Sudbury News: ‘Incompetent’ homicide investigation ruined her life, woman says in $8m lawsuit

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Melissa Sheridan says she went from respected Sudbury businesswoman to social pariah after she was charged in 2020 with murdering her ex-husband, Brant Burke.

Sheridan has filed an $8 million lawsuit against the Ontario Provincial Police, Wikwemikong Tribal Police, the Ontario government and others, accusing her of murdering her ex-husband.

None of the allegations in the claim have been proven in court.

In the case, Sheridan’s lawyers accuse the police of encouraging Brant’s brother, Kerry Burke, to implicate Sheridan as the primary instigator of the murder.

Brant’s body was discovered on October 25, 2020, on a hunting trail in the Wikwemikong First Nation. He had been missing since October 19. An investigation by the OPP and Wikwemikong police led to Kerry being the prime suspect.

It eventually emerged that Kerry shot his brother twice in the back and left him in the bush. He was arrested on November 24 and was questioned by the police for about four hours, ending at 01.30 on 25 November.

According to Sheridan’s lawsuit, police pressured Kerry to name Sheridan as an accomplice.

“The defendants intentionally pressured and coerced Kerry into falsely implicating Melissa in Brant’s murder,” the suit states.

“The defendants knew, or should have known, that Kerry was exhausted, intoxicated, and that he lacked the capacity to make reliable statements. The defendants took advantage of Kerry’s impaired condition and violated his will.”

The suit said police used an interrogation technique designed to encourage suspects to implicate others as the main culprit and minimize their own role in the crime.

One officer told Kerry at one point that if not for Sheridan, there was “no doubt in my mind that you would not have killed your brother.”

Despite repeatedly asking to speak to a lawyer — 33 times — the lawsuit said police ignored the requests and continued to press Kerry to implicate Sheridan.

When he finally implicated Sheridan, the suit said police should have known the information he provided was fabricated. For example, he said he had “a couple of phone conversations with Melissa, he claimed he lost his phone and his cell phone caught fire while he was swiping it and just exploded.”

The suit accuses police of encouraging Kerry to make up more details about Sheridan’s involvement and even helping him cover up inconsistencies in his story.

“In short, throughout the four-hour interrogation, these defendants actively encouraged Kerry to implicate Melissa in helping herself,” the suit states.

“They also helped him correct inconsistencies and fill in gaps in the story to make it more convincing. Any experienced detective would have known, and these defendants knew or reasonably should have known, that Kerry was not telling the truth. “

SUDDENLY DROP THE CHARGES

Sheridan was arrested on 25 November 2020 and was held in jail for six weeks. However, she was still under a cloud until July this year, when the Crown suddenly dropped the charges, citing Kerry’s evidence as unreliable.

The effect was to traumatize her, her children and the rest of her family for two years, the suit said, with social media in particular a venue for people to attack her and her family.

“As a result, Melissa became an outcast in the community where she had previously enjoyed an excellent reputation,” the suit said.

“Melissa Sheridan suffered serious and permanent harm, loss and damage, including depression, anxiety, physical and emotional trauma, loss of reputation, stigma and a past, present and future loss of income and a loss of competitive advantage.”

The police’s actions were not just incompetent, the suit said, but “blatantly” violated standards of conduct.

“Plaintiffs allege that the defendants’ conduct was unconscionable, reckless, shocking to the conscience, in flagrant violation of their obligations to act in the public interest, and in wanton disregard of Ms. Sheridan’s rights,” the suit states.

It seeks $2 million in general damages, $2 million in special damages, $2 million in aggravated, punitive and exemplary damages and $2 million under the Family Law Act.

Defendants include the OPP, the Wikwemikong Police, specific police officers, the Wikwemikong Police Board, OPP Commissioner Thomas Carrique and Kerry Burke.

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