‘They ruined my life’: Ontario mother to sue OPP over 1st-de

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‘They ruined my life’: Ontario mother to sue OPP over 1st-de

Postby Thomas » Sat Oct 29, 2022 10:01 am

‘They ruined my life’: Ontario mother to sue OPP over 1st-degree murder charge

When Melissa Sheridan’s son and daughter asked her what she missed most while she was in prison, besides her children, the answer was obvious to her.

“I always say it was to see the sky,” Sheridan said. “You never know the things you take for granted every day until they’re gone. When you’re locked up in a room that has no real light and you can’t see the sky outside and you can’t have that fresh air, those are things that everyone takes for granted.”

Her nightmare began two years ago in October 2020 when her husband of nine years, from whom she’d been separated, was found dead on a trail in Killarney, Ont.

“It’s one of the worst things as a parent when you have to give that news to your children, especially at that young age, it was devastating. It totally destroyed their world,” she recalled.

Brant Burke, 56, died by gunshot wound. He had been shot twice in the back and left to die in Point Grondine Reserve within Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory.

“It’s one thing to try and wrap your head around the father of your children being gone but then to learn that he was shot by someone,” she said. “The more the detectives described the way the bullet was, from the back, close range — obviously whoever shot him knew at that point that they had done a horrible act and they chose to leave him there.”

The bigger shock came exactly one month later, on the morning of Nov. 25, 2020.

“I was driving down my street and there was an OPP cruiser coming at me,” Sheridan said. “She came to the window and she asked me to step out of the vehicle and told me that I was being charged with Brant Burke’s murder and it was a first-degree murder charge.”

Sheridan was taken to the police station where she was interrogated.

“I was shocked. I was confused how they could ever think I had something to do with this,” she said.

She would later learn it was Brant’s brother, Kerry Burke, who had implicated her in the murder after he confessed to the killing.

Kerry Burke pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the death of his brother and claimed Sheridan, with whom he said he was carrying on a sexual relationship, promised to pay him $10,000 and the home he was living in with Brant.

“It’s preposterous. It’s unimaginable. And anyone who knows me knows I was never close with the family to begin with. When I was married to Brant, Kerry wasn’t a part of our life. So when Brant and I separated, I hadn’t seen Kerry in two years,” she said.

At the time, Sheridan was 40 years old, an active mother and full-time children’s playground designer. She had previously been named one of the winners of the 40 Under Forty Award by Northern Ontario Business in 2017.

While she and Brant had long been separated, she said they had recently found “a sense of calm, peace” and the children enjoyed spending time with their father, although she had custody.

“I was always under the impression … you kind of get that from the movies and TV … like your lawyer is there with you but that’s not the case. You’re allowed one phone call and then you’re on your own for the entire time. Their only advice to you is, don’t say anything so of course, you want to know more information, but you can’t ask them those questions,” she recalled.

Afraid for herself and worried for her children, who were at school and unaware that their mother had been arrested for their father’s murder, Sheridan said she was in complete shock.

“You’re scared. You’re in shock. You’re confused. Like, where are my children going to go? What’s going to happen to them? What are they going to think? And at the time, I mean, you’re trying to stay as calm as you can and when you have these investigators that are questioning you and telling you that you’re a murderer and that you’re evil and all for things I know I didn’t do, I never committed a murder. I was never involved in it. So it’s confusing,” she said.

Sheridan was remanded into custody and sent to jail.

“I was a first-time offender, as they call you, and with the severity of the charge, I was automatically remanded on suicide watch for 24 hours,” Sheridan said. “It’s this horrible little room that you’re put in with a metal bench and they give you this, like, fire retardant dress to wear. It’s just humiliating and so you have someone for the first 24 hours that just sits there and kind of stares at you.”

After that, Sheridan met with a prison psychologist, who she recalled asked her just two brief questions.

“How is your hope and how is your support? I don’t know how my hope is because I don’t even know why I’m here. And how is your support? Well, I still haven’t talked to my family at this point so because of those two answers, I was remanded on suicide watch for a week,” she said.

Sheridan advises that for an entire week, she was unable to call home.

In that time, Sheridan said she later learned about rumours swirling on social media that she had died by suicide.

This still haunts her until this day, she said.

“Without my children being able to talk to me, it was just another level of tragedy that was kind of forced upon them until they finally did learn the truth towards the end of the weekend. … But for a week there, my kids thought they lost their mom. So they’ve definitely been through a lot,” she said.

When the suicide watch was lifted, Sheridan was placed in COVID-19 isolation for a further 15 days. Then, finally, she was transferred “into the range.”

She described horrific conditions in jail, including mouse infestation, a lack of staff and a riot that broke out among inmates.

Every day, from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m., Sheridan said she and the other inmates were locked out of their cells and forced to interact with each other.

“It definitely gave me a different perspective of people that are in there and they’re normally stereotyped,” Sheridan said.

“And some of the people I met and that I spoke with were good people. They just made a mistake and they were learning from it,” she said. “The time in there they used to get their high school diploma or take courses on substance abuse and things that they could help turn their life around later on.”

Over the course of six weeks, Sheridan was able to call her children several times but giving them hope, while she felt hopeless herself, was difficult.

“We have to stay positive and we have to pray that the truth will come out and this nightmare will end and as much as you say it to your children, it’s sometimes, when you’re living in there, it’s very hard to even follow that on your own,” she recalled.

Sheridan was anxious to go home.

“I didn’t realize you don’t automatically get bail when you’re charged with murder. You have to apply for it. And it’s quite a process, from what I understand. So I was remanded in custody for six weeks and I was lucky enough that the lawyers I had worked extremely hard and they were able to get me out just before Christmas,” she explained.

When she arrived home, however, her children were taken from the house, prohibited from staying with her given the severity of the charge she was facing.

“They ruined my life,” Sheridan said. “They’ve ruined my reputation, they’ve damaged my children and all for something I didn’t do.”

When finally she had settled into life at home, under strict bail conditions, Sheridan said she learned more about the way her former brother-in-law had implicated her in the murder.

“It actually blew my mind to know that I was arrested for a crime I didn’t commit based on the confession of a murderer that said I had something to do with it,” she said. “They arrested him and he implicated me and so they arrested me the next day without even following up on these allegations or investigating or even bringing me into question me other than since they arrested me.”

For 20 months, in the eyes of the law and her community, Sheridan was considered an accused killer.

“It’s absolutely been devastating and life-altering. … Never in my life did I ever think that something like that can happen based on somebody’s word,” she said.

Sheridan wore a GPS ankle monitor, which she said, is not what people may envision it to be.

“It’s actually quite large. It’s not what people think, like a little Apple Watch that you’re wearing. Like it’s a huge box. So there’s fear, you don’t want to leave the house, you don’t want to see anyone, you don’t want to interact because you’re still trying to wrap your head around this,” she recalled.

Sheridan said there were many court dates that followed and a lot of delays.

“My lawyer was pushing forward to hurry up to get us to a preliminary inquiry, but they hadn’t even finished investigating so months and months were delayed while they continued to investigate to try and prove his allegation correct. Meanwhile, they’ve destroyed my life,” she said.

Finally, in July 2022, a preliminary hearing was held in a Sudbury courthouse, and the Crown dropped the murder charge against Sheridan.

“My biggest fear is being wrongfully convicted of a crime I didn’t commit. And that’s a long sentence. I’m looking at life and what happens to my children? And so when they withdrew the charge, there is that relief. Obviously, the kids were more at peace. But your life doesn’t go back to the way it was. It’s forever changed,” she explained.

Her nightmare now over, Sheridan has given notice that she plans to sue the Ontario Provincial Police and the Wikwemikong Tribal Police.

“We’re advancing a lawsuit against the police that were involved in this,” said her lawyer, Justin Linden. “In our view, the police ought to have been far more careful before laying this charge. There was, in our view, a negligent investigation. They didn’t take the steps they should have taken. And had they properly investigated what was being alleged, they never, ever, ever would have laid this charge against Miss Sheridan.”

Counsel for police declined to comment given the matter is before the courts.

Linden said this should serve as a wake-up call to other Canadians who think this can never happen to them.

“I think it’s terrifying that you can be charged with first-degree murder essentially the morning after someone who shoots their own brother in the back twice comes up with some concocted insane story that you are somehow involved in it without any sort of a proper investigation,” Linden said.

“Hours passed between the time he gives the story and the time she’s arrested, and those hours should have been spent investigating this crime rather than going and picking up the innocent mother of two children who had absolutely nothing to do with this crime. So I think the average person should be terrified about what happened,” he said.

Linden called it a “terrible case of someone who’s been wrongfully accused by a rush to judgment by the police.”

He added that the lawsuit is about accountability and making sure this doesn’t happen to somebody else and recovering compensation for his client.

Between rushing her son and daughter to school and their many extra-curricular activities, and her full-time job, Sheridan is back to living an active life but she is quick to point out, things will never be quite the same.

“In our society, they always say you’re innocent until proven guilty. That’s not true in light of social media. … You’re automatically convicted in the eye of the public,” she said.

“It’s very disappointing that this is where our justice system is at and that there’s no repercussions and there’s no acknowledgment of the grave mistake that was made.”

https://globalnews.ca/news/9227268/onta ... e-dropped/
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Wife of Brant Burke suing OPP over dropped murder charge

Postby Thomas » Sat Oct 29, 2022 10:07 am

Wife of Brant Burke suing OPP over dropped murder charge

Melissa Sheridan was accused in her estranged husband’s murder, but the Crown dropped the case against her this past summer, saying there was no reasonable possibility of conviction

A Sudbury woman who was accused of murder in her estranged husband’s death until the charges against her were dropped this past summer plans to sue the police services and officers involved in her arrest.

Melissa Sheridan’s lawyers say the statement of claim in the lawsuit will be issued shortly. They did provide Sudbury.com with a copy of a letter providing notice of the lawsuit, however.

The Aug. 31 letter is addressed to the OPP and Wikwemikong Tribal Police Service, several individual OPP police officers, as well as a police officer with UCCM Anishnaabe Police.

“We have been retained to commence a civil action against you to recover damages arising from your negligent investigation, breach of my clients’ right and freedoms under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, unlawful detention, and other negligent and/or intentional conduct that occasioned injury and damages,” the letter from Linden & Associates, a Toronto personal injury law firm, states.

Sheridan had been charged with first-degree murder for the Oct. 19, 2020, death of her estranged husband, Brant, but the charges against her were dropped in July, with the Crown attorney saying there was no reasonable possibility of conviction.

Brant’s brother, Kerry, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in May, saying he conspired with Sheridan — with whom it was alleged he was having a sexual relationship — to murder his brother.

Kerry Burke was sentenced to life in prison without a chance of parole for 15 years on Oct. 26.

Sheridan’s criminal attorney, Michael Lacy, said in a written statement to Sudbury.com that among other things, the lawsuit is intended to hold the involved officers “accountable for their deliberate and negligent conduct as well as violating core constitutional principles.

“It would have been obvious to anyone that the murderer’s false account implicating Melissa Sheridan was ridiculous,” said Lacy, in the statement. “He was clearly trying to ease his own conscience or guilt to explain his inexplicable actions.

“Rather than acting accordingly and consistent with their oath of office, the officers were so fixated in trying to make a case against Melissa even where there was no basis to do so, they arrested her within hours of the murderer’s statement. They took her from her family and threw her in jail.”

The statement from Lacy said the police spent the next two years trying to find anything that would actually implicate her in the murder and came up predictably empty because there was nothing to find.

“The charge was withdrawn against Melissa because there was no legitimate basis to charge her in the first place,” said Lacy. “The officers had absolutely no regard for fundamental principles and protections that everyone is entitled to.

“They acted in a way that caused irreparable harm to Melissa and her family and they should be held accountable for their actions in a civil court. That’s what we intend to do.”

Sheridan’s lawyers also provided Sudbury.com with a written copy of her victim impact statement, which was read to the court at Kerry Burke’s Oct. 26 sentencing hearing.

The woman said after she was arrested and put in jail, she was not able to communicate with her family or the two minor children she shared with Brant Burke for days at a time.

“When I did get to speak to them, I had to try to explain to my children what was happening,” Sheridan said, in the victim impact statement.

“I had to try to put on a brave face as my elderly and unwell father cried, worried I would not see him before he might die. I had to listen to my daughter’s sobs and explain to her that not only had her father been killed by Uncle Kerry but that I would not be able to be with her for her birthday and maybe not even for Christmas.

“Because of what Kerry and the police did, my sister had to be appointed guardian of my children. I will never forget the look on my children’s faces when they came to visit me in prison.”

Sheridan goes on to say in the statement this was all because Kerry Burke “wrote transparent lies in a suicide note blaming me for what he alone had done.

“Lies that investigators encouraged, contributed to and relied upon, despite their obvious falsity, so that they could make another arrest. Although the police are to blame for much of what happened, Kerry is the one who murdered Brant and he is the one who decided to tell a lie to try to mitigate his culpability and get ‘help’ on his case from the police.”

The statement concludes by saying that given Kerry Burke’s actions, “he should never get parole.”

“He is pure evil. He not only murdered his brother, the father of my children, but he also tried to take me away from the children too. Only someone who is completely selfish, has no conscience and no appreciation of the gravity of their own conduct would do what Kerry did and continues to do. He cannot be rehabilitated.

“Kerry victimized his own family. He victimized Brant’s older children. And he victimized me and my children. I will not let what he did define me, but it will forever haunt me.”

https://www.sudbury.com/local-news/wife ... ge-6017225
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Ontario woman to sue police over ‘nonsense’ arrest in estran

Postby Thomas » Sat Oct 29, 2022 10:08 am

Ontario woman to sue police over ‘nonsense’ arrest in estranged husband’s murder

The Crown abruptly dropped murder charges against Melissa Sheridan this summer after the only witness — the killer — gave “substantially different or inconsistent” evidence in his in-court testimony.

https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2022/1 ... urder.html
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