Warning: Story contains graphic details which some readers may find disturbing.
As the police investigation into the deaths of Barry and Honey Sherman continues, The Toronto Star is reporting private investigators retained by the Sherman family have concluded the couple died in what appears to be a “professional, contract killing.”
“In this case, the family’s private team has come to the conclusion that it was a double homicide and not a murder-suicide,” The Star’s chief investigative reporter Kevin Donovan told Global News Radio 640 Toronto’s Alex Pierson Friday evening, when asked about the story.
Barry Sherman and his wife Honey were found inside their Old Colony Road home on Dec. 15. A post-mortem examination found the Shermans died of “ligature neck compression” and police said the deaths are being treated as suspicious. The report comes as Toronto homicide investigators continue to probe the couple’s deaths.
Brian Greenspan, a prominent lawyer retained by the Sherman family, told Global News in late December he retained private investigators and forensic experts to “provide a second lens and to ensure that no stone is left unturned.”
Donovan told Pierson he hasn’t received information on who might be responsible. He said the declaration in December that they weren’t looking for suspects is problematic for police.
“The first thing that happened were a couple officers at the scene the night the bodies were discovered said, ‘We are not looking for any outstanding suspects’ and that’s what really got everything started,” Donovan said.
“That led to the media saying, ‘Well if you’re not looking for a suspect, that must mean it’s murder-suicide.’”
In the story, Donovan stated that Dr. David Chiasson, the former chief forensic pathologist for Ontario, was brought in to conduct a second autopsy on the couple before their funeral on Dec. 21.
“Present at the autopsy was the team of private detectives, most of them former Toronto homicide investigators, assembled by Greenspan,” Donovan wrote.
“Chiasson’s conclusion, along with that of the private detectives present, is that it was a double homicide, barring any other information that might come from the ongoing probe. Not murder-suicide.”
Donovan discussed the graphic details of how the Shermans were found with Pierson.
“They were found side-by-side, sitting legs out away from the pool, which is downstairs at their house,” he said.
“There is evidence there were markings on the wrist as if each of their hands were bound together … but there were no ties or ropes found at the scene.”
He said a toxicology was done by the private team that reportedly found there was nothing in their bodies that would have contributed to their deaths.
With respect to the determination that the Shermans died of “ligature neck compression,” Donovan wrote that sources told him it “was likely done by two men’s leather belts found at the scene wrapped around the necks of the victims.”
“They were found in a seated position at the side of a pool in a lower level of the house, with their legs facing away from the pool. The belts were around the neck, with the end of the belt through the buckle and pulled tight. The free end of each belt was then looped or tied around a low railing that surrounds the pool,” he wrote.
“Sources say a working theory of the private team probing the deaths is that the Shermans were strangled by the belts, then the belts were attached to the railing, holding them in a seated position.”
Meanwhile, marked Toronto police cruisers have been regularly seen in front of the Sherman home on Old Colony Road near Bayview Avenue and Highway 401 multiple times over the past several weeks by Global News crews, including Friday. Also, yellow police tape continues to surround the property. Donovan said the family and the private team of investigators haven’t been allowed inside the home.
When asked last week about why the house is still blocked, Toronto police spokesperson Mark Pugash said every investigation is different and police invest the resources that are necessary.
Dave Perry, CEO of Investigative Solutions Network Inc., and a former Toronto police detective, told Global News Friday afternoon the ongoing protection of the home isn’t necessarily typical and is likely needed to ensure all potential evidence has been processed.
“I wouldn’t call it unusual, but it’s not common. So every case dictates what you have to do, how long you have to be there. Clearly they have a very big search area – it’s a big home, a big property, there’s several vehicles and so on,” Perry said.
“Sometimes it’s because the police have found something that makes them stay there and want to look longer and harder and other times it’s because they still haven’t gotten an answer and they haven’t found it … once you release the scene you can never get it back, it would be contaminated.”
Perry also said technology plays a significant part of the forensics investigation, in addition to other physical elements.
“Forensics has changed an awful lot with technology over the last 20 years … there’s a whole technology component to the investigation, they have to take care of that in searching computers, cellphones and all of those types of devices,” he said.
“But on the ground, in the house, the amount of forensics that they would have to do in that house is pretty extraordinary — looking for fingerprints, for any bodily fluids, looking for DNA, footwear pattern and impressions, and perhaps even looking for the weapon that was used to commit the murder.”
As of Friday evening, Global News has not been able to independently confirm details contained in The Toronto Star report.
Global News also contacted Greenspan’s office and Toronto police to ask about the report, but representatives weren’t immediately available for comment.
— With files from Katherine Aylesworth