|Samuel Holmes Sheppard|
|Born||December 29, 1923|
|Died||April 6, 1970(aged 46)|
|Alias(es)||"The Killer" (during brief career as wrestler)|
|Conviction(s)||1954 (acquitted on retrial, 1966)|
|Penalty||Life imprisonment (overturned)|
|Spouse||Marilyn Reese Sheppard (ca.1945–1954 (her death));
Ariane Tebbenjohanns Sheppard (1964–1969);
Colleen Strickland Sheppard (1969–1970)
|Children||Sam Reese "Chip" Sheppard|
Samuel Holmes Sheppard (American osteopathic physician who was found guilty and later absolved in the murder of his wife. The controversial murder trial drew widespread, nationwide attention from the media, creating what the Supreme Court later described as a "carnival atmosphere". He was initially convicted in 1954 of murdering his pregnant wife, Marilyn Reese Sheppard, and spent almost a decade in the Ohio Penitentiary before a retrial was ordered. In 1966, he was acquitted in a new trial.December 29, 1923 – April 6, 1970 ) was an
In 2000, Sheppard's son, Sam Reese Sheppard, who was seven at the time of his mother's murder, sued the state of Ohio for his father's alleged wrongful imprisonment. After a ten-week trial, a civil jury returned a unanimous verdict that Samuel Sheppard had failed to prove his father had been wrongfully imprisoned.
Early life and education
Sheppard was born in Cleveland, Ohio, the youngest of three sons of Dr. Richard Allen Sheppard. He attended Cleveland Heights High School where he was an excellent student and was active in football, basketball, and track; he was class president for three years. Although several small Ohio colleges offered him athletic scholarships, Sheppard chose to follow the lead of his father and older brothers and pursued a career in osteopathic medicine. He enrolled at Hanover College in Indiana to study prepositional courses, then took supplementary courses at Western Reserve University in Cleveland. Sheppard finished his medical education at the Los Angeles Osteopathic School of Physicians and Surgeons and was awarded the D.O. degree. He completed his internship and a residency in neurosurgery at Los Angeles County General Hospital. A few years after marrying Marilyn Reese on February 21, 1945, in Hollywood, California, Sheppard returned to Ohio and joined his father's growing medical practice.
Sheppard was convicted of killing his then-pregnant wife Marilyn Sheppard in their home in the early morning hours of July 4, 1954. Sheppard claimed his wife was killed by a bushy-haired man who also attacked him and twice knocked him unconscious. The Sheppards' lakefront home (since demolished) was at 28944 Lake Road Bay Village, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland, just west of the city. The property itself abutted the shore of Lake Erie, near the west end of Huntington Reservation.
Sheppard faced trial in autumn 1954. The case is notable for its extensive publicity and what the U.S. Supreme Court called a "carnival atmosphere". Many, such as Robert Hughes of the Heriott, TN Times Daily, have compared the O.J. Simpson trial to it, in terms of the often lurid press coverage it generated.
Some newspapers and other media in Ohiowere accused of bias against Sheppard and inflammatory coverage of the case, and were criticized for immediately labeling Sheppard as the only viable suspect. The headline "Why Isn't Sam Sheppard in Jail?" in The Cleveland Press indicates this bias.
The high-profile nature of the case proved to be a boon to lead prosecutor John J. Mahon, who was running for a seat on the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas as the trial began. Mahon won his seat, and served until his death on January 31, 1962.
Prosecutors learned during their investigation and revealed at trial that Sheppard had carried on 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.
Sheppard's attorney, William Corrigan, argued that Sheppard had severe injuries and that those injuries were inflicted by the intruder. Corrigan based his argument on the report made by noted neurosurgeon, Dr. Charles Elkins, M.D., who examined Sheppard and found that he had suffered a cervical concussion, nerve injury, many absent or weak reflexes (most notably on the left side of his body) and injury in the region of the second cervical vertebra in the back of the neck. Dr. Elkins stated that it was impossible to fake or simulate the missing reflex responses.
The defense further argued that the crime scene was extremely bloody, and except for a small spot on his trousers, the only blood evidence on Sheppard was transfer bloodstains on his watch. Corrigan also argued that two of Marilyn's teeth had been broken and that the pieces had been pulled out of her mouth, suggesting she had bitten her assailant. He told the jury that Sheppard had no open wounds. (Some[who?] observers have questioned the accuracy of claims that Marilyn Sheppard lost her teeth while biting her attacker, arguing that her missing teeth are consistent with the severe beating Marilyn Sheppard took to her face and skull.) However, as criminologist Paul Leland Kirk later pointed out that if the beating had broken Mrs. Sheppard's teeth, the pieces would have been found inside her mouth, and her lips would have been severely damaged, which was not true.
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.
I think that she cried or screamed my name once or twice, during which time I ran upstairs, thinking that she might be having a reaction similar to convulsions that she had had in the early days of her pregnancy. I charged into our room and saw a form with a light garment, I believe, at that time grappling with something or someone. During this short period I could hear loud moans or groaning sounds and noises. I was struck down. It seems like I was hit from behind somehow but had grappled this individual from in front or generally in front of me. I was apparently knocked out. The next thing I knew, I was gathering my senses while coming to a sitting position next to the bed, my feet toward the hallway.... I looked at my wife, I believe I took her pulse and felt that she was gone. I believe that I thereafter instinctively or subconsciously ran into my youngster's room next door and somehow determined that he was all right, I am not sure how I determined this. After that, I thought that I heard a noise downstairs, seemingly in the front eastern portion of the house.
Sheppard ran back downstairs and chased what he described as a "bushy-haired intruder" or "form" 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.
First trial's outcome
The jury was not convinced. On December 21, 1954, it found Sheppard guilty of second-degree murder. He was sentenced to life in prison. On January 7, 1955, shortly after his conviction, Sheppard was told that his mother had committed suicide by gunshot. Eleven days later his father died of a bleeding gastric ulcer. He was permitted to attend both funerals but was required to wear handcuffs.
On July 30, 1961, after more than six years of appeals, Sheppard's attorney William Corrigan died. Months later, F. Lee Bailey took over as Sheppard's chief counsel. On February 13, 1963, his late wife's father Thomas S. Reese committed suicide in an East Cleveland, Ohio, motel.
Appeals and basis for retrial
After several appeals were rejected, his petition for a writ of habeas corpus was granted by a United States district court judge on July 15, 1964. The State of Ohio was ordered either to free Sheppard or to grant him a new trial. The case was reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court in Sheppard v. Maxwell. The Court held that Sheppard's conviction was the result of a trial in which he was denied due process.
The decision noted, among other factors, that a "carnival atmosphere" had permeated the trial, and that trial judge Edward J. Blythin, had refused to sequester the jury, had not ordered the jury to ignore and disregard media reports of the case, and when speaking to newspaper columnist Dorothy Kilgallen shortly before the trial started said, "Well, he's guilty as hell. There's no question about it."
Sheppard served ten years of his sentence. Just three days after his release, Sheppard married Ariane Tebbenjohanns, a German divorcee who had corresponded with him during his imprisonment. The two had been engaged since January 1963. Tebbenjohanns endured her own bit of controversy shortly after the engagement had been announced, confirming that her half-sister was Magda Ritschel, the wife of Nazi propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels. However, Tebbenjohanns emphasized that she held no Nazi views. On October 7, 1969, Sheppard and Tebbenjohanns divorced.
Retrial and acquittal
At his new arraignment on September 8, 1966, Sheppard loudly pleaded "not guilty" with his attorney, F. Lee Bailey, by his side. Jury selection got under way on October 24, and opening statements began eight days later. Unlike in the original trial, neither Sheppard nor Susan Hayes took the stand, a strategy that proved to be successful when a "not guilty" verdict was returned on November 16. The trial was very important to Bailey's rise to prominence among American criminal defense lawyers. It was during this trial that Paul Kirk presented the bloodspatter evidence he collected in Sheppard's home in 1955 which proved crucial to his acquittal.
Just three weeks later, Sheppard appeared as a guest on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. In 1975, Carson told guest George Peppard (who played Sheppard in a TV movie), that Sheppard had told him during this conversation that had he been found guilty, he would have shot himself in court.
After his acquittal, Sheppard helped write the book Endure and Conquer, which presented his side of the case and gave insight into his years in prison. He also returned briefly to medicine in Youngstown, Ohio, but was sued twice for medical malpractice by the estates of dead patients.
Later, Sheppard was briefly a professional wrestler, going by the ring name The Killer, and teaming with partner George Strickland in matches across the United States. In Mick Foley's book, Foley recounts Jim Cornette's telling him about Sheppard inventing the mandible claw, a submission hold Foley later made famous.
Records from the case
In 2012, William Mason, then Cuyahoga County Prosecutor, designated the Cleveland–Marshall College of Law Library at Cleveland State University as the repository for records and other materials relating to the Sheppard case. The material consists of over 50 boxes of photographs, recordings and trail exhibits; the law school plans to catalog and digitize the materials, and make them available online.
Remarriage and death
Just six months before his death, Sheppard married Colleen Strickland. Towards the end of his life, Sheppard was reportedly drinking "as much as two fifths of liquor a day". On April 6, 1970, Sheppard died of liver failure. He was buried in Forest Lawn Memorial Gardens in Columbus, Ohio. 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 father's name. After the tests, the body was cremated, and the ashes were inurned in a mausoleum at Knollwood Cemetery in Mayfield Heights, Ohio, along with those of his murdered wife, Marilyn.
Efforts to clear Sheppard's name
Sheppard's son, Samuel Reese Sheppard, has devoted considerable time and effort towards 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. Due to the passage of time and the effect of formaldehyde on the fetus's tissues, paternity could not be established. Gilbert was assisted by John R. Hargrove (attorney) of Florida, who was a classmate of Sam Reese Sheppard at Culver Military Academy.
During Sheppard's civil 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 in Lakewood, Ohio of Ethel May Durkin, a wealthy widower, elderly woman, who died without any immediate family. 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 her 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 comparison of Eberling's blood with 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 (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, although some questioned why Eberling would account for his blood being in the house.
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 healthcare 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.
Cuyahoga County prosecutor William D. Mason led the State of Ohio's trial team, which included assistant prosecutors Steve Dever, Kathleen Martin, and Dean M. Boland. They 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, wanted to continue his affairs with Susan Hayes and with other women, was concerned about the social stigma that a divorce might create, and 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 (recalling the famous Sherlock Holmes remark about "the curious incident of the dog in the night-time", with its implication that the dog knew the criminal).
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 on April 12, 2000, before returning 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 civil 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.
In popular culture
- The 2010 novel Mr. Peanut by Adam Ross features Sam Sheppard as a New York City detective investigating a woman's death and recounting the details of his wife's murder.
- The novel Crooked River Burning by Mark Winegardner features the Sheppard murder trial and ends with an epilogue of Sheppard's wrestling days and death.
- The TV series American Justice produced an episode based on this case.[episode needed]
- An episode of the Cold Case television series titled "Schadenfreude" is also based on this case.
- Many believe that the television series The Fugitive and the later motion picture of the same name were loosely based on Sheppard's story, though this has always been denied by their creators.
- Guilty or Innocent: The Sam Sheppard Case (1975), starring George Peppard, is a television movie about this case.
- The Law & Order television series episode "Justice" is based on Sam Reese Sheppard's mission to clear his father's name.
- My Father's Shadow (1998), starring Peter Strauss, is a television movie about this case.
- The TV series The New Detectives aired an episode about the forensic testing of the evidence in this case, both at the time of Sheppard's indictment and during the later efforts to vindicate him.
- The TV series Notorious produced an episode about this case titled "The Sam Sheppard Story".
- The Nova television series episode "NOVA: The Killer's Trail – The Story of Dr. Sam Sheppard" evaluates the clues and – according to the Product Description that accompanies the DVD version of the episode – comes to a conclusion that "overturn[s] previous assumptions about the killer and point[s] to an entirely new, still unknown, suspect."
- [dead link]
- Sheppard v. Maxwell, 384 U.S. 333, 358 (1964) (U.S. Supreme Court)
- The Sam Sheppard Case
- "'Wrong Man' makes case for Sheppard's innocence". USA Today. November 8, 2001. Retrieved May 23, 2010.
- [dead link]
- Affidavit of Paul Leland Kirk, filed in the Court of Common Pleas, Criminal Branch, No. 64571
- [dead link]
- Court TV Online – Sheppard
- Farkas, Karen (September 29, 2012). "Sam Sheppard's murder case files and exhibits given to Cleveland State University's Cleveland-Marshall College of Law". The Plain Dealer. Retrieved March 29, 2013.
- "County Prosecutor Donates Sam Sheppard Trial Collection to Law Library". Cleveland State University. Retrieved March 29, 2013.
- Dr Sam Sheppard-Weird World Of Wrestling
- Sam and Marilyn Sheppard
- Sam Sheppard's remains exhumed for DNA testing, CNN, September 17, 1997
- Sam Reese Sheppard: Seeking the Truth
- Sam Sheppard Case
- Ross, Adam (2010). Mr. Peanut. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN 978-0-307-27070-2. OCLC 437298703.
- Minzesheimer, Bob (2010-06-23). "New voices in literature: Adam Ross". USA Today. Retrieved 2010-07-01.
- [Introduction, Diagnosis : Impossible. The Problems of Dr Sam Hawthrone]
- Winegardner, Mark (2001). Crooked river burning. New York: Harcourt. ISBN 978-0-15-100294-8. OCLC 44016390.
- Cooper, Cynthia L.; Sam Reese Sheppard (1995). Mockery of justice: the true story of the Sheppard murder case. UPNE. pp. 4, 329. ISBN 978-1-55553-241-3. OCLC 32391248. Retrieved 2009-05-11.
- "Amazon.com". March 22, 2005. Retrieved 2011-01-07.
- Cooper, Cynthia, Sheppard, Samuel Reese (1995). Mockery of Justice. Northeastern University Press. ISBN 1-55553-241-1.
- Neff, James (2001). The Wrong Man. Random House. ISBN 0-679-45719-4.
- Mason, William D., DeSario, Jack P. (2003). Dr. Sam Sheppard on Trial: Case Closed. Kent State University Press. ISBN 0-87338-770-8.
- Trials of Sam Sheppard
- Nova: The Killer's Trail Complete transcript of the 1999 Nova program and resources.
- FBI file on Sam Sheppard
- FBI file on Marilyn Sheppard
- Sam Reese "Chip" Sheppard website