Published On Tue Sep 07 2010
This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
— Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 3
Dan Major came home to a pool of blood on the kitchen floor and a marriage that he would soon learn was filled with lies. His wife, Sherry, had been battling cervical cancer that had spread to her uterus and lungs — a terminal case that had recently gone into remission, she told family and friends.
Just a few days earlier, Dan had also learned that Sherry was pregnant and that the swelling in her belly was not a side effect of cancer treatment, as she had claimed, but an unexpected fetus, which she said doctors had determined was dead due to chemo and radiation treatments.
The blood on the kitchen floor, she explained, was bleeding associated with the impending stillborn.
Two days later, on Dec. 22, 2000, Dan arrived at their Markham home late to find his wife in full labour. Paramedics were summoned, but there would be no waiting — the dead fetus would be born right then and there.
Dan pulled the blue body out by its armpits and handed it to Sherry. The baby girl was large, and after a whack from Sherry, she cried.
There was shock, Dan recalls, and there were tears of joy. “I’m traumatized. I had a wife who was dying and a dead baby as well. I wasn’t expecting a full-term baby. It was totally surreal, virtually indescribable.”
It was a miracle, thought Dan, and he rang up the Toronto Star. On Christmas Eve, an article and picture of mom and baby appeared in the paper, under the headline “Miracle on Jeremy Drive.”
“All I can say is that they are both an inspiration,” Dan told the Star at the time.
And then, bit by bit, everything in Dan’s life came undone in spectacular ways, due mostly to the fact that his wife was a colossal liar.
The whole sorry mess is now the subject of a court motion in which Dan alleges his life has been ruined by his wife, her affair with a police officer who was investigating him, and a police service that failed to look into his complaints.
The story of how his life went from everything — a pretty wife, a fat bank account, a house, two kids and a high-paying sales job — to nothing, is hard to believe.
For many years, many people, including police, simply would not.
What follows is based on court documents, copies of correspondence provided by Dan Major, and interviews with him. Numerous attempts to reach Sherry Major, who is living in eastern Canada under a different surname, were unsuccessful.
They met in the mid-’90s and had their first date at the Rock ’n’ Diner at Don Mills Rd. and Eglinton Ave E. Dan, a graduate of the University of Western Ontario, was 32 and director of memberships at the Mayfair Parkway Club in Markham. Sherry was 24, studying physiotherapy and intent on earning a doctorate.
So began a relationship that was about convenience than love, right from the beginning. Dan says they made a pact that he would fund her education, and in return, she would be his “early retirement package.”
They married in a church in Sherry’s hometown on the east coast in 1996. She wore white, and at the party afterwards, everyone danced to an overly loud Mötley Crüe cover band.
Dan says he threatened to leave within a year. “Things were never good,” he says. “She just frustrated the hell out of me.”
In the marriage, as per the pact, Dan paid for everything while Sherry studied. Exactly what she studied is unclear. For four years Dan believed she was at the University of Toronto. There is no indication she earned a Ph.D., yet she started calling herself a doctor around 1998, and Dan, who had been providing money for her schooling, believed her to be one.
The two moved from Willowdale to a house in Markham, and they had a boy in August 1999.
In early 2000, Sherry broke the news to family and friends that she had cancer and was receiving treatment. The announcement, says Dan, came two weeks after he had told his wife he’d just made $250,000 on a stock market deal. He suspects the ruse was to gain his sympathy and continued financial support, which it did.
“She was supposed to be financially contributing, but she was not,” he recalls. “Cancer, what a great way not to have to contribute. She laid a guilt trip on me.”
As her belly began to swell, she told people it was a side effect from the chemo and radiation treatments. In the fall, she said that the cancer was in remission. Then, the unexpected news of the unexpected pregnancy and the dead fetus.
Just before Christmas came the miracle baby.
By the spring of 2001, things were not good in the marriage. Sherry told police Dan had threatened and assaulted her. Dan says the allegations were blown out of proportion and stemmed from a play fight many months earlier. He was arrested on May 24. As part of his bail conditions, he could not go home.
On their 5th anniversary in August 2001, which they spent apart, Sherry gave Dan a card in which she wrote of the “roller-coaster ride full of highs, lows, and lots of butterflies in between” that they’d had. “I love you Danny,” reads the card. “With time and lots of work, I think we can make it!”
Dan believed this, too. In an anniversary letter of his own, he told Sherry, “My family is what I live for. We have the most amazing children. We are great parents, but I truly respect the lengths you go to to take care of their every need. I often wonder how you manage . . . I love you more than ever before.”
In October, Dan agreed to plead guilty to assault and was given a conditional discharge. Sherry signed papers that same day that allowed him back in the house.
In early 2002, Dan was arrested again, this time for allegedly pushing Sherry off the couch after the two had watched a movie on New Year’s Eve. In an affidavit filed later with the courts, Dan contradicted her allegation and said that Sherry had in fact punched him. In an email to Dan’s relatives after his arrest, Sherry said she was “so sorry” they had to go through this and, “I don’t understand how the police had any/enough evidence to arrest” him. She said police must have heard about it from a “third party.”
On Feb. 20, Dan went to York Regional Police to allege that Sherry was stealing money from him. He reported that about $100,000 had been taken without his consent. In his affidavit, sworn in June, Dan said he also had suspicions at the time that Sherry was not in fact a doctor.
Also on Feb. 20, Det. Const. Terry Jordan showed up at Dan’s workplace, arrested him and took him in for booking on 14 additional charges. According to the affidavit sworn by Dan, Jordan became verbally abusive after he asked if the officer would look into his version of events.
“He shrieked: ‘Shut the f--- up’ and called me a ‘dumb f------ numbskull,” Dan said in his affidavit.
The accusations levelled this time — that he had assaulted, sexually assaulted and harassed Sherry — were very serious, and would keep him in jail for six months while he awaited trial. He did get bail but was placed under house arrest for another nine months.
Sherry was the sole witness called by the Crown at Dan’s trial. She described a husband who verbally and physically abused her, and on one occasion sexually assaulted her in their bedroom.
She testified that she kept the pregnancy secret to “protect” the unborn baby “and the pregnancy itself,” and that she “feared that he would either hurt the baby or make me have an abortion.”
She testified that she had made up the cancer story, and allowed her entire family to believe she had the disease, to mask her pregnancy, and that the lie was a “very heavy burden.”
She admitted in court to lying to the Star and making up a story about a tumour being removed and still receiving treatment. There never was a cancer, nor any treatment.
“Sherry Major has told other major lies,” Justice Vibert Lampkin wrote in his judgment. “She lied out to the world at large that she is a doctor.”
On June 18, 2003, Justice Lampkin tossed out all of the charges against Dan. Quoting from Hamlet, he found Sherry Major had lied to many, and was also “false” to her man. While Dan may be “no paragon of virtue,” the judge found Sherry’s excuses for her lies unacceptable.
Dan had suspicions that Sherry and Jordan were having an affair while his case was before the courts. Neighbours reported having seen the detective often at the house.
Dan complained about his suspicions many times, beginning in 2003, but no action was taken until 2009, when Dan gave police love letters he’d stumbled across.
“Sherry, I do believe we both have been smitten,” begins one, addressed from “Terry” to “Sherry.”
Another includes a picture of a nude woman grabbing a man’s equally naked butt, and is addressed to “Sherry” from “Terry,” via an email account with the prefix “tj_bandit.”
The message reads: “Now then, as we discover what rocks each others (sic) world, and having sent you a card with me hanging onto your butt, guess fair is fair . . . lol xoxoxooxox see you soon babe.”
In a recently filed court motion, Major is seeking to refresh an earlier lawsuit and sue the York Regional Police board and add Jordan as a defendant. Major initially sued his wife as well as police in 2005, but she could not be located to serve court papers. This time around, he is not naming his wife as a defendant but alleges she and the officer colluded to fabricate charges against him, and that the officer “strenuously opposed” his attempts to get bail.
Major alleges that, as a result of all of this, he had his rights breached and lost income, his house and the chance to watch his children grow — they’re living with their mother in Eastern Canada. He says he suffers from many ailments, including “chronic” post-traumatic stress disorder. He intends to seek $7.2 million in damages, according to the motion record, which includes a fresh statement of claim and an old statement of defence from police.
Through his lawyer, Terry Jordan, now a staff sergeant with York Regional Police, declined to comment for this story.
Police deny many of the allegations and in a counter claim, also old, state that if Sherry Major “purposely misled” police, causing them to arrest her husband, then any and all damages were caused by her alone.
“It happens from time to time that charges get laid based upon a version of events that is ultimately not believed,” lawyer Kevin McGivney, who is acting for the York police board, told the Star. “And the police don’t guarantee the conviction. I’m still confident that at the end of the day when it gets played out, there will be seen to be a reasonable basis to the charges.”
Police do, however, acknowledge there was an improper affair involving the investigating officer.
When the Star contacted York Regional Police recently, Chief Armand La Barge personally responded to queries. He said he initiated a “chief’s complaint” in April 2009, after Dan Major handed over “new information” about the affair. (The information, says Major, was copies of email love letters.)
Police Act charges were laid in September 2009, and in June, Jordan pleaded guilty to discreditable conduct and neglect of duty. He is to be sentenced on Sept. 8, and available penalties range from an admonishment to dismissal. Jordan has been removed from “operational” duties and assigned to do administrative tasks, says La Barge.
“As soon as we became aware of certain information, germane to the original investigation, we moved forward with I think a very thorough review of the situation, and investigation, and ultimately charges.”
Asked about earlier complaints by Major, beginning in 2003, La Barge said that until the new information surfaced in 2009, there was “insufficient evidence to initiate charges.” One complaint, made in 2005 by Major, seems to have vanished. Although correspondence shows it was forwarded to La Barge’s attention by the Ontario Civilian Commission on Police Services, police have no record of ever having received it.
Major’s lawyer, Barry Swadron, believes police should have taken his client’s earlier complaints more seriously and conducted a proper investigation.
“I contend that there was evidence before the chief that, if investigated properly, would have uncovered Jordan’s clandestine relationship with Sherry much sooner,” says Swadron. “His life’s been ruined on all fronts. Quite apart from this civil action, I believe that this case demands a public inquiry into the role played by the York Regional Police service.”
For Dan, seeking justice has become an “all-consuming obsession.” He’s built a web site — www.afathersnightmare.com — to tell his story, which includes a nasty custody battle that continues to this day.
He hopes his children will one day realize that he has been fighting to clear his name and be part of their lives. “I want them to know I did the right thing.”
For her part, Sherry has been working as a massage therapist down east, the Star has learned, and has had trouble paying the rent.
Sherry has been telling people that she is a cancer survivor, that her husband tried to kill her, and that she is in a witness protection program.