The Toronto Star gained court access to police investigative documents in the now four-year unresolved case of the Barry and Honey Sherman murder. Last week, we detailed the results of the first year of the homicide investigation and how intensive interviews with Sherman’s family, friends and associates led detectives to check 35 cellphones to see if their owners were stalking the couple. In today’s episode, The Star reveals how empty-handed investigators decided to cast a wider net.
If you were on the streets around the Toronto home of murder victims Barry and Honey Sherman on July 25, 2018, you would have seen a young-looking Toronto police officer making a series of calls on a cell phone, then methodically recording the results. in a notebook. It was det. Const. Dennis Yim of the Toronto Police Homicide Unit.
Yim made the same round of test calls from the parking lot of Apotex, the generic drug company Barry founded and turned into a multi-billion dollar company. Yim was setting the table for a new kind of research, searching for an electronic needle in a haystack. This would lead to a demand in early 2019 for what in cellphone terms is called a “tower dump”.
At the time, Yim was 12 years old in his detective career, in his mid-thirties, with a boyish face and cropped hair. During the four years of the investigation, he was the only full-time officer in the case.
At the end of 2018 – a year after the start of the case – police knew that Barry and Honey had been murdered between 9 p.m. and midnight on Wednesday, December 13, 2017. They knew Barry was tied to his wrists before he died. They knew the two Shermans were strangled with some sort of thin ligature and held in a sitting position by belts wrapped around their necks and tied to a low railing surrounding their basement pool room. after they were dead. Honey had been punched in the face, leaving a small mark on her right eye. Both were wearing their shoes and, as the documents reveal, police were asking Sherman’s family and friends if the couple used to take their shoes off when they got home – a question no one does. could answer conclusively. Barry was wearing his glasses, perched perfectly on his nose.
What police did not know was who killed the Shermans, although family and friends were quick to point fingers at Barry’s co-workers, suggestions that police documents show failed to lead to. nothing.
But what the police had was a series of pictures of an unknown person. While police, at a press conference this month, said they did not know if it was a man or a woman, recently released documents clearly identify the individual. like a man “.
And the new documents show that the image the public saw (police released a short video clip of the unknown man with an odd gait in hopes the public can identify themselves) is the last image they have, taken 1.3 kilometers east of the Sherman house. in North York.
“After this image, the unknown man was not seen on video anywhere else as there was no other known video available and other locations with video had already been overwritten,” police documents say. Police say they have another video that shows the individual approaching Sherman’s house, disappearing from all cameras in the area, then reappearing and walking away from the house. Police said the person spent “suspicious” time near Sherman’s house on Old Colony Road.
In a now unsealed legal request called ITO (Information to Obtain a Search Warrant or Production Order), police are calling this mysterious man for the first time a “suspected killer.”
As a result of several ITO requests in court – not all successful as the police did not have proper grounds for the requests – to obtain cell phone tracking and transmission data for 35 “people of interest” in the Sherman investigation, the police in January 2019 took a big step forward. After their close search to see if any cell phones known to this group of 35 were around Old Colony Road or Apotex on the night of the murders, police asked Judge Leslie Pringle of the United Kingdom Court of Justice. Ontario to approve another type of production order.
Yim and his colleagues in the Toronto Homicide Unit wanted a “tower dump,” a request sometimes made by the police. This is controversial because hundreds or thousands of innocent parties and their data can be swept into the “tower dump”. Here is the mechanics behind it:
When a cell phone is used to make a call or receive an SMS, it communicates with a cell tower in the area, creating a “handshake,” according to Yim’s request. This data is area specific – consider drawing an invisible electronic box around a property or section of street. When Yim in the summer of 2018 was walking around the neighborhood making calls on a cell phone issued by the Toronto Police, he was looking to create “handshakes” in various areas to help unload the tower. . Some locations were at Sherman’s address, others in a house across the road (no explanation given for this in the documents), others on the road where the man unknown was spotted and others at Apotex, where Barry and Honey were previously located. go home on the day they die.
Yim was requesting a dump of the tower so he could find unknown devices in those areas that night, then see what other devices they were communicating with. The request was to be directed to Rogers, Bell, Telus and Freedom Mobile.
Police would then compare the results of the tower dump to the 35 figures Yim had amassed, and others that emerged from the investigation.
If the police find numbers associated with so-called “burner” phones – prepaid phones that are not associated with an easily identifiable person, then the police should try to find out the identity of the cell phone user from others. means.
To make the new request acceptable to Pringle, police stressed that data from the tower dumps would be kept in password-protected files accessible by members of the police intelligence unit. These officers would then assess the data and pass only information relevant to the Sherman investigation. Personal information of other people inadvertently caught in this new research would be kept completely private.
The problem with this request made 13 months after the start of the survey was that some of the data was already lost. For example, some mobile operators delete text messages after 30 to 150 days. Police feared that more data could be lost if this new request was not approved.
The documents the Star has obtained so far do not show whether the request to empty the tower was successful.
These documents confirm that, as the Star reported, Toronto police had all but ceased conducting interviews by the end of the first year. Yim states in the documents that the detectives came empty-handed while talking to Sherman’s neighbors.
“A thorough investigation of the neighborhood did not reveal anyone who could provide convincing information about the Shermans’ deaths,” Yim wrote in his January 2019 application.
The Star has spoken to people on Shermans Street who have never been shown pictures, for example, of the mystery man the police believe murdered the Shermans. These neighbors expressed their surprise that the police did not approach them.
Many documents published in the Star (over 1,000 pages in the past 10 days) are heavily redacted, making it difficult to get a full picture of the investigation as it unfolds. Some writing seems to make no sense.
For example, police completely redacted the text of a 2011 Ontario Court of Appeal decision in which Judge David Watt explained how “mobile phones” were used in a theft investigation. qualified. The text, included by police in support of their claim for the Sherman Tower dump, is publicly available on legal databases.