New Jersey

New Jersey Medical Examiner Changes Former Cooper CEO's Death Certificate From ‘Suicide' to ‘Undetermined'

John Sheridan & his wife Joyce died in their New Jersey home in September 2014

After pressure from a group that includes three former New Jersey governors and family to reopen the investigation into the deaths of a prominent couple that was ruled a murder-suicide, the medical examiner changed the cause of death for John Sheridan from suicide to undetermined.

"In response to an administrative appeal filed by the Sheridan family and at the direction of the Appellate Division of New Jersey Superior Court, Dr. Falzon conducted a case review of the death of John Sheridan," said a news release from the New Jersey Attorney General's office Friday. "Today, based on his comprehensive review of the case and autopsy files, Dr. Falzon filed an amendment to the death certificate for John Sheridan with the Department of Health, changing the manner of death from 'suicide' to 'undetermined.' In addition, Dr. Falzon issued a case review report explaining the change and amending the autopsy report in the case."

The Friends of John & Joyce Sheridan had asked that "at a minimum," the manner of John Sheridan's death be changed from suicide to undetermined. [[299758721, C]]

The Somerset County Prosecutor's Office had determined that John Sheridan, former president and CEO of Cooper Health System, killed his 69-year-old wife and took his own life in their Montgomery Township home in September 2014. The prosecutor's office concluded that John Sheridan, 72, stabbed his wife, stabbed himself and set their bedroom on fire.

In the new death certificate, Dr. Falzon, the state medical examiner, also changed the ruling of "self-inflicted injuries" to "injuries of undetermined etiology."

The doctor reasoned that despite wounds on Sheridan's body appearing to be self-inflicted that no weapon was found at the scene. The investigation was "compounded by the extensive destruction of the scene by fire."

Falzon, however, determined in his opinion that the causes of death "sharp force injuries and smoke inhalation," remained unchanged.

The Sheridan's four sons have been pushing to have the investigation reopened and have gained support from business and political leaders across the state, including three former New Jersey governors who called last year for authorities to reopen the case.

"We feel a huge wrong has been made right, at least in part. Unfortunately, we still don't know who killed our parents and so while we accept today's decision as a vindication of what we've said all along, we have a long way yet to go," said son Mark Sheridan. "On behalf of the Sheridan family, I want to thank the State Medical Examiner for doing the right thing and exercising the courage to admit that a mistake was made."

They have offered a $250,000 reward for information that leads to the conviction of a person who killed their parents. A spokesman for the Somerset County prosecutor's office said it would comment later Friday.

"Should additional information regarding the case become available in the future, the case will be re-evaluated and amended if necessary," Falzon wrote in his decision.

Nationally known forensic pathologist Michael Baden conducted a second autopsy on behalf of the family and said that the weapon that caused John Sheridan's stab wounds wasn't recovered at the scene. He concluded that John Sheridan was likely killed.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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