This story has been in the news most of my life. Not all murder trials have stayed in the news as long.
This story started in 1954. I was not quite 6 years old.
On July 4th 1954, the wife of a handsome young doctor, Sam Sheppard, was brutally murder in the bedroom of their home in Ohio, on the shore of Lake Erie.
Sam Sheppard denied killing his wife and described a bushy man that he fought with.
In the fall of 1954 Sam was brought to trial for the murder of his wife. It was revealed during the course of the investigation and trial that Sheppard had a three-year-long extramarital affair with Susan Hayes, a nurse at the hospital where Sheppard was employed. The prosecution argued that the affair was Sheppard's motive for killing his wife Marilyn.
Sheppard's attorney, William Corrigan, argued that Sam had severe injuries including broken teeth and spinal and neck lacerations. He suggested that those injuries were inflicted by the intruder. The defense further argued that the crime scene was extremely bloody, and except for a small spot on his trousers, Sheppard had no blood on him.
Dr. Sheppard took the stand in his own defense. He testified that he had been sleeping downstairs on a daybed when he woke to his wife's screams. He said that he ran upstairs and was knocked unconscious by someone. When he came to, he found his wife already bloodied and dead. He ran back downstairs and chased what he variously described as a "bushy-haired" intruder down to the Lake Erie beach below his home, before being knocked out again. The defense called eighteen character witnesses for Sheppard, and two witnesses who said that they had seen a bushy-haired man near the Sheppard home on the day of the crime.
The jury was not convinced. And On December 21, 1954, they found Sam Sheppard guilty of second-degree murder, and sentenced him to life in prison.
Sheppard served 10 years and after several appeals the state of Ohio was ordered to release him or give him a new trial.
September 8, 1966 he stood trial for the second time. The up and coming famous attorney F Lee Baily was his attorney. This time neither Sam or his former lover testified. On November 16, 1966 he was found not guilty. Three weeks later he was on the Johnny Carson show.
Sheppard was finally exonerated after more than 12 years, and helped to write the book Endure and Conquer, which presented his side of the case and about his time in prison.
From 1963 to 1967 The Fugitive was a popular Television series . David Janssen starred as Richard Kimble, a doctor from a fictional town in Indiana, who is falsely convicted of his wife's murder and given the death penalty. En route to death row, Kimble's train derails and crashes, allowing him to escape and begin a cross-country search for the real killer, a "one-armed man". At the same time, Dr. Kimble is hounded by the authorities, most notably by Stafford Police Lieutenant Philip Gerard.
I remember watching this show every week wondering if he would catch the real killer as if this was a true story.
They even made a movie of the Fugitive.
It was always believed this story was fashioned after the Sheppard case. but the creaters always denied that fact.
Later Sheppard had a career briefly as a professional wrestler called the "Killer" and teamed up with partner George Strickland.
Just six months before his death, Sheppard married Strickland's 20-year-old daughter, Colleen. He died of liver failure on April 6, 1970, having become an alcoholic.
He was buried in Forest Lawn Memorial Gardens in Columbus, Ohio. But that is not the end of the story.
His body remained there until 1997, when he was exhumed for DNA testing as part of the lawsuit brought by his son to clear his name. After the tests, the body was cremated, and the ashes put in a mausoleum at Knollwood Cemetery in Mayfield Heights, Ohio with those of his late wife, Marilyn.
Sheppard's son, Samuel Reese Sheppard, has devoted considerable time and effort to clearing his father's reputation.
In 1999, he sued the State of Ohio in the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas for his father's wrongful imprisonment. By order of the court, Marilyn Sheppard's body was exhumed, in part to determine if the fetus she was carrying when she was killed had been fathered by Dr. Sheppard.
Terry Gilbert, an attorney retained by the Sheppard family, told the media that "the fetus in this case had previously been autopsied," a fact that had never previously been disclosed. This, Gilbert argued, raised questions about the coroner's office in the original case possibly concealing pertinent evidence.
To much time had passed and the effect of formaldehyde on the fetus's tissues, paternity could not be established.
At trial, Gilbert suggested that Richard Eberling, an occasional handyman and window washer at the Sheppard home, was the likeliest suspect in Marilyn's murder, after a ring that had belonged to Marilyn Sheppard was allegedly found in his possession.
Eberling died in an Ohio prison in 1998, where he was serving a life sentence for the 1984 murder of an elderly, wealthy Lakewood, Ohio woman, Ethel May Durkin, a widow who died without any immediate family.
Ethel Durkin's murder was uncovered when a court appointed review of the woman's estate revealed that Eberling, Durkin's guardian and executor, had failed to execute the decedent's final wishes, which included stipulations on her burial.
Durkin's body was exhumed, and additional injuries were discovered in the autopsy that did not match Eberling's previous claims of in-house accidents, including a fall down a staircase in her home.
Coincidentally, both of Durkin's sisters Myrtle Fray and Sarah Belle Farrow had died under suspicious circumstances as well.
Fray was killed after being "savagely" beaten about the head and face and then strangled;
Farrow died following a fall down the basement steps in the home she shared with Durkin in 1970, a fall in which she broke both legs and both arms.
In subsequent legal action, both Eberling and his partner, Obie Henderson, were found guilty in Durkin's death.
DNA testing of Richard Eberling's blood, to see if there was a match with the blood found at the murder scene, was inconclusive. Prosecutors argued that the blood evidence had been tainted in the years since it was collected, and that it potentially placed 90% of all Americans on the crime scene. The blood collected from a closet door in Marilyn Sheppard's room was Type O, while Eberling's blood type was A.
Eberling had admitted having been in the Sheppard home, and stated he cut his finger while washing windows and bled while on the premises. This has been cited as evidence of Eberling's involvement in the murder:
Though Eberling denied any criminal involvement in the Sheppard case, a fellow convict reported that Eberling confessed to the crime. Kathie Collins Dyal, a home health care worker for Durkin, also testified that Eberling had confessed to her in 1983. The credibility of both witnesses was seriously called into question during the 2000 civil trial.
F. Lee Bailey, Sheppard's attorney during his 1966 retrial, insisted in his testimony in the 2000 civil lawsuit that Eberling could not have been the killer. Instead, Bailey suggested that Esther Houk, wife of Bay Village mayor Spencer Houk, had killed Marilyn in a fit of jealous rage after finding out that Marilyn and her husband had had an affair. The Houks were neighbors of the Sheppards at that time.
Ciuajpga County attorneys argued that Sheppard was the most logical suspect, and presented expert testimony suggesting that Marilyn Sheppard's murder was a textbook domestic homicide. They argued that Sheppard had not welcomed the news of his wife's pregnancy, had wanted to continue his affairs with Susan Hayes and other women They also believed he was concerned about the social stigma that a divorce might create. They believed he killed Marilyn to get out of his marriage.
Prosecutors asked why Sheppard hadn't called out for help. Why he had neatly folded his jacket on the daybed in which he said he'd fallen asleep. And why the family dog—which several witnesses had testified (in the first trial in 1954) was very loud when strangers came to the house had not barked on the night of the murder. Did the dog know the murder?
After ten weeks of trial, 76 witnesses, and hundreds of exhibits, the case went to the eight-person civil jury. The jury deliberated just three hours and on April 12, 2000, returned a unanimous verdict that Samuel Reese Sheppard had failed to prove that his father had been wrongfully imprisoned.
On February 22, 2002, the Eighth District Court of Appeals ruled unanimously that the case should not have gone to the jury, as a wrongful imprisonment claim could be made only by the person actually imprisoned, and not by a family member such as Sam Reese Sheppard.
Legal standing to bring such a claim, the court of appeals found, died with the person who had been imprisoned. In August 2002, the Supreme Court of Ohio affirmed the appeals court's decision.
48 years had passed from the murder in 1954 to 2002 ruling.
The Sheppard case continues to be highly controversial in the greater Cleveland area.
Family tragedy has followed this story.
Soon after his conviction, Sheppard twice received devastating family news. On January,7 1955, his mother committed suicide shooting herself and 11 days later, his father died of cancer. In both cases, he was permitted to attend the funerals but was required to wear handcuffs.
In October, 1961, Sheppard's brother Stephen was found liable for negligence in a wrongful death lawsuit and ordered to pay $50,000 to the deceased patients family.
On February 13,1963, his late wife's father, Thomas S. Reese, committed suicide in an East Cleveland, Ohio.
There have been many books written about this murder case.
Seltzer, Louis B., The Years Were Good (1956) Chapter 26 is about his editorials on the case.
Holmes, Paul, The Sheppard Murder Case (1961)
Sheppard, Stephen and Holmes, Paul, My Brother’s Keeper (1964) This is Sam Sheppard's brother. He writes more on how the trial affected the family rather than guilt or innocence.
Holmes, Paul, Retrial: Murder and Dr. Sam Sheppard (1966). Sequel to the 1961 book
Sheppard, Sam, Endure and Conquer: My 12-Year Fight for Vindication (1966)
Kilgallen, Dorothy, Murder One (1967) This book covers six murder trials with the Sheppard the last and longest one
Thorwald, Jurgen, Crime and Science: The New Frontier in Criminology (1967). This book covers 5 of 63 chapters to the Sheppard case.
Bailey, F. Lee, The Defense Never Rests (1971). The author devotes about 40 pages to this crimePollack, Jack Harrison, Dr. Sam an American Tragedy (1972)
Cooper, Cynthia L. and Sheppard, Sam Reese, Mockery of Justice The True Story of the Sheppard Murder Case (1995)
Jeff, James, The Wrong Man: The Final Verdict on the Dr. Sam Sheppard Murder Case (2001).
DeSario, Jack, and Mason, William D., Dr. Sam Sheppard on Trial: The Prosecutors and the Marilyn Sheppard Murder (2003
and then of course there are the movies. Want to search more on this murder trial just go to http://www.amazon/. com and put Sheppard in the search engine and you will find even more than the books I have mentioned.
Did he kill his wife Marilyn and her unborn baby. Every one has an opinion. I may have read one of these books years ago but I am not sure. Maybe I will have to see if I have a copy in my pile of true crime books I bought to sell on Amazon.
I would love to hear your opinion. Did he do it or not. Have you read any of these books.