The sons of a high-profile South Jersey hospital CEO condemned an investigation that determined their father stabbed their mother to death, then killed himself. They plan to offer $250K to whoever can help catch and convict the "killers."
Lawyer Mark Sheridan on Monday sent an open letter to the Somerset County Prosecutor's Office outlining why he and his three brothers fault the prosecutor's murder-suicide findings on the deaths of John and Joyce Sheridan.
Mark Sheridan called it a "failed investigation" and accused the prosecutor's office of misleading the public by saying their was no threat to public safety despite a possibly missing weapon.
Sheridan, a prominent election lawyer, now considers seeking the truth about his parents' death a second full-time job.
"The prosecutor's office determined day one that this was a murder-suicide and from that point in time, they did little if anything to look for answers," Sheridan said in a conference call with reporters Tuesday.
Firefighters found Cooper University Health System CEO John Sheridan Jr, 72, and his 69-year-old wife in the burning master bedroom of their Montgomery Township, New Jersey home on Sept. 28, 2014.
John Sheridan, a revered top executive, stabbed his wife of 47 years multiple times in the face and once in the chest, perforating her aorta, which ultimately caused her death, according to the investigation.
He then stabbed himself, doused the room with gasoline and set it ablaze, trapping them inside, police said.
It was six months before the prosecutor's office announced the cause of death for John Sheridan.
"We have no idea what happened," said Mark Sheridan, calling the investigation "incompetent."
The coroner ruled John Sheridan died of "sharp force injuries" to the neck and torso and smoke inhalation. His body was found underneath a heavy, burning wooden armoire which fell on him, breaking five of his ribs, according to investigators. A large carving knife, covered in Joyce's blood, and serrated bread knife were found near the bodies.
In the 11-page letter dated April 13, 2015, Mark Sheridan alleges investigators came to their conclusions because initial assumptions pointed to a murder-suicide, despite the possibility of a third knife and .
"When it was subsequently revealed that the investigation had failed to locate the weapon that killed our father your office refused to accept that it had made a mistake," wrote Mark Sheridan. "Instead, your office set out to prove the premature conclusion of its investigators ...
"Your murder-suicide conclusion cannot withstand scrutiny."
Mark Sheridan said some basic facts — including heights, weights and ages — were wrong on an autopsy. He and his brothers have said they intend to file a state lawsuit over the cause of death not for the sake of money, said Mark Sheridan, but in part to clear their father's name while exposing the ineptitude of the investigation that he claimed included questionable DNA evidence, wounds that were missed and a lack of proper motive.
Mark Sheridan said his father's cause of death should be amended to "undetermined." He dispelled the notion that a change in the ruling had anything to do with collecting insurance benefits from the couple's $2 million estate, which the family said it has already done outside of a $300,000 accidental death policy.
The family plans later this week to offer a $250,000 reward "for information leading to the arrest and conviction of whoever killed their parents."
He said the prosecutor's office was wrong in saying there wasn't a possible killer on the loose in the early days of the death investigations.
Mark Sheridan reiterated questions about "hesitation wounds" -- where someone tries to stab himself but is unable to — suffered by his father as well as questions about the search of the home, DNA evidence not matching findings, melted metal not matching traditional knife-material and witness interviews.
The letter raises the sons' other doubts. For instance, authorities said Joyce Sheridan had blood on her hands — evidence that she tried to fight off her attacker. Yet, Mark Sheridan says, no scratches were found on his father.
Mark Sheridan also focuses on the question of what weapon killed John Sheridan. Prosecutors said a melted piece of metal was found near his body. But Sheridan said it was not clear whether that was the instrument used to kill his father.
Sheridan also said investigators didn't explore other issues: Why his mother's jewelry was found in a bag in a closet and what a fire poker was doing in the couple's bedroom, which did not have a fireplace.
"No explanation has ever been offered to the presence of the fire poker in the room," wrote Mark Sheridan.
He also said prosecutors misrepresented DNA evidence found on the knife used to kill Joyce Sheridan. It did match his father, and about half the men in the world, Mark Sheridan said.
Mark Sheridan said the investigation has shaken his faith in the legal system. "If you're not a family with resources and education and the wherewithal to fight," he said, "I don't know how you can get a fair shake."
He also questioned motive over why his father would kill his mother. Mark Sheridan said there was no evidence of his father's mental anguish in the days and hours leading up to the couple's death saying the family had "perfectly normal" conversations.
Soriano didn't elaborate on the Sheridans' accusations in a brief statement released Tuesday.
"In light of the repeated statements by members of the Sheridan family that litigation is imminent, due to the investigative conclusions and findings of the Assistant Medical Examiner, further comment would not be appropriate at this time," said Soriano.