By Barbara Goldberg
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Three former governors of New Jersey are demanding that the state reopen a criminal investigation into the deaths of a hospital chief executive and his wife, which were ruled murder-suicide.
John Sheridan Jr., 72, the CEO of Cooper University Health System, and his wife, Joyce, 69, were found on Sept. 28, 2014, when firefighters responded to a house fire in Montgomery Township, New Jersey. The State Medical Examiner's Office ruled Sheridan's death suicide, and said his wife had been murdered.
The couple's four adult sons have urged officials to reopen the investigation, citing their own pathologist's conclusion that their father's death was more likely a homicide, too, which is partly supported by the absence of a weapon.
"Our parents were killed. We don't know by whom but our goal is to find out," Mark Sheridan, a lawyer who works in Newark, said on Thursday.
The Somerset County Prosecutor's Office said Sheridan had fatally stabbed his wife of 47 years, stabbed himself and then set fire to their bedroom.
The sons' efforts have been joined by nearly 200 people who signed an open letter of support, including former governors Christie Todd Whitman, James Florio and Tom Kean.
"The request is that either the attorney general or the prosecutor's office reopen the investigation and that the acting state medical examiner change the manner of death from 'suicide' to 'undetermined,'" said Mark Sheridan. The family petitioned Acting Attorney General John Hoffman on Dec. 15 to change the manner of death.
"Our view is that once the death certificate is changed, the criminal investigation has to be reopened," Sheridan said.
Hoffman declined comment on the petition, which is pending, or the letter, his spokesman Peter Aseltine said.
The prosecutor's office did not respond to a request for comment.
(Reporting by Barbara Goldberg; Editing by Toni Reinhold)