On Friday, December 15, 2017 – a gardener and housekeeper arrived at the North York residence at 50 Old Colony Road of 75 year old billionaire Barry Sherman and his wife, 70 year old Honey, at 8:30 am for their weekly visit. Thanks to a newly installed lock box that had been set up for the realtor trying to sell the 7 million dollar mansion, the two were able to let themselves in. They went about their business on the second and main floors of the 12,000 square foot home.
Now, this house is HUGE – The lower level consisted of an underground 6 car garage, a recreation area and an indoor swimming pool, while the rest of the home included 5 bedrooms, 9 bathrooms, a gym, sauna and tennis court.
Neither the housekeeper nor the gardener saw either of the Shermans, but didn’t think much of it since they weren’t supposed to be home.
A couple interested in buying the mansion arrived at 10:30 am with their real estate agent for a tour. The home had been listed for sale by Judi Gottlieb, but she was in Florida. Instead, the three met with another unnamed assistant agent who went on Judi’s behalf.
The group toured various floors and rooms of the expansive home and after about a half hour, they reached the lower floor. The assistant agent led the group to one of the highlights of the home – the indoor swimming pool.
The assistant agent opened the door, expecting to wow the couple with the sight of the pool, but was faced with a gruesome discovery instead. The bodies of Honey and Barry Sherman were hung with belts by their necks from the pool’s railing. They were in seated positions with their backs to the pool. The agent quickly shut the door and ushered the group out, telling them that part of the home was currently off limits. Good save.
The agent went to find the housekeeper to tell her what happened and to call Judi Gottlieb, the agent responsible for selling the home. The housekeeper called 911 at 11:43. The Toronto police and paramedics were en route to the home within a minute.
The buyer’s agent described the event as “scary” thinking it was a joke or leftover Halloween decorations. The superstitious couple touring the home were angry and feared it was a “sinister omen.” Even though the assistant agent tried to keep them from seeing the bodies, the buyer’s agent said the whole group saw through the large glass doors.
The deaths were considered suspicious and Toronto Police Service Homicide Squad took the lead in the investigation, because they were the “most experienced in dealing with sudden unexpected deaths”.
Dr. Michael Pickup conducted the autopsies and concluded the cause of both deaths was “ligature neck compression.” Ligature strangulation is usually distinguished from hanging by the strangling force being something other than the person’s body weight. It was also determined that Barry and Honey had been dead for at least a day. Rigor mortis, the stiffening of the muscles, had passed and their limbs wereq relaxed and limp. There were injuries to their wrists and a biopsy was taken to determine if these were new or old injuries.
That night, the Toronto Police made two statements explaining there were no suspects being sought and there was no forced entry into the home.
On December 16, police sources told the Toronto Star that they were “probing the possibility that they were a murder–suicide,” believing Barry killed Honey before taking his own life.
Friends and family of the couple were adamant this wasn’t the case, noting the house had nine entrances and both Barry and Honey would have let anyone in who asked for help, no matter the time of day, even if they were a stranger. Their children issued a statement urging the police to conduct a thorough criminal investigation and chastised them for making their murder-suicide theory public. The Sherman family was certain Barry and Honey were murdered.
But who were Honey and Barry Sherman and why would anyone want either of them dead?
(Note: a lot of this information comes from a very in depth piece on MacLean’s by Anne Kingston and Michael Friscolanti who did a ton of research on the Shermans and Apotex. We will link the article on our blog, it’s worth checking out for even more information, but for the sake of this podcast, these are some of the highlights we’ve gathered.)
Barry Sherman was the founder and CEO of Apotex, Inc – Canada’s largest generic drug distributor. In his lifetime, he emmassed an estimated net worth of 4.6 billion dollars – making him one of the wealthiest men in Canada.
By 2016, Apotex employed over 10,000 people with over 300 products selling in over 115 countries. Their revenue was about $1.19 billion dollars annually. Launched in 1974, the company was in a constant battle against Big Pharma, government regulators and anyone who questioned Barry’s intentions. He thought of himself as a patent-busting underdog, bravely suing the Mercks, Pfizers and Bayers of the world so he could provide patients with affordable generic medication. He once claimed – “if we’re thieves, we’re Robin Hoods.” Winning in court was so crucial to his success that he liked to tell employees they worked for a legal company that happened to sell medications.
In Federal Court alone, Apotex had launched more than 1,200 legal actions including 83 against Health Canada since 1990. A ministry spokesperson said, “because of the high volume of cases,” officials can’t even begin to calculate how many millions Barry’s litigations had cost Canadian taxpayers.
The 83 actions against Health Canada stemmed from a 30 year dispute over a knock-off of the drug trazodone. In April 2017, Barry came out on top when the Federal Court of Appeals ruled in his favor. Bruce Clark, Apotex’s former senior vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs, told Maclean’s, “For Barry, it wasn’t about the money. Money is just how you keep score.”
From that alone, it’s easy to see how Barry could have made some enemies selling cheaper generic drugs and fighting against larger brand name companies. To add to that, Barry often found himself working with criminals who took advantage of his wealth and kindness.
Outside of Apotex, Barry personally invested in multiple businesses which often turned out to be fraudulent schemes. Barry’s associates felt he was too generous and trusting. An unidentified longtime friend told MacLean’s “He always saw the best in people, which wasn’t a great thing all the time.”
Some of these fraudulent investments include:
- A stake in a yacht-chartering company that never bought any yachts.
- A majority stake in a company that sold nutritional supplements marketed by the infamous Kevin Trudeau, who Wikipedia describes as an “American fraudster, author, salesman and pool enthusiast.” In 1996, U.S. regulators began investigating Kevin Trudeau for fraud which led to his arrest. Prompting Barry to sell half his stake in the company to Apotex.
- Barry also partnered with Frank D’Angelo, a fruit juice maker, for 15 years. Frank was trying to expand his business at Barry’s expense. The two created Cheetah Power Surge energy drink and started Steelback Brewery – but D’Angelo Brands went bankrupt in 2007, causing Barry to lose 100 million dollars. D’Angelo was also arrested in 2009 on sexual assault and obstruction of justice charges. Regardless, Barry continued backing D’angelo’s next venture in filmmaking, financing all 8 films of his obscure films including – Real Gangsters! and Sicilian Vampire.
- Barry partnered with another man convicted of fraud, Shaun Rootenbery. He convinced Barry to invest in his development of an online trivia game – which never happened and led Barry to sue Rootenbery for allegedly pocketing the money.
To add to the long list of scams and lawsuits, 11 months before Barry’s death, Apotex fired – then sued – Mulazim Hussain, a chemist who allegedly stole millions of dollars worth of drug formulations in hopes of building a rival factory in Pakistan. Six months later, Apotex was slapped with corporate espionage accusations by Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, the world’s largest generic drug maker. In the lawsuit, Teva claims one of its former employees was in a romantic relationship with Apotex CEO Jeremy Desai and leaked information to him. Both Apotex and Jeremy Desai denied these allegations. It’s also noted that Jeremy Desai abruptly resigned six weeks after Barry and Honey’s deaths.
Another battle that many people believe may be relevant to Barry’s death involved his cousins, Kerry Winter and his 3 siblings. This issue goes as far back as the 1960s. The Winter cousins lost their parents at a young age and their father, Louis Winter, was a pioneer in the generic pharmaceutical business. When Barry was young, he worked for and was mentored by his uncle Lou at his business, Empire Laboratories.
When his uncle passed away, Barry ended up eventually buying and selling Empire Laboratories.
Led by Kerry Winter, the cousins alleged in a series of court proceedings that began in the 1990s that Barry owed a financial duty to his four cousins, which translated to one-fifth of his estimated 5 billion dollar wealth.
They said part of the purchase deal that Barry agreed to said they too deserve some of the money. But, Barry’s lawyers countered because the option had never taken effect. It stipulated that the cousins must have been 21 at the time and have worked for Empire – neither of those conditions were met.
The Winter cousins lost their case plenty of times, including one not long before the murders of Barry and Honey, which made many people suspicious. Kerry Winter didn’t help their suspicions by admitting he fantasized about murdering Barry.
Kerry Winter’s initial interview with Bob Mclean of The Fifth Estate where he says he wanted to hurt Barry, that Barry may have killed Honey because he asked Kerry to kill her once, and he failed a lie detector test given to him by The Fifth Estate.
Kerry then did a follow up phone interview with Postmedia’s Joe Warmington to defend his innocence’.
The entire thing finally came to an end in March 2020 when Kerry Winter lost their bid to have Canada’s highest court hear their final appeal. Kerry said he was “disappointed” with the result.
This background information is only skimming the surface of everything that went on with Apotex and Barry before his death. If you can believe it, there are even more lawsuits and political scandals that we won’t get into for the sake of time, but like I said earlier, we will link all of our sources in our blog.
So what was Honey doing all this time? It should also be noted that the Shermans were philanthropists and donated tons of money to hospitals, universities and various organizations. Honey was on the board for many of these charities and focused her time there.
She was also designing their extravagant new home that included plans for a luggage room, yes, a room specifically for luggage – but sadly, as you know, they were never able to move into this home.
After their deaths, The Sherman children were determined to prove their parents were murdered and that this was not a murder-suicide as police suggested. They contacted Toronto criminal lawyer Brian Greenspan to retain a private investigator to look into the deaths. He hired Tom Klett, a retired Toronto Police detective who has worked in the homicide, drug, and intelligence bureaus. Together, they assembled a team of private investigators that consisted of former homicide detectives. The family also hired Dr. David Chiasson, the retired chief forensic pathologist for Ontario, to conduct another autopsy.
The funeral for Barry and Honey was scheduled for Thursday, December 21. That Wednesday, Dr. Chiasson conducted his own autopsy in the presence of three private investigators and Dr. Michael Pickup, who performed the initial autopsy
Dr. Pickup supplied him with the crime scene photos and photos of the bodies before they were autopsied. The photos showed markings on the couple’s wrists that had been made by some type of ligature, leading Chiasson to believe their wrists and hands had been bound before they died. Even though samples were sent for biopsy, the photos indicated the wounds were recent.
Whether the belts found around their necks were what was used to kill them is up for debate. Some sources say the belts were tightened around the couple’s neck to strangle them, while others say the couple was strangled with something else and the belts were placed around their necks to pose the bodies.
The private investigators determined this was a homicide. Someone close to the team stated “photographs of both the scene and autopsy, certain things struck all of them collectively and lead them to the conclusion that this was a double murder.”
Here is a clip from CBC News going over details the private investigation team uncovered:
At the funeral, over 7000 mourners, including Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attended.
Jonathon Sherman, the couple’s son, spoke at the service saying – “As my sisters and I congregated for two days waiting to hear any facts other than through Twitter and the unreliable news media, I kept expecting my parents to walk through the front door and say ‘everything will be fine, we’ve taken control of the situation.’ These past few days have been a shocking adjustment to our reality.”
He spoke about his family as a six-pack and reminisced about their childhood vacations, holiday dinners and playtimes with new grandchildren.
“Our parents never left anyone behind. They were taken from us,” he said.
Six weeks after their deaths, police finally announced that the deaths of Honey and Barry were being investigated as a double homicide. Homicide Det.-Sgt. Susan Gomes said, “We believe now, through the six week work review, we have sufficient evidence to describe this as a double homicide investigation and that both Barry and Honey Sherman were in fact targeted.”
It was determined the last day the Shermans were seen or heard from was December 13th, two days before their bodies were found. Honey left the Apotex before Barry around 5pm. In an interesting note, Honey had missed a meeting with the Baycrest Centre Foundation the day before. She had not told anyone she was unable to make the meeting, which was unlike her. When she was reached by email, she said she was “dealing with some stuff.”
Honey had been planning to leave for a vacation in Miami in a few days, and Barry was due to meet her a week later.
Barry sent some emails that evening from his Apotex account. His final email was sent between 6.30pm and 8.30pm that night. The email is said to have been routine and business related – about a drug Apotex had in development at the time.
Nobody in the company heard from Barry that night which was slightly unusual as he often sent emails at all hours of the night and early morning due to trouble sleeping.
Barry did not arrive into the office on Thursday, December 14. This did not raise alarm at the time as he essentially had nobody to notice, business-wise. He did not have a driver or a personal assistant, so his movements were solely up to him.
There is no public information about anyone hearing from Barry or Honey on Thursday, December 14. As they led such busy lives, friends and family say that it was not unusual for them to not be in contact daily.
In the days and weeks following their deaths, The Star uncovered more details related to the investigation. They reported that Honey’s cell phone was found in a rarely used bathroom of the home, suggesting she may have tried to hide and call for help, but was found and overpowered by the killer. Barry’s gloves and paperwork were left on the floor outside of the door to the garage, on the way to the indoor swimming pool.
While police said there was no forced entry into the home, The Star noted a window had been left open allowing a recently painted room to air out and that a basement door was unlocked. The Shermans frequently left that door unlocked, which could have been known by the killer.
Barry and Honey’s bodies were posed similarly to a set of sculptures found on the same floor. The picture is on our blog for you guys to check out, but the sculptures are two life-sized people sitting with their legs crossed that the Shermans placed on a pair of speakers. It looks like they are made from trash? The statues are really creepy looking, one of the Sherman children was quoted saying “we all hated those things.”
The pieces were given to the Shermans by friends years ago and have been on display in their home since 1985. According to police, the Shermans’ bodies were found in semi-seated positions with belts fastened around their necks tied to a low railing by the indoor swimming pool.
Through the Star’s investigation, they learned that Barry’s right leg was crossed over his left when his body was discovered, similarly to the male statue. It’s unclear if police have come to any conclusions about the similarities.
Kevin Donovan, The Star’s chief investigative journalist, said “I have no idea what the police or the private investigators have come up with related to these photos. I’ve asked the police and they’ve said they can’t comment on anything in an active and ongoing investigation.”
On October 26th 2018, the Sherman family offered a 10 million dollar reward for information leading to the apprehension and prosecution of the killer or killers at a press conference held by Brian Greenspan – these are a few clips from that press conference:
In December 2018, the estate files were sealed by a rare court order to preserve the “privacy and dignity” of the victims and to protect the heirs from possible violence from the couple’s unknown killer or killers.
In December 2018, details of the search for Honey Sherman’s will were made public at this time. It turns out, in the weeks following their deaths, the whereabouts of her will were unknown. It wasn’t found during the police searches and none of the officials who had been appointed to manage the Sherman estate knew where it was. “We don’t know who the beneficiaries are, if there is a will,” Sherman estate lawyer Timothy Youdan told a court hearing in July. “We don’t know if there is no will.”
Youdan had to file a document asking for “appointment of estate trustee without a will in the estate of Honey Sherman.”
The Sherman family said they feared ‘kidnapping and violence’ and they were granted a court order, which completely sealed information on the family estate, including the amount and distribution of assets. A two-year blanket seal was issued to protect the ‘privacy and dignity’ of the whole family and to protect them from being possibly targeted by the same killers.
In relation to the sealing of the Sherman’s estate, there was meant to be a hearing in March 2020 to apply to have the seal extended. The original seal is due to expire in Summer 2020. This case will now be heard in July and October 2020, pending Covid 19 restrictions.
Even though the estate files were sealed, The Star managed to get some information. Barry appears to have had both a primary and a secondary will. This is common in Ontario for people who own a private business. The primary will includes real estate, vehicles and similar holdings which must go to probate. An estate admin tax must be paid to the government on these holdings. Secondary wills typically cover shares in private companies and no estate tax has to be paid.
The order in which the couple died could also complicate matters relating to their estate. In Barry’s will, he specified that if he died first, everything would go to Honey. Even if they died within minutes of each other, if Barry died first, legally his estate would still flow to Honey. Her lack of a will complicates how the estate would be dealt with ongoing.
Their estate lawyer Timothy Youdan admitted that no one knows the order Barry and Honey died.
A friend of Honey’s came forward to the Star and told them that in November 2017, Honey said she had “updated” her will at a lawyer’s office.
This friend told The Star, “Honey and I were talking and she said meet me at Yonge and St. Clair Avenue. She said she was just coming from her lawyer’s office and she had just updated her will. She had done some amendments. Honey said she wanted me to first go with her to Loblaws to get those frozen croissants from Ace Bakery that she liked, then we would go to her home.”
The exact date of the conversation about the will is unknown, but the source said it was around the November 13 birth of the Sherman’s third grandchild. The source said Honey often stressed the importance of having a will and ‘making sure everything is protected’.
Honey did not mention to the source what changes she was making to the will. Speculation is that she added the new grandchild as a beneficiary. Barry had allegedly been planning to give Honey a significant amount of money at the time – as much as $500m. Honey’s sister Mary Schectman has come out and said that some of that money was earmarked for her. She and Honey had been best friends and Mary assisted with some of the Sherman’s real estate projects.
This friend has not been identified publicly in the media but The Star confirmed that the source had known Honey for years. The source said they reached out to police immediately after the murder but police did not respond for six weeks (same amount of time surveillance was ignored until). On January 26, 2018 when police announced that the deaths were a targeted double homicide, a homicide detective came and interviewed the friend for two hours.
She said she was asked questions by the police as to whether Honey had any visible marks on her body – the answer was no.
The source also recalled an odd event that happened on December 9, 2017, just days before the Shermans were murdered. A realtor came in and explained that a prospective buyer wanted to view the property via facetime. The realtor gave a tour over the phone and Honey even waved to the camera at one point. The source said this was odd as the person viewing the property would not show their face and was asking questions via text message, instead of just speaking. Very strange.
The homicide detective also apparently asked the source at the end of their interview ‘Who do you think did it?’ and the friend replied with ‘That’s your job.’
In March 2019, the Sherman children filed an application to have the home demolished. The family’s statement noted the house “contained bad memories and stigma” and because of the crime, the home had become impossible to sell.
A friend of the family, Eric Kirshenblatt, spoke to City News about the house being demolished.
Things take a few weird turns here – CTV was interviewing neighbors in the community about the demolition of the house, when they uncovered a potential key piece of evidence. A woman who chose to remain anonymous said she gave police surveillance video that showed a car sitting in the Sherman’s driveway on December 14th, 2017 – a day before their bodies were found and a day after the couple was last seen alive. She said a man was seen “sitting in his car for up to 15 minutes then going inside.”
Between 9:11 a.m. and 10:16 a.m. the man walked from a four-door sedan parked in front of the Sherman house, appears to enter the Sherman house through the front door, then comes back outside. He does this three times, for a total of 29 minutes inside the Sherman home, before driving off.
The police said they couldn’t answer any questions since it is still an active investigation, but they did say they knew who the person was and had already interviewed them.
During The Star’s investigation, they discovered that the police hadn’t looked at this surveillance nor any surveillance from Apotex for at least six weeks after the murders. The police did not offer any explanation for this, again citing it was an active investigation. My guess would be because they initially assumed it was a murder suicide and it took weeks for them to decide it was a double murder.
Even though the police say they have interviewed the man who went into the home, Brian Greenspan said the private investigation team had a copy of the footage and it was inconclusive Due to the quality, they could not tell who the man was.
In May 2019, it emerged that a strange 911 call had been made from Old Colony Road, at the same time the Sherman’s were likely dying.
On Thursday, December 14, 2017 at around 9.45am, a uniformed police officer visited a house on the Sherman’s street – the homeowner and house number have not been made public, but it’s thought the house was around 10 doors away from the Sherman house.
The police officer asked the homeowner if someone in the residence had called 911. The officer did not share much with the owner but said they believed the call came from the owner’s home. They did not specify if it came from a cell phone or landline and were not specific about what time the call was made.
When the homeowner saw the news the next day of the Sherman’s deaths, they reported the 911 call and the police visit.
“It was just too much of a coincidence and I thought police should know,” the homeowner told the Star. That Friday night at the police division, the homeowner was told by police that “maybe some wires were crossed” and that is why it appeared a 911 call had been made.
“They made light of it and they said they didn’t think it was anything that was relevant,” the homeowner said.
The owners took it upon themselves to check with phone providers and they said there was no evidence of a glitch, crossed wires or any records that a 911 call came from within their house.
“It has left me feeling really weird that police would think there was an emergency call coming from me. It just seemed too much of a coincidence,” the homeowner said.
This unusual occurrence has raised many questions – did the police somehow visit the wrong house when a 911 call came in? Did the 911 call come from a cell phone and police were unable to trace it to an exact property? Could the call have really come from the Sherman property, at 50 Old Colony Road?
Another theory that has emerged relates to the unidentified car and man seen at the Sherman residence on December 14, 2017. Could this man have possibly been a police officer in an unmarked car who was also checking out the 911 call? The man was seen at the Sherman residence between 9.11am and 10.16am on the same morning that the police officer visited the Sherman’s neighbours at 9.45am.
The Star approached the Toronto police for comment about possible correlation between the two events and the Director of communications Allison Sparkes gave the following response: “As for your questions, we are unable to comment on any aspects of open, ongoing investigations.”
Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders has said that police know who the person at the Sherman residence was. “I can tell you we knew who the person was, why they were there, (the person) was interviewed,”. – as I mentioned before.
At a court hearing in April 2019, Detective Dennis Yim, the only full time officer assigned to the Sherman case at this point, said they had a working theory of what happened to Honey and Barry and that one person they want to speak with has been refusing to speak with them.
Here is Kevin Donovan, the chief investigative reporter for The Star speaking to CTV News about that court hearing and giving a few updates on the case at that time.
On December 16, 2019, two years after their deaths, Toronto Police and the Sherman family released a joint statement to announce the private investigation led by the family’s lawyer, Brian Greenspan, was now closed.
At a news conference, Inspector Hank Idsinga, the head of the Toronto police homicide unit, spoke to the media.
It seems like there was some sort of falling out between the family and Brian Greenspan with the family and Toronto PD. The family, who was initially critical of the police, was now fully on their team.
Up to that date evidence wise, 38 judicial authorizations were obtained, which resulted in searches of residential and commercial properties, electronic devices, and production of 73 individual records. 150 items were submitted to the Center of Forensic Sciences for testing, 243 witnesses were interviewed, 4 TB of security video had been obtained, 205 tips were given directly to police from the public and an additional 343 tips were given to the police via the private investigative team.
Still, the police were asking anyone with reliable information regarding the murders, no matter how inconsequential it may seem, to report it. Idsinga reiterated that in October 2018, the Sherman family established a collaborative reward program that would compensate anyone whose tips led to the arrest of the perpetrators.
The private tipline created by Brian Greenspan, hired to represent the family, was now offline.
The majority believe the police botched the investigation because police believed it was a murder/suicide and only investigated that scenario, initially. Kevin Donovan from The Star has been pushing to get records related to the case unsealed. He told CTV News that documents he was able to obtain revealed police were only considering Honey a victim of murder for the first six weeks of the investigation, indicating they believed Barry killed Honey and then himself. Donovan said “(Police) decided it was murder-suicide and then they go down this tunnel. That’s bad for an investigation and bad for investigators. You have to look at all suspects and all possible suspects in the first 48 hours.”
In his book “The Billionaire Murders,” he documents that investigators waited months to collect DNA and fingerprints from people who had been in the home to rule them out as suspects and some key people in the Shermans’ life weren’t interviewed for weeks after the murders. And as we mentioned earlier, he also revealed that police didn’t look at surveillance from Apotex or the neighborhood for six weeks after their deaths.
Donovan said, “I think the police officers assigned to the case were good, but there probably weren’t enough of them.”
When the Shermans’ bodies were discovered, the Toronto police were also in the midst of an investigation that eventually led to the arrest and conviction of serial killer Bruce McArthur, which required tremendous resources from the police.
Donovan also gave his opinion on the case after studying it for almost a year and a half. He believes the Shermans’ killer was someone they knew and dismissed the idea of a professional hitman or foreign spy being involved.
He told CTV ““I think it’s quite likely that this was an attempt to have a conversation that went horribly wrong,” and noted that strangulation is a very personal killing.
Unfortunately, that’s basically everything up to date. We’re left with no real answers 2.5 years later. The only thing we know that will be happening is the hearing this summer to discuss the sealing of the estate, which was already delayed from March 2020 due to Coronavirus.
How the investigation into the deaths of Barry and Honey Sherman turned from murder-suicide to double homicide
The Unsolved Murder of an Unusual Billionaire
Agent who found Shermans dead thought bodies were Halloween prank