charge of the Sherman case since the billionaire Toronto couple was found dead in their home a year ago.  (Andrew Francis Wallace / Toronto Star file photo)

Susan Gomes has been the homicide investigator in charge of the Sherman case since the couple was found dead one year ago this month, and she was the one who took the microphone at police headquarters on Jan. 26 to announce their deaths were being investigated as a “targeted” double homicide.

For the six weeks previous, detectives had been exploring the possibility that the billionaire founder of drugmaker Apotex killed his wife, then took his own life. That changed after the family’s pathologist concluded it was a double murder and police detectives reviewed and agreed with the pathologist’s findings. The pathologist who did the police-led autopsy had missed key clues, the Star has reported.

Now, a year into the probe and in a move that is sure to raise eyebrows in policing and community circles, Gomes has been tapped by Chief Mark Saunders to take over command of the Toronto Police Operations Centre. Gomes was recently promoted from detective sergeant to inspector and will now be in uniform. Homicide detectives are plain clothes, non-uniform officers.

Read more:

Barry Sherman’s son tells Apotex CEO to leave

Where is Honey Sherman’s will?

Sherman family investigators hand over earring and other evidence collected at murdered billionaires’ home to Toronto police

A Toronto police spokesperson said it is not unusual for an officer, once moved to another job, to stay involved with a case. However, the Star is unaware of another example where a detective on a major, high-profile case (which the force says is being actively investigated) remains in charge of an investigation while doing a completely different job.

The police operations centre Gomes now commands “is a real-time, centralized hub whose primary functions are to continually monitor, assess, prioritize, co-ordinate and respond to the operational policing needs of the City of Toronto,” said a briefing note provided to the Star by police.

Police spokesperson Meaghan Gray would not say how many officers work in the unit Gomes is commanding, but described it as providing a “30,000-foot overview of everything that’s going on in the city.” That means if resources are needed to deal with a major incident — such as a flood, an outbreak of crime or a power outage — Gomes would order the deployment of officers.

The unit does not handle investigations, but is located at police headquarters along with the homicide unit, so Gomes “will be in close proximity to homicide,” Gray said.

Another recent promotion related to the Sherman case was Det. Brandon Price who, like Gomes, has been involved since the day the bodies were discovered. Price is now a detective sergeant, but will remain in homicide and work on the Sherman file, along with other cases. He is expected to eventually “transition” into the role of lead investigator on the Sherman case, a police official said.

Price was the officer who told reporters outside the Sherman home the night the bodies were discovered that police were “not currently seeking or looking for an outstanding suspect.” That comment, later echoed by police sources to several media outlets, led to stories that revealed police were probing a murder-suicide theory.

Barry and Honey Sherman, shown in a handout photo from the United Jewish Appeal, were discovered dead in their home on Dec. 15, 2017.
Barry and Honey Sherman, shown in a handout photo from the United Jewish Appeal, were discovered dead in their home on Dec. 15, 2017.  (United Jewish Appeal/The Canadian Press)

The Shermans were last seen alive on Dec. 13, 2017.

Two days later, a real estate agent showing a couple and another agent through the Sherman home discovered their bodies in their basement pool room. Autopsies revealed they died of ligature neck compression.

The Sherman family recently held a news conference to offer a $10-million reward in the case. At the conference, family lawyer Brian Greenspan criticized the Toronto police investigation.

Meanwhile, veteran Apotex employees are reeling from the decision last week by the Shermans’ son, Jonathon, to tell his father’s partner of 35 years, Jack Kay, to leave the company that Kay and Barry Sherman built. Sources within Apotex say they were surprised that Kay, 78, was treated that way and was not even given a farewell party. In a brief statement, Apotex spokesperson Jordan Berman said, “All of us at Apotex wish Jack the best of luck in his future pursuits.”

The Apotex company is now controlled and owned by Jonathon and his three sisters.

The Star has asked Jonathon Sherman questions about Kay’s dismissal, but he has not responded. Kay could not be reached for comment.

Kevin Donovan can be reached at (416) 312-3503 or kdonovan@thestar.ca. Follow him @_kevindonovan

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Toronto police obtain nine new search warrants in Sherman murder investigation

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Toronto police detectives probing the murders of billionaires Barry and Honey Sherman have obtained nine more search warrants in the last month.

The warrants — police will not reveal what they were seeking or where the warrants were served — were authorized in the four weeks prior to a Sherman family press conference last week that criticized Toronto police for a shoddy investigation and announced a $10 million reward.

The new warrants suggest police may be ramping up their investigation into the pair’s killing.

According to court records obtained by the Star and statements made by Toronto police, detectives have obtained a total of 37 warrants and production orders since the probe began. Warrants allow police to search locations such as a house or business, production orders are for records maintained by banks and cellphone companies.

At least one warrant was served outside of Canada, but police and courts will not release details of where.

The Shermans owned property in Florida.

Barry Sherman was the founder of Apotex, Canada’s largest generic drug firm. He and his wife Honey were major donors to Jewish and other charities in Canada.

The couple was last seen alive on the evening of Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017. Their bodies were discovered the following Friday morning by Sherman family real estate agent Elise Stern, who was showing prospective buyers and their agent the home on Old Colony Rd.

The Shermans were found near a lower-level pool. They had been strangled and pulled into a seated position, each with a man’s leather belt looped around their neck and fastened to the metre-high railing that surrounds the rarely used lap pool.

Police pursued a theory of murder-suicide for six weeks, before ruling it a “targeted” double homicide on Jan. 26. That came after police reviewed the results of a second autopsy conducted by David Chiasson, Ontario’s former chief forensic pathologist, who had been hired as part of a private investigation launched by the Shermans’ four children.

Last Friday, Greenspan and his private team, most of them former homicide cops, slammed Toronto police for what they say were failures in the investigation — locks at the home not checked for tampering, fingerprints and palmprint evidence not taken from the scene, and carpets not vacuumed to obtain minute evidentiary traces.

The team also announced a $10-million reward and a tip line directing callers not to police but to the family’s experts. Greenspan has told Toronto media that calls have been coming in, though he would not say how many.

While the police will not speak about what they have done on the case, the Star has learned some information about a series of search warrants and production orders authorized by Justice Leslie Pringle, the judge who has reviewed more than 220 pages police have submitted for warrant approval.

Read more:

Family of Barry and Honey Sherman offers $10-million reward for information on murder of billionaire couple

How the investigation into the deaths of Barry and Honey Sherman turned from murder-suicide to double homicide

Opinion | Rosie DiManno: A two-tier policing system is unveiled in the Sherman case

At the beginning of the investigation, police filed warrants for such things as the Sherman couple’s health records. Sources close to the investigation have told the Star police were seeking information that one or the other was depressed. Friends interviewed by the Star say the Shermans were both in good spirits the day they died and both were making plans for family events and winter trips together.

Police also sought information on two airline loyalty programs, cellphone records and details of bank accounts at three financial institutions, although Pringle has sealed the identities of the account holders in each of these warrants.

Apotex was also served with a warrant, and in the early days of the investigation police complained they were having difficulty getting information out of the often secretive company.

Pringle has sealed much of the information in the more recent warrants and production orders, saying she is concerned that revealing these details would jeopardize the investigation.

One law enforcement official connected to the case said these most recent warrants are “too specific” to be made public — an indication that detectives may be pursuing a theory on the identity of the killer or killers.

The Star is arguing in court to unseal this information.

Immediately following the Greenspan press conference, Toronto police Chief Mark Saunders said he has had to be careful with what he said about the case because he knows “for a fact” that the Shermans’ killers are watching his televised remarks, adding he was perturbed that Greenspan released some information related to the case.

Saunders said he was particularly bothered with some of the specific comments Greenspan made at the press conference about the crime scene. At the press conference, Greenspan described to reporters how Barry Sherman was found seated with one leg crossed over the other “in a passive manner,” with his eyeglasses “undisturbed” and his jacket pulled slightly back — a position the lawyer said refuted the theory of a murder-suicide. These details have already been published in accounts by the Star and other media, say people close to Greenspan’s team.

Chaisson’s post-mortem made it clear the Shermans were “were both murdered and that the Toronto Police Service should not have drawn any conclusion which suggested self-inflicted injuries,” Greenspan said at the news conference.

In his response, Saunders said Greenspan was incorrect. “Toronto police service never reached a premature conclusion. This investigation has been done to a very high level of professionalism and high level of expertise,” he said, adding that he believes the case will be solved.

“It’s not over yet. We are continuing to work very hard to reach the conclusion we think we can reach with the help of the public.”

A timeline of known search warrants and production orders in the Sherman murder case

There have been 37 search warrants and production orders obtained by Toronto Police in the Sherman case, according to court records, Chief Saunders and police spokesperson Meaghan Gray. Below are the date and location of the majority of them, according to court records obtained by the Star through a legal challenge. Justice Pringle has sealed almost all of the documents, with the exception of a few general search locations — she has, for example, allowed the identity of the bank to be known, but not the account holder.

Dec. 15, 2017: The Shermans’ bodies are discovered in their home

Dec. 20: Two production orders for Rogers Communications cellphone records and one warrant for a Toronto police storage locker on Jane St., where evidence from the crime scene was briefly kept

Dec. 20: A search warrant, address sealed

Jan. 10, 2018: Four search warrants, one for a police storage locker, the other locations sealed

Jan. 1: Production order served on Ontario Ministry of Health for Barry and Honey Sherman’s “billing records and records of visits to hospital and clinics” between December 2010 and Dec. 16, 2017 — the day after they were known to be dead

Jan. 15: Production order to retrieve materials in locker #51 at 33 Division, likely containing evidence officers seized from the Sherman house

Jan. 15: Production order served on Apotex, no details released on what police were seeking

Feb. 15: Production order served on LoyaltyOne Co., which operates the AirMiles loyalty rewards program, no details released on the account holder

Feb. 15: Production order served on Aimia, owner of the Aeroplan loyalty rewards program, no details released on the account holder

Feb. 15: Production order served on Office of the Chief Coroner to retrieve some medical records of the Shermans earlier obtained by the coroner under a Coroner’s Warrant

Feb. 15: Three Production orders served on BMO Financial Group, CIBC and TD Bank, no details released on the account numbers or holders

April 16: Four judicial authorizations granted, police will not say if warrants or production orders

June 27: Two judicial authorizations granted, police will not say if warrants or production orders

Sept. 23: One judicial authorization, police will not say if warrants or production orders

Between Sept. 23 and Oct. 26: Nine judicial authorizations, either warrants or production orders

Kevin Donovan can be reached at kdonovan@thestar.ca or 416-312-3503. Follow him on Twitter at @_kevindonovan

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A two-tier policing system is unveiled in the Sherman case

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Everybody has their price, I suppose. Only a precious few can afford to pay it, no holds barred.

The Sherman family can pay it.

A $10-million reward for information leading to the apprehension and prosecution of those responsible for the Dec. 15, 2017 murders of Barry and Honey Sherman, mega-rich couple, philanthropists, he the founder of Canada’s largest generic pharmaceutical company — he was a ruthless entrepreneur when he wasn’t being a bountiful billionaire, she a beloved member of the charitable social circuit.

What is so eye-catching is not just the extravagance of the reward, announced by family lawyer Brian Greenspan on Friday at the Apotex headquarters in north Toronto, for which reporters had to pre-register, sign in and be escorted to the bathroom by a security official, lest anybody go poking about in what is a notoriously secret, intensely cutthroat business. The kind that just might attract, say, the services of a contract killer. And lord knows Barry Sherman had made an abundance of enemies during his spectacular career.

It’s the entitlement, the check-book command that some people enjoy because that’s all they’ve ever known.

So, there at the table was a veritable Mount Rushmore of retired homicide dicks, with nearly a century of collective experience on the Toronto Police Service. Plus a civilian forensic expert with 28 years under his belt.

And they’re just the tip of the for-hire heap corralled to do the Sherman family’s bidding, to do — Greenspan asserted — what the cops haven’t done or did badly. Add to the panoply, pathologists and forensic psychiatrists and stud defence lawyers and call-takers for the tip line that launched operations yesterday, and the still to be named panel of adjudicators who will decide how the reward will be split depending on the value of the information.

Imagine, for a minute, how Canada would look without universal health care, without equality of need and access to resources.

This is the two-tier system, applied to policing, that the Sherman heirs have constructed to support their parallel investigation.

Because they can.

Pshaw, countered Greenspan.

“The antithesis is true. What private resources do is assist the community by enhancing investigations. Not to have a two-tiered system, but to ensure investigations are conducted thoroughly and comprehensively and to free the public purse from the burden of the investigation that we contemplate so that, in this year of overtaxed resources within Toronto homicide, we can alleviate part of the burden by providing private forensic assistance.’’

It can take a year, Greenspan pointed out, for forensic evidence collected at a crime scene to be processed by the Centre for Forensic Science. But with their own elite professionals on the payroll, the Shermans can use private facilities.

Which is another way of jumping to the top of the list.

Because they can.

Greenspan wrapped the undertaking in altruistic sensibilities, as if everyone benefits. But there were 61 murders in Toronto last year — Barry and Honey Sherman but two of them — and 33 remain unsolved.

The families of those victims have to beg for investigative updates.

They’re not entitled to know what the cops know, to protect the “integrity’’ of an investigation.

The names of the slain don’t merit miles of media coverage.

They slip into the annals of the forgotten, cases still left open, maybe at some future date resurrected as cold case second looks.

In decades of covering crime, never once have I heard of a reward posted where anyone with information was not urged to take what they might know to the cops. Yet that’s what has been mounted here — come to us, we’ll take carriage.

“We believe that it provides the new initiative, the new opportunity to seek information,” said Greenspan. “It’s not as if leads have not poured into my office over the past 10 months. Every consideration is given to each of the calls, whether from a psychic or from someone who might otherwise prove to be untrustworthy.

“Many, many investigations are successfully concluded as a result of someone in either a criminal organization or someone who has been involved as an offender in the criminal community who is aware of information … and until and unless an incentive is provided to that person, either by leniency in a subsequent (court matter) or the offer of a significant award, they remain silent and remain committed to that silence within that community.

“This is the opportunity for those people to come forward. And as they become wealthy, their colleagues who are engaged in this crime become the subjects of a prosecution.’’

Appeal to greed. Because it’s what these exceptionally advantaged seekers of justice understand.

And, of course, the Sherman clan has one critical axe to grind: the colossal blunder, by the family’s reckoning, of an early investigative theory, bruited around un-sourced in media reports, that the deaths were a murder-suicide.

Police had noted last January that there were no signs of a forced entry at the Sherman Old Colony Rd. mansion and investigators were not looking for suspects.

The outraged family immediately hired private investigators and a pathologist to conduct a second, independent autopsy.

By last June, Det.-Sgt. Susan Gomes was publicly confirming that they were investigating a “targeted double homicide.”

Greenspan mentioned alleged lapses and sloppiness in the police investigation. “We have seen failings and deficiencies … which have prompted the family to take this action.”

On behalf of the family, he strongly advocated a public-private partnership between his gang of top-drawer investigators and the homicide squad, which has never been done before in North America.

He claimed the proposal had already been made, with no response. “We have certainly offered them what we know. But despite attempts to further the concept of private-public partnership, that has not been embraced in terms of sharing information with us.”

Of course, it is entirely possible, even likely, that police — they long stayed silent about the investigation, no updates — are playing their cards close to the vest because they’re loath to share information with family members who may still be viewed as suspects, although Greenspan dismissed that possibility out of hand.

Rewards don’t actually have a great history of success, anyway. And, despite what you’ve seen in the movies or on TV, or read in crime thrillers, private gumshoes rarely break open a case.

It must be agony for the Sherman family as the murders linger, unsolved, jammed in, with all the other homicide cases which haven’t been closed.

As if Barry and Honey Sherman were, you know, just like everybody else.

Rosie DiManno is a columnist based in Toronto covering sports and current affairs. Follow her on Twitter: @rdimanno

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Sherman murder probe obtains seven more search warrants

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Toronto homicide detectives have obtained seven more search warrants as part of their investigation into the targeted double murders of billionaire couple Barry and Honey Sherman, court documents show.

“The investigation is still active and ongoing,” Detective Dennis Yim told a Toronto court last week during a hearing in which the Star was seeking information on the case. “Investigators are methodically reviewing material and pursuing different investigative avenues.”

The seven new warrants bring to 28 the total number filed by police since last December. Some targets of previous warrants — cellular telephone and banking records — were made public, but these new warrants target locations that are too specific to release without compromising the investigation, a crown attorney told the court.

The Star had argued at the hearing that a series of missteps by police — including the pursuit of the murder-suicide theory for six weeks and a similar delay in reviewing CCTV footage — were deserving of public oversight and at least a redacted version of all warrant documents and the police investigation notes that support them should be released.

The strangled bodies of Apotex founder Barry Sherman and his wife Honey were discovered in their homes on Friday, December 15. It is likely they were killed the previous Wednesday evening.

Pringle acknowledged the Star’s goal in seeking the records was “appropriate and important.”

“They want to shed light on some areas where they feel mistakes may have been made, and they want to understand why this investigation is taking so long,” Pringle said. “In this regard, I agree there is a public interest in transparency of the legal process.” She told the Star it could renew its application if charges are laid or if circumstances related to the investigation change.

During the Star’s court challenge, the Star did learn some information related to the probe of the couple, who were well known in Toronto and internationally as major donors to Jewish and other charities.

The new judicial authorizations to search were approved by Pringle between April and last week. Pringle is the go-to judge for all Sherman warrants, court heard. Four new authorizations were obtained April 16, two on June 27, and one was granted Sunday, September 23.

There had been a flurry of authorizations in the first two months of the probe but then a lag until April. Police will not say how many of the authorizations are search warrants (which are for a specific location such as a house) and how many of them are “production orders,” a warrant that is typically served on banks and telecommunication companies that maintain data police believe would be helpful to a probe.

Detective Yim, who was seconded to the homicide squad from one of Toronto’s police divisions said the Sherman case has been his full-time assignment since December 21, 2017. His role is to prepare search warrant applications and review information yielded by the warrants.

He told court last week that 3,700 pages of documents and 1,390 electronic files have been obtained, but would not say what they contain.

Yim said “more than 50 officers have been involved in this investigation to date.” Asked by the Star during cross-examination to name all of the officers, Yim was unable to. The Star provided the names of the lead officer, Detective Sgt. Susan Gomes and the lead investigator Detective Brandon Price, plus the name of an additional officer. Yim agreed those officers were working on the case, but he said they were not working full-time on the Sherman probe. Crown attorney Peter Scrutton told court there was “at least one” officer working full-time on the case (Yim).

The Star’s investigation began in early January when police sources had told numerous Toronto media outlets, including the Star, that police believed it was a murder-suicide. A January 19, 2018 story prompted detectives to interview the pathologist the Sherman family hired to conduct a second set of autopsies, and shortly after police announced it was a double murder.

During the court hearing, the Star raised several issues it has turned up in its own probe and provided them to the court as examples of information the sealed court documents would shed light on. Among them:

  • Why did police not interview the family’s pathologist, Dr. David Chiasson, immediately after he did the second set of autopsies on December 20? Chiasson was not interviewed until January 21.
  • Why did police wait until a month after the Shermans died to view four days of CCTV footage seized from the Apotex head offices in December? The Star has discovered that when police copied the CCTV footage the weekend after the bodies were discovered they did not realize they could not view it due to a software security feature. Police eventually contacted Apotex and asked for a fresh copy of the file, according to a source with knowledge of the incident.
  • Why have police only recently asked for DNA samples from a person who was in the Sherman house on Wednesday, Dec. 13, the last time the couple was seen alive? The Star’s investigation has revealed that police were doing this to exclude the person (a woman who was a friend and regular visitor) from DNA found at the site. The Star wanted to ask the detective why this type of analysis was not done months earlier.

Detective Yim said he was unable to answer any questions regarding specifics of the investigation or what was contained in the sealed documents. Justice Pringle ruled that the Star could not pursue this line of questioning because it would infringe on the sealing order she had put in place. In her ruling she said Yim’s answers on the witness stand were “vague,” but she said this was out of necessity.

Making public the inner workings of the Sherman investigation “poses a serious risk of compromising the police investigation,” Pringle said.

As the judge who has signed off on all search warrants and production orders she said she is satisfied the probe is “active and ongoing … I can say that the police investigation appears to be extensive, meticulous and careful. Contrary to the Applicant’s concern that it has stalled, the investigation appears to be progressing at this time.”

The Star also argued that there were parts of the 220 pages at issue that could be released to the public because they would not impact the ongoing police investigation. Citing case law, the Star pointed out that if there is an earlier theory in a case (for example, murder-suicide) that portion of the police warrant information can be released without harming the rest of the probe.

During cross-examination, Detective Yim said that the murder-suicide theory was one of three the police pursued in early days and is represented in the search warrant documents.

Justice Pringle ruled that she could not allow access even to “certain theories that may now have been discarded by police.” She said the warrant documents are too intertwined and “not easily severed into discrete parts or issues. Read out of context and in isolation, bits and pieces of information have real potential to be misleading.”

Toronto Police Detective Sgt. Susan Gomes did not respond to a series of questions provided to her a week ago.

Kevin Donovan is the Star’s chief investigative reporter based in Toronto. Reach him by email at kdonovan@thestar.ca or (416) 312-3503. Follow him on Twitter: @_kevindonovan

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