For more than a month now, a chorus of voices on a true-crime podcast from New York’s WNYC station has gone over memories, records, and evidence connected to the 2014 unsolved deaths of John and Joyce Sheridan, found stabbed inside their burning bedroom in Skillman, N.J.: family, friends, neighbors, journalists, and former officials.
This week came a one-line confirmation that the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office has opened a new probe into the case: “Our office is investigating this matter, and we will follow the evidence wherever it leads,” said a spokesperson for the office led by acting Attorney General Matt Platkin, who was appointed in February.
John Sheridan, 72, a prominent Republican figure in state politics, was chief executive of Camden’s Cooper Health System at the time of his death. He had served as state transportation commissioner in the early 1980s, and later worked on transition teams for Republican Govs. Christine Todd Whitman and Chris Christie.
Joyce Sheridan, 69, was a retired history teacher. She and her husband were married for 47 years and raised four sons.
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The AG’s new investigation was first reported by WNYC, an NPR affiliate. The station’s podcast on the Sheridan deaths, Dead End: A New Jersey Political Murder Mystery, began airing in April and has run for seven episodes so far.
The series brought a fresh immediacy to the events surrounding the morning of Sept. 28, 2014, when authorities responded to a fire at the couple’s home and discovered their bodies with multiple stab wounds. John Sheridan was found under an armoire in the second-floor bedroom, where the fire was set.
The aftermath confounded the couple’s four sons, who argued that investigators bungled the case practically from the start. In March 2015, the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office concluded that John Sheridan fatally stabbed his wife, set fire to the bedroom, and then stabbed himself in a murder-suicide — findings the Sheridan brothers strongly contested.
Within days of their parents’ deaths, the Sheridan brothers had hired their own forensic pathologist, Michael Baden, a former chief medical examiner in New York City. Baden ultimately found it more likely the couple were killed by an intruder, he told The Inquirer in 2016.
Baden’s review also concluded that while DNA on a bloody knife at the scene was a match for a male, it was not a match for the genetic profiles of John Sheridan or his sons.
According to Baden’s assessment, documented in a 15-page affidavit, two large knives recovered at the house could not have caused the thin, deep stab wounds on John Sheridan’s body. And although the county prosecutor’s report noted that melted metal was present in the bedroom, Baden said it was unlikely that metal was a knife or suicide weapon, given its mass, composition, and lack of blood.
In contrast to the state autopsy report that said John Sheridan’s teeth were in good shape, Baden’s review found Sheridan had a chipped front tooth consistent with being punched.
“The thing about the Sheridan deaths,” said Barbara Boyer, a former Inquirer reporter featured on the WNYC podcast, “was that it raised all kinds of questions about the state of law enforcement — from local police, to the prosecutor’s office, to the attorney general’s office, and the medical examiner’s office — and how they operate in New Jersey. And it showed a failing at every level.”
Investigators didn’t interview all the neighbors or fingerprint doors at the house, Boyer said. “There were all kinds of leads to pursue that went in different directions.”
In January 2017 officials announced that the state medical examiner changed John Sheridan’s manner of death from suicide to undetermined, citing a review of Baden’s report and other records.
“Should additional information regarding the case become available in the future, the case will be re-evaluated and amended if necessary,” a report from New Jersey Medical Examiner Andrew Falzon said at the time. His report noted, as well, the weapon that caused John Sheridan’s stab wounds was not recovered.
Earlier this year, John and Joyce’s son Mark Sheridan, an attorney, once again pressed law enforcement to take another look at his parents’ case, after guilty pleas were announced in another 2014 New Jersey killing. The murder victim, Michael Galdieri, was stabbed to death and his apartment set on fire.
In a letter to federal and state prosecutors in January, Mark Sheridan said the circumstances of Galdieri’s murder were “eerily similar” to how his parents died. Yet law enforcement, he wrote, had belittled his family for suggesting years ago that his parents’ deaths could have been anything other than a murder-suicide.
Mark Sheridan also appears on the podcast, recounting what his family went through.
While the public has gotten pieces of the story over time, he said in an interview Wednesday, the podcast “puts it all in one place in a pretty compelling narrative.”
“We’re not suggesting we have any idea who did this,” Mark Sheridan said. “We don’t know what happened in that bedroom. We don’t know what happened in our parents’ house. We just want an investigation to be done.”