SOMERVILLE, NJ - Somerset County Prosecutor Geoffrey Soriano was removed from office yesterday by Gov. Chris Christie, just one day after a group of prominent New Jerseyans – including three ex-governors – released an open letter that renews criticism of Soriano’s murder/suicide conclusion in the 2014 deaths of a prominent Montgomery couple.
Basking Ridge attorney Michael Robertson, who has been an assistant U.S. attorney the past eight years, will replace Soriano effective March 7. Robertson had served under Christie when the governor headed the U.S. Attorney’s office in Newark prior to his election.
"Geoffrey Soriano will be departing the position of Somerset County Prosecutor. He will be succeeded by Basking Ridge resident Michael Robertson," said Brian Murray, spokesman for the governor's office.
"Mr. Robertson is a seasoned attorney with over a dozen years of experience in private practice and as a prosecutor, including the last eight years as an assistant United States attorney," he added.
Christie did not say whether Soriano’s dismissal had anything to do with the letter.
A spokesman for the county prosecutor’s office declined to comment.
John and Joyce Sheridan were found in the bedroom of their Montgomery home – where a fire had been set - on Sept. 28, 2014; she had been stabbed 10 times. Her husband was found unresponsive, with five stab wounds, five broken ribs and cuts. He was 72; she was 69.
Following a six-month investigation, Soriano’s office and the state Medical Examiner concluded that Sheridan had killed his wife and then taken his own life.
The couple’s four sons have disputed those findings, saying that their father, the former CEO of Cooper Health Systems in south Jersey, and their mother had a loving relationship and happy marriage of 47 years. They also hired private investigators whose conclusions challenged the official findings.
On Wednesday, the “Friends of John & Joyce Sheridan,” a group of nearly 200 prominent New Jerseyans - including three former Governors, a former State Supreme Court Justice, two former state attorneys general and a former chief state prosecutor, released their open letter.
They want the investigation into the death of John and Joyce Sheridan reopened and, at a minimum, the manner of John’s death changed from “suicide” to “undetermined.”
The family is also offering “a substantial reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of John and Joyce’s killer(s),” according to the letter.
“Friends of John & Joyce Sheridan,” includes former Governors Thomas Kean, James J. Florio and Christine Whitman of New Jersey; former Supreme Court Justice Gary Stein; former Attorney Generals John Farmer and Peter Harvey; Ed Stier, former director of the NJ Division of Criminal Justice; former state cabinet officers, former prosecutors; defense attorneys, lawyers, friends and professional associates of the couple.
In part, their letter reads:
“We are friends of John and Joyce Sheridan.
“We knew them as colleagues, as leaders, as mentors and as neighbors who loved each other and their family. And most importantly, we knew them as friends who cared deeply about how they conducted their lives.
“We have long agreed with independent experts and the media that have reviewed the case that there are compelling reasons to question the murder/suicide conclusion reached by the medical examiner and the prosecutor’s office.
“We continue to strongly support the legal efforts by John and Joyce’s sons to change the manner of John’s death from “suicide” to “undetermined” on his death certificate.
“The only truth in this terrible tragedy is that no one knows what happened on that September morning – not us, not the medical examiner, not the prosecutor.”
Christie appointed Soriano in 2011 following a unanimous 36-0 vote in the state Senate. His term had expired in October but he had remained in office pending a decision on reappointment or replacement.