- Associated Press - Thursday, February 18, 2016

SOMERVILLE, N.J. (AP) - A prosecutor under scrutiny for his murder-suicide finding in the deaths of a prominent New Jersey couple will be replaced by a federal prosecutor, Gov. Chris Christie’s office announced Thursday.

Somerset County Prosecutor Geoffrey Soriano will be replaced by Michael Robertson, who has spent the last eight years as an assistant United States Attorney, spokesman Brian Murray said. A spokesman for Soriano wasn’t immediately available for comment.

A powerful group that includes three former New Jersey governors on Wednesday called on authorities to reopen the investigation into the deaths of John and Joyce Sheridan. Soriano’s office and state Medical Examiner Eddy Lilavois determined that John Sheridan, former president and CEO of Cooper Health System, killed his wife and took his own life in September 2014.

The couple’s four adult sons have accused the prosecutor of jumping to conclusions by trying to make the evidence justify his theory that their father was responsible. They are attempting to overturn the findings and have the case reopened. They have offered a $250,000 reward for information that leads to the conviction of a person who killed their parents.

Nationally known forensic pathologist Michael Baden conducted a second autopsy on behalf of the family and said that the weapon that caused John Sheridan’s stab wounds wasn’t recovered at the scene. He concluded that John Sheridan was likely killed.

He was appointed by Christie in 2011 and was approved unanimously in the state Senate. His term ended in October, but he remained in office pending reappointment or replacement. The governor’s office didn’t go into any details on why he was replaced, or what role the Sheridan case played in the Republican governor’s decision.

“The governor said it didn’t but the timing is just too coincidental,” state Sen. Christopher “Kip” Bateman, a Republican, told NJ.com of a conversation he had with Christie. “There was the letter signed by so many prominent people. I’m just disappointed. I think (Soriano) did an outstanding job. He did the best he could with the Sheridan investigation. If it came down to that, it’s wrong.”

Robertson, of Basking Ridge, will begin as acting prosecutor on March 7. He served under Christie in the U.S. attorney’s office.

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