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.”