The death of prominent Miami attorney Richard Sharpstein has been ruled a suicide by the Miami-Dade County medical examiner and investigators, a spokesman for the City of Miami Beach police department said late Wednesday.
“The manner in which he died is being classified as a suicide,” police spokesman Bobby Hernandez said in a statement. “The method was a drowning.”
He said the conclusion “was based on evidence on the scene as well as statements made by those that were close to him to investigators.”
Earlier Wednesday, Sharpstein’s former wife, appellate attorney Janice Sharpstein, said she heard from several law enforcement sources that preliminary findings pointed to a heart attack as the cause of death. The couple divorced Dec. 2 after 35 years of marriage.
But Hernandez said that an investigator for the Miami-Dade County Medical Examiner Department and detectives concluded that “Mr. Sharpstein did not die of a heart attack.”
“There were no physical signs there was a struggle,” Hernandez said. “He was under the influence of some type of sedative and slipped into an unconscious state. We also interviewed family and close friends before coming to this conclusion.”
A source familiar with the investigation said a note was addressed to loved ones. Its contents were not disclosed.
An initial police report said Sharpstein, 63, was found in a bathtub by his housekeeper at his Miami Beach condominium at 10 a.m. Tuesday. The body was found submerged in a foot of water. An online record of the medical examiner’s case file lists the time of death as 10:10 a.m.
On Tuesday, Hernandez said “we are not investigating for suicide” and that investigators were awaiting the results of a toxicology report and the outcome of conversations with family members before reaching any conclusions. The toxicology report is not expected to be completed for six to eight weeks.
Richard Sharpstein’s funeral will be held at 1:30 p.m. Sunday at Temple Beth Shalom, 4144 Chase Ave., Miami Beach.
He was widely considered one of the best trial lawyers in Miami. Dozens of tributes from members of the legal community and others poured in.
“I admired Richard as an attorney and later as a judge when he appeared in front of me,” former Third District Court of Appeal Chief Judge Juan Ramirez, Jr. wrote on the Daily Business Review website. “He was colorful but ethical and trustworthy. His arguments were well thought out and incisive. As a human being, he was a great guy. We will miss him.”
Akerman announced Wednesday it will honor Sharpstein with a donation to the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers’ Foundation for Criminal Justice in support of its education and training programs to improve indigent defense in federal and state courts.
“Richard’s passing has triggered an outpouring of emotion and sorrow for the loss of a truly exceptional man with a charismatic and engaging personality, a warm and generous spirit and a tremendous sense of humor,” said Andrew Smulian, chairman and CEO of Akerman. “Renowned for his uniquely animated style and spirited way with words, Richard’s skills as a trial lawyer were quite extraordinary as was his commitment to his clients.”
Sharpstein is survived by his parents, Sid and Marilyn Sharpstein of Boca Raton, and three children, Jessica, Catherine and Michael.
This story was updated after the Daily Business Review’s print edition went to press.