It's been 3 years since Barry and Honey Sherman were found dead. Court documents reveal what we know so far
TORONTO -- Today marks the third anniversary of the unsolved murders of Toronto billionaires Honey and Barry Sherman, who were found dead in the basement of their North York mansion in December 2017.
Late last month, Toronto police confirmed that over the course of the three-year homicide investigation, “numerous persons of interest” have been identified in the murders of the 75-year-old founder of Canadian pharmaceutical company Apotex and his 70-year-old wife, who were among the country’s most well-known philanthropists.
But to date, no arrests have been made and no suspects have been publicly identified.
Some redacted search warrant and production order applications, which were recently released by an Ontario Superior Court judge after the Toronto Star pushed for the court documents to be made public, have provided a glimpse at the early stages of the police investigation.
The documents, which have now been obtained by CTV News, contain initial interviews investigators did with family members, friends, colleagues, and those who worked for the Sherman family.
‘Something heavy in the air’
According to the court documents, which were first reported on by The Star, multiple people arrived at the Shermans’ Old Colony Road home before their bodies were discovered on the morning of Friday, Dec. 15, 2017.
The first person to arrive that morning was a housekeeper, who cleaned the Sherman residence every Friday and got to the home at 8:30 a.m.
In an interview police conducted on the day of the grisly discovery, investigators said the housekeeper told them she waited at the side door before entering the house that morning so she could let in a personal trainer, who also attended the residence every Friday to work out with the Shermans.
She said they would often find Barry in the kitchen reading the newspaper when they arrived in the morning but this time, the door was locked and for the first time in three years, she noticed that the alarm was off.
The housekeeper also noted that the newspaper was outside and she brought it in along with the mail.
In her interview with police shortly after the murders, the personal trainer said she went into the kitchen to wait for Barry, who typically did his workout for an hour before his wife began her two-hour training session at 9:30 a.m.
When Barry did not come down to the kitchen, the housekeeper went upstairs to see if they were still sleeping, she said.
The housekeeper said she found that the bed in the master bedroom was made but a bit untidy and noticed that the sink Honey normally uses was dry.
It was unusual, she said, for the bed to be made on Fridays as Honey often left the bed unmade when she knew the housekeeper was coming.
When the housekeeper returned downstairs, she informed the personal trainer that the Shermans were not home.
Investigators said the personal trainer told police that she assumed the couple had departed for their trip to Florida a little early and she left sometime before 9 a.m.
Honey was scheduled to travel to Miami on Dec. 18 and Barry was planning to follow on Dec. 25.
According to police, the trainer also noticed that Honey’s 2007 Lexus SUV was in the driveway that morning but the housekeeper said it was not uncommon for her to leave the vehicle behind when she went out of town.
A furnace cleaner was the next person to arrive at the home, followed by a realtor representing a buyer interested in purchasing the Shermans’ 12,000-square-foot estate, which had been on the market for a couple of weeks.
The Shermans, who listed their property at 50 Old Colony Road for just under $7 million, were in the process of building a new home in Forest Hill.
One of the Shermans’ realtors arrived minutes later at around 10:50 a.m. and began to show the house as the housekeeper continued cleaning, police said.
In her interview with investigators, police said the realtor told them that as she conducted a tour of the main floor, she noticed a cell phone in the powder room and was later told by the housekeeper that the device belonged to Honey.
As she moved from room to room, the realtor said she began turning on lights around the house.
She, the potential buyers, and the other realtor walked down the spiral staircase that goes from the master bedroom, to the kitchen, and down to the basement entrance to the garage, she said.
In the basement, the group walked past the change rooms and down to the end of a hallway, where there is a button to unlock the door to the indoor pool area.
When she turned on the lights to the pool room, she told police that the clients who were viewing the house commented that it appeared the homeowners were down there.
The realtor told police that she saw Barry and Honey Sherman at the far end of the room on the pool deck with their heads elevated and hanging on the railing leading into the pool.
She said she initially thought it was “some weird meditation or yoga” and there was no blood.
She said she quickly got the strangers out of the house, locked the doors, and informed the others inside the residence about what she discovered.
The housekeeper, she said, admitted that she was scared and said that when she walked into the house that morning, she could feel “something heavy in the air.”
The realtor said she called Honey’s sister Mary, who told her to phone the police.
She added that the gardener, who had just arrived at the residence, returned to the basement to investigate.
According to the court documents, the gardener told police she came within a metre of the bodies, did not touch them, and came back upstairs.
She came back up “shaking,” the realtor told police, and informed the others that the Shermans were blue and clearly dead, adding that it appeared they had been murdered.
Police noted that in her 911 call, the realtor said that someone had killed her clients and she could be heard yelling, “they are dead.”
When officers arrived on scene, they discovered Barry and Honey fully clothed in the basement near their pool in a “semi-seated” position, facing the wall. Their arms were behind them but not bound and there were two black belts looped round their necks with the other end attached to a railing.
An autopsy later revealed that the cause of death for both Barry and Honey was ligature neck compression.
The housekeeper told police that Honey, who has problems with her knees, rarely went to the basement and another witness interviewed by investigators said the couple’s pool was rarely used.
The realtor told police she remembered Barry once mentioning something about a camera by the pool but she said she didn’t think it worked.
Another person interviewed by members of the homicide unit on Dec. 29, 2017 said the family had at one point begged Barry to install cameras around the house but he said they “didn’t need them.”
“Barry was never afraid of anything,” he said.
Couple last seen two days before bodies found
The last time Barry and Honey Sherman were seen alive was on the evening of Wednesday, Dec. 13.
According to the court documents, the couple had a meeting at Apotex with the builders of their new home.
It was a rare appearance at Apotex for Honey, who multiple witnesses said went to her husband’s place of work very infrequently.
One witness who attended the meeting told police that he remembered Barry remarking that he didn’t know why they needed to build such a large house when he probably only had another 10 years or so left to live.
He said Barry was acting “himself and didn’t appear stressed or unhappy.”
Joe Brennan, one of the contractors who was building their home, was also at the meeting and told police he remembered Honey saying something that made him think she wanted Barry home earlier than usual that evening but he could not remember exactly what was said.
After the meeting, which lasted for about an hour, Honey left in her own vehicle and Barry stayed at the office to continue working.
Barry’s last known communication was with Jack Kay, the vice-chair of Apotex.
In his interview with police, Kay told investigators he received an email from Barry at 8:23 p.m. on Dec. 13, 2017 and he responded at 9:48 p.m. but wasn’t expecting a reply from Barry that night.
Shortly before 6 p.m. on Dec. 14, Kay emailed Barry again but Barry, who Kay said was known for instantly replying to emails, did not respond.
The last phone call Honey made was at 6:21 p.m. on Dec. 13 and preliminary data obtained from her iPhone showed several missed calls on Dec. 14 and Dec. 15.
The realtor selling the Shermans’ home also sent them an email the day before their bodies were found, informing them of the upcoming showing, but again, she received no response.
Honey did not respond to text messages she received from her daughter Alexandra and her sister Mary on Thursday, Dec. 14.
Honey’s personal assistant told police in an interview that there typically wasn’t anyone scheduled to attend the Sherman residence on Thursdays.
She noted that she would have been working for Honey on Thursday and Friday that week but they decided it wasn’t necessary since Honey was preparing for her trip to Florida and she was getting ready for a trip to Cuba.
Three possible outcomes initially considered
In the early stages of the investigation, police considered three possible outcomes in the deaths of Barry and Honey Sherman, including a double suicide, a double homicide, and a murder-suicide in which Barry killed his wife and then ended his own life.
Some of the redacted court documents indicated that police were searching for a possible suicide note, which was never found.
“Since suicide by one or both deceased is a possibility, I think it is important to check for a ‘goodbye letter’ or suicide note that might have been drafted in the recent past,” a homicide detective wrote in one court application requesting access to the couple’s phone records.
In one document submitted to the court in December 2017, police noted that while the murder-suicide theory was still on the table, there was no evidence to suggest that Barry’s death was a suicide as he appeared “to have led a fulfilling life, with no mental health issues or illness.”
They went on to say that there were “no domestic-related occurrences” filed with Toronto police and the couple had planned to take trips together in the near future, including the trip to Florida and an upcoming visit to Japan.
The police also noted that they were also in the process of “breaking ground and building a $20 million home.”
In interviews with the police, the couple’s children and friends strongly denied any suggestion that Barry was capable of harming Honey or that either of them would die by suicide.
Alexandra Sherman described her father as very humble, unassuming, quiet, and loving, according to notes taken by officers who interviewed her on Dec. 27, 2017.
She said that growing up, the relationship between her parents had been difficult but that a lot had changed in recent years since the birth of her son.
She said she noticed they were a lot more in love, not arguing, and spending more time together caring for their four grandchildren.
In her interview with police one week after Barry and Honey were found dead, investigators said the couple’s daughter Lauren called the suggestion that they died by suicide ridicuous, noting that they were very wealthy and enjoyed a good life.
According to police, Lauren said during her childhood, her parents were the screaming and swearing type but never got physical. She said over time they sorted out their issues and in the past five years, they were seen walking around and holding hands.
She said her mother was “gregarious” and “made friends with everyone” while her father was “not social” but liked solving problems and obtained a Ph. D in rocket science from MIT at 24 years old.
In an interview with police on Dec. 17, 2017, the vice-chair of Apotex told investigators that Barry would never harm anyone or take his own life. He also noted that while Apotex was facing ongoing lawsuits and layoffs, Barry would not have been “fazed” by the company’s financial situation as the family had other money.
When speaking to investigators in December, police said the couple’s youngest daughter Kaelen Sherman said although she did not believe her parents were very close or in love with each other when she was growing up, they seemed to be getting closer. She added that her parents would never do anything to harm each other and would not have died by suicide.
According to the court documents, the couple’s son-in-law Brad, who said he works at Apotex, told police that the couple bickered but loved each other.
He described Barry as quiet and not overly affectionate but friendly and generous.
When speaking to investigators, police said Brad told them Barry bought a house for Brad’s brother and a million-dollar savings bond for his mother.
One witness told investigators in her interview that she once heard Honey loudly make a comment about Barry having affairs but others who were interviewed told police that they did not sense that there were concerns about infidelity.
There are people ‘who would have a reason to hurt them,’ son says
According to the redacted documents, Honey’s sister Mary told police that while the couple, who had been married for 40 years, would sometimes fight over Barry’s long hours at the office, they “could not live without each other.” Police said she also told them that “everyone wanted to get near” them because of their wealth.
In an interview on Dec. 23, 2017, police said the couple’s son Jonathon told investigators that his father was brilliant and while he lacked emotional and social intelligence, he was unfiltered and genuine.
According to police notes, Jonathon said his mother was “socially smart, abrasive, high energy in your face, and blunt but not in an evil way.”
Police said he described his parents as complicated and said he believes there are people who would “have a grudge against them” and would want to hurt them.
Joel Ulster, a long-time friend of Barry, was interviewed by police on Dec. 29, 2017 and investigators say he told them he believed “someone was hired to do this to Barry and Honey.”
In January 2018, six weeks after the Shermans’ bodies were discovered and after a forensic pathologist hired by the couple’s family ruled their deaths a double murder, Toronto police publicly confirmed that they believed Barry and Honey Sherman were the victims of a targeted, double homicide.
Investigators have released very few details about their investigation to date and big blocks of text have been redacted in the recently released court documents so as not to reveal any “persons of interest” identified by witnesses in the case.
In a statement sent to CTV News Toronto this week, Toronto police said the case is still “very active and ongoing,” with investigative steps being taken “every single day.”
“This is a difficult day for all of those who were close to the Shermans. We know it is frustrating when limited updates are available to the public in order to protect the integrity of the investigation,” the statement read.
“We are committed to bringing closure and justice to the family and the community.”