A bag filled with fibres vacuumed from the indoor pool room where murder victims Barry and Honey Sherman were discovered has been turned over to Toronto police detectives by the Sherman family private investigation team.
That handover comes several weeks after police warned the Sherman family’s lawyer they would seek a judicial warrant if potential evidence was not immediately handed over, sources close to the case have told the Star.
An earring discovered in the driveway has also being turned over by the private team.
The development continues an acrimonious relationship that has been building for ten months between the Sherman family and Toronto police.
Here’s how it developed:
That team began its own investigation immediately after police in late January ruled the case a “targeted” double homicide and turned the home at 50 Old Colony Rd. back to the family. According to remarks Greenspan made at a press conference last week, the private team determined — he did not say how — that the “immediate area where the Shermans were found” was never vacuumed by a police forensic team.
The pool room has a grey tiled floor and the Shermans, who had been strangled, were in a seated position each with a leather belt around the neck.
“The intruders might have left behind a small sample of hair or fabric,” Greenspan said at the press conference. “The Toronto Police Service did not follow best practices and did not vacuum the area.”
Greenspan said his team vacuumed the area, though it was now a “contaminated” crime scene due to the passage of time and traffic by multiple officers, adding whatever was sucked up by the private team’s vacuum was secured in an evidence bag and kept in a secure location.
Police have not commented on the allegation that they did not vacuum the area of the pool room where the bodies were found.
During their initial search, private detectives were also directed by a television crew to a spot where the crew had seen an earring lodged in the gutter at the end of the driveway. The private team put that in an evidence bag too.
This was all back in January — the question for the private team was what to do with what they found.
In May, after several attempts, the private detectives arranged a meeting with Toronto Det.-Sgt. Susan Gomes and Det. Brandon Price. At that meeting, according to sources, the private team turned over analysis and photographs related to 25 palmprints and fingerprints found on surfaces in the home, which the private team believes police missed.
At the meeting, the private team, led by former Toronto homicide detective Tom Klatt, told the police about other items they had, including the vacuum bag and the earring. Other items were mentioned, but the Star could not determine what they were.
Shortly after, Toronto police retained Toronto criminal attorney Scott Hutchison, law partner of high-profile lawyer Marie Henein. Hutchison, sources say, was to advise police on a protocol for the passing on potential evidence.
No agreement was reached after a series of emails and calls between Hutchison and the private team throughout the summer and early fall, say sources close to the private investigation. In his press conference remarks, Greenspan said he was seeking a way to have the private team work with police going forward and still “protect the integrity of the police investigation.”
On Oct. 11, Hutchison wrote to Greenspan and warned him that if he did not turn over everything his team had, police would go before a judge to seek a production order, angering Greenspan, sources say.
After discussions with the Sherman family, the decision was made to hold last week’s press conference and express dismay about the police handling of the case. The family also announced a $ 10-million reward, and a tip line going to the family’s team.
Immediately after the press conference, Greenspan directed his team to hand over any physical items they had collected to the police, sources close to the private team say.
Neither Hutchison nor Toronto police responded to requests for interviews for this story.
In the month leading up to the press conference, police obtained nine more search warrants in its investigation of the case, bringing the total to 37.
Toronto police Chief Mark Saunders has defended the work of his officers and said police searched the house “for over six weeks forensically and very thoroughly.”
He said that both his team and the private team are working towards the same goal — solving the Sherman murders.
With an eye to the fact that the Sherman family’s team is still investigating, Saunders said he hopes the police and the team can “develop a proper and robust protocol.”
Kevin Donovan is the Star’s chief investigative reporter based in Toronto. Reach him by email at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter: @_kevindonovan