The positioning of the bodies of murder victims Barry and Honey Sherman was eerily similar to a tableau of two life-sized, human-shaped art figures in a basement room near the crime scene in the billionaire couple’s Toronto home.
The Sherman bodies and the two art figures owned by the Shermans were in a seated position, and both Barry Sherman and the male art figure had one leg crossed over the other.
This is one of several new pieces of information the Star has recently uncovered in its ongoing investigation of a case that marks its second anniversary on Dec. 15.
Among the others: the revelation that a window was open and a door unlocked when police arrived at the Sherman home; the precise location of Barry’s gloves and papers and Honey’s cellphone in the house, which are significant because they may indicate where each was attacked; and the potential disruption of evidence in the home because police did not properly secure the scene.
Toronto police have said they can’t answer any questions posed by the media related to this case. However, as part of a court process in which a Star reporter has been allowed to question one of the Sherman detectives, the detective has said the homicide squad has a working theory of the case and “an idea of what happened,” and police are “cautiously optimistic” that the probe is progressing toward a resolution.
The Star has recently learned more details about what transpired in December 2017 at 50 Old Colony Rd., the house that the billionaire founder of generic drug maker Apotex and his wife built in the 1980s and were trying to sell at the time of their deaths. The house was torn down earlier this year at the request of the Shermans’ children.
Barry and Honey’s lifeless bodies were discovered by realtors and clients who were touring the house on Friday, Dec. 15, 2017. The couple was last seen alive on the evening of Wednesday, Dec. 13. Initially thought by police to be a murder-suicide, their deaths were later determined to be a “targeted” double homicide, according to Det. Sgt. Susan Gomes, who was then the lead detective on the case.
Their bodies were found in what Gomes told news conference was a “semi-seated position.” Belts around their necks were attached to a low railing at one end of their basement swimming pool, holding them upright. Brian Greenspan, one of the lawyers working for the Sherman family, has said publicly that the Shermans were found seated side by side, and that one of Barry’s legs was “crossed over the other.” People who saw the bodies in the pool room that Friday have confirmed this to the Star. One of those people said the bodies were not seated in a 90-degree position but tipped back slightly, with the belts around their necks holding them from falling backward into the pool.
This arrangement has puzzled police and private investigators, as well as friends and family of the Shermans. A member of the private investigation team has referred to the positioning as “staged.” The Star has found an eerie similarity to the sculptures seated in a room at the other end of the basement.
The sculptures in question were made in the 1970s by self-described “junk sculptor” Leo Sewell. According to Sewell’s website, the Philadelphia man grew up near a dump and creates art from discarded materials chosen “for their colour, shape, texture, durability and patina.” Sewell’s art shapes have included human figures and animals.
The two sculptures that found their way into the Sherman hands were originally displayed in the Eaton’s store at College and Yonge streets, which closed in 1977 when the Toronto Eaton Centre opened. Friends of the Shermans purchased the sculptures and kept them in their Toronto home; when they moved to the U.S., Honey asked if she could have the sculptures. The art pieces moved houses with the Shermans and eventually, when the house on Old Colony Road was built in 1985, became a feature of the 12,000-square-foot home.
The figures are male and female. The male sculpture’s left leg is crossed over its right leg. One of the Sherman children described the sculptures to the Star as “creepy,” adding, “We all hated those things.” A regular visitor to the home recently used the same word — “creepy” — to describe the figures.
Sewell told the Star that he created the sculptures in a seated position, and that the arms and legs were not movable. Shown a photo of the sculptures in the Sherman’s basement room, Sewell said they “need repair” but otherwise appeared to be as they were when he constructed them in the 1970s.
The last known photo of the sculptures — other than photos police presumably took as part of their six-week analysis of the house after the bodies were discovered — was taken during preparations for putting the Shermans’ house on the market. The photos show the two sculptures “sitting” on two big speaker units in a “hobby room” in the basement at the front of the house. The pool room where the Shermans’ bodies were found was at the other end of the basement, separated by the garage and a rec room.
The real estate photos were part of the online package of pictures displaying the Sherman home. The photos went online in late November, three weeks before the bodies were found.
There are similarities and differences in the positioning of the Sherman bodies and the sculptures.
Both are seated, with the male sculpture and Barry Sherman seated on the left of the female sculpture and Honey Sherman, respectively.
In the case of the male sculpture and Barry Sherman, both had one leg crossed over the other. The sculpture’s left leg was crossed over the right. Neither the police nor the family’s private investigation team have publicly said which of Barry’s legs was crossed over the other, but a Sherman private investigation source told the Star a year ago that his right leg was crossed over his left. In the case of the female sculpture and Honey Sherman, the female sculpture had one leg crossed, whereas Honey’s legs were in front of her and uncrossed.
The Shermans’s bodies were found seated on the floor, with their legs in front of them. The sculptures were seated on raised speakers, and had their legs dangling, as if on a chair, which is how they were constructed — the legs were fixed and could not be extended. The female sculpture’s arms were at its side, the same as the way Honey was found. Barry’s arms were by his side, pulled back slightly by the sleeves of his bomber jacket, while the male sculpture had its hands resting on the crossed leg.
The Star investigation has also learned:
- When homicide officers took over the case, they said there were no signs of forced entry at the home. However, a window in a basement room was found open, and had routinely been left open to air out the smell of new paint applied to the walls to mask previous water damage.
A door leading outside from the basement to the patio was also found unlocked when the Shermans’ real estate agent toured another agent and a couple interested in buying the house through the home on the morning the bodies were discovered. Family and friends say the Shermans were in the habit of leaving doors unlocked, so this would not have been unusual. The basement door exits to stairs that led up to a patio on the west side of the house. An intruder who knew the layout, and knew the door was unlocked, could have entered and left the house through a neighbours yard without being seen.
- Personal items belonging to Barry and Honey were found in locations that may shed light on events immediately prior to their deaths.
During the Friday morning real estate tour that led to the discovery of the bodies, Honey’s iPhone was found in a powder room that friends say she never used, at the front of the house. Sources close to the private investigation have speculated that Honey came home on Wednesday evening, entered through the side door as she normally did, was surprised by an attacker and ran to the powder room.
Also discovered during the real estate tour was a thick sheaf of papers — the home inspection report for 50 Old Colony Rd. — and Barry’s leather gloves. Those items were found immediately inside the door that led from the basement garage. Insiders have told the Star that Barry had the paper copy of the inspection report at his office, and had said he would bring it home. The inspection report was found on the tiled floor of the hallway, with Barry’s gloves on top of it. Not realizing they were in a crime scene, the realtor picked up the report and gloves and placed them on a knee-high ledge that ran along the hallway.
- Entering the vestibule outside the pool, with the clients and the other realtor in tow, the realtor made the grisly discovery. Of note, most of the basement lights were off when the realtors and clients had made their way downstairs. Also, the main lights were off in the pool room, although there was a glow in the room because the underwater lights of the pool were on.
Seeing the strange tableau in the pool room, the realtor moved the clients and the other realtor back upstairs. After the clients and their realtor left, the realtor told the housekeeper and a woman watering plants what she had seen. The glimpse the realtor had was so fleeting that at first she wondered if the Shermans were doing a form of meditation. The woman watering the plants volunteered to check. She came back up and reported to the realtor that the Shermans were dead. The Shermans’ realtor then called Honey’s sister, Mary Shechtman, who was in Florida and had been trying to reach Honey that morning. The realtor then called police.
- Police officers arrived at the house along with paramedics at about 11:45 a.m. After confirming that the Shermans were dead, they set about securing the witnesses at the scene.
Present in the house were the Shermans’ realtor, the housekeeper and the woman who tended and watered the Shermans’ plants. Each was placed in a separate room, according to insiders, and they were not allowed to speak to anyone before being taken to a police station for formal interviews.
The housekeeper, left to her own devices in a room near the front hallway, did what came naturally to her — she took her mop and continued cleaning the floors. Eventually, an officer told her to stop, so as not to contaminate the crime scene.
Kevin Donovan can be reached at email@example.com or 416-312-3503