February 28, 2018 04:10 PM

The realtor who arrived last Dec. 15 to stage the Toronto mansion of billionaire pharmaceutical mogul Barry Sherman and his wife Honey came across a grisly scene: Near the home’s indoor pool, the couple’s lifeless bodies hung by belts attached to a railing in the $7 million home.

Authorities quickly considered three options: “Double suicide, homicide-suicide or double homicide,” Det. Sgt. Susan Gomes said.

But the couple’s four grown children insisted their parents would not kill themselves, and then the siblings hired their own private investigator who concluded they were killed by others.

Subsequently, police came around to share that view: Not only were the Shermans murdered, Gomes told reporters Jan. 26. They “were targeted.”

But by whom?

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“They were such kind-hearted, open people,” friend Rhonda Lenton says of the couple, known as gregarious socialites and generous philanthropists, in this week’s issue of PEOPLE.

Barry, 75, who founded Apotex, Canada’s largest generic pharmaceutical company, and Honey, 70, had an estimated worth of $3.7 billion, and gave away tens of millions of dollars to universities, hospitals and the United Jewish Appeal.

Greg Henkenhaf/Debbie Holloway/Toronto Sun/Postmedia News/Polaris

But accompanying that benevolence was Barry’s reputation as a ruthless business competitor who had enemies. At the time he died, he was linked to a number of investigations and lawsuits, as well as a decade-long family feud with cousins over what they believed to be their stakes in his company.

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“He cared about one thing — money,” said a cousin, Kerry Winter, who went on to claim that Barry had twice asked him to kill Honey — an allegation later discredited when Winter failed a lie detecter test administered by the CBC.

Now authorities are scouring those lawsuits for clues about the killer or killers, hoping to draw out suspects that would lead to charges while the couple’s friends mourn and wonder.

“I can’t fathom how this is possible,” Lenson says. “I don’t think we’ll ever know what happened.”

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