Barry and Honey Sherman murder detectives discover cell ‘tower dump’ was a dud

The Toronto Star has gained court-approved access to police investigative documents in the Barry and Honey Sherman murder case, now four years old, and the information is being published in chronological order, not all at once. Last week, we reported that in September 2020, homicide detectives believed they were right when they began matching approximately 300 cell phone numbers of people connected to the Shermans with “tower dumps” of cell phone communications near his house and Barry’s office. The hope was to find a link to the mysterious “walking man” who was believed to be the killer. In today’s installment, The Star reveals the grim news police learned just a few months ago, and the current focus on “new information”.

Bell, Rogers, Telus and Freedom Mobile received court-ordered “production orders” to deliver cell phone “tower dumps” to the Toronto Police Intelligence Unit. It was a considerable task for the telecommunications companies, gathering thousands, possibly hundreds of thousands of bits of data: the electronic traces of phone calls and text messages that passed through cell towers in two areas Barry and Honey traveled the night they were killed. and at other key moments.

These so-called “tower dumps” were then matched against some 300 cell phone numbers police had collected in their investigation, belonging to a mix of Sherman’s friends, family, co-workers and others. Maybe, the detectives thought, just maybe, they would find gold in the investigation.

At first, that’s what it seemed like, but in the late summer of 2021, just over four months ago, euphoria turned to dismay.

“We’ve exhausted all avenues (of mobile data),” said Det.-Const. of the Toronto police. Dennis Yim during a recent court appearance. “We have made comparisons and analyzes and those comparisons and analyzes have not borne any fruit.”

Yim provided this information during questioning by a Toronto Star reporter in the Star’s continuing attempts to gain access to the sealed search warrant and production orders detailing the murder investigation. The Ontario Justice Court hearing was presided over by Judge Leslie Pringle.

None of the 300 numbers appeared in the tower dumps at the relevant times, and none shed any light on the identity of the walking man, or provided evidence for the police theory that Barry and Honey were under surveillance.

That is why the police, for the first time in four years, proactively released information – the “walking man” video – at a press conference in December. After battling Star to keep the video and other elements of the investigation sealed for four years, police turned to the public for help.

Barry Sherman was the founder of Apotex, the Canadian generic drug giant. He and his wife, Honey, were philanthropists, donating millions of dollars a year. They were killed the night of Dec. 13, 2017, and their bodies were discovered 36 hours later by a real estate agent visiting clients at their home on Old Colony Rd., near Bayview Avenue and the 401 Freeway.

Newly released documents reveal that within months of the murders, homicide detectives developed a belief that the “walking man” with an odd gait captured on multiple security camera systems in the neighborhood was the killer. Detectives hoped to find an electronic trace of the walker, perhaps in cell communication with another person, although police had no visual evidence that the walker was using a cell phone.

But Yim told the court that police were unable to produce any relevant information when they matched the “tower dumps” to those 300 cellphone numbers. They were also unsuccessful in comparing it to some other information they had collected from a production order delivered somewhere outside of Canada. Police will not say which country was involved or what the information was. Yim said there is still a second production order out of the country delivered a year ago and they are still awaiting the results.

Now, Yim told the court during cross-examination, the police are focusing their efforts elsewhere.

“The investigation has moved to a different phase,” Yim said, but did not describe what he meant. The documents show that police received two batches of information, apparently from people they had previously interviewed. The pages describing that information are fully redacted (including the headers), and police say revealing this would harm their investigation by revealing “persons of interest.”

The Star argues that the police are using that definition too liberally, telling the court that a person who speculates that someone may have been upset with Barry and Honey does not justify sealing the documents.

There are now about 2,000 pages of police search warrants and production orders in the four-year-old case from 12 separate requests police have made to Judge Pringle.

Honey Sherman's Lexus, parked at her home, was swept for fingerprints the day the bodies were found, police said.

Every time a new section of the documents is opened, more information comes to light. For example, it has now been revealed that police fingerprinted the interior and exterior of Honey Sherman’s Lexus SUV (which arrived home the night she was murdered, Wednesday, December 13, 2017). The documents do not reveal if Barry’s car was taken. (They got home separately, Honey first.)

Crime scene photos of Barry Sherman's Mustang parked underground at 50 Old Colony Rd.

This week also revealed photos police took of Honey’s Lexus and Barry’s silver Ford Mustang convertible on the day the bodies were discovered. Barry’s car is parked in the underground garage, near the door that leads out of the garage into a long hallway that leads to either a stairway up the stairs or the pool room where both bodies were later found. Photos of the Mustang back up the tight-fisted billionaire’s stories: His car was over a decade old and dirty inside. There’s a child safety seat in the back that Barry used when one of his grandchildren came for a ride.

Pringle, in an earlier ruling on an earlier stage of Star’s arguments, noted the importance of the process Star has undertaken, saying “it is beneficial in shedding some light on the investigation and encouraging police accountability.”

From time to time, Toronto Star reporters represent the newspaper in court, usually to request access to closed court proceedings and sealed documents. In the situation described in the story above, Chief Investigative Reporter Kevin Donovan represented The Star in court in their request to unseal police search warrant materials related to the ongoing investigation into the murder of Barry and Honey Sherman.

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