Are you a fan of Harrison Ford? Have you seen his movie ‘The Fugitive’? If not after reading this murder mystery you will definitely watch it. Well, this movie is one of the most notable work of Ford, is inspired rather have striking similarities to this real life murder of Marilyn Shepperd.
Let us dive further in this case.
On July 4, 1954, Marilyn Sheppard, wife of a thirty-year-old doctor, Sam Sheppard, was brutally murdered in the bedroom of their home in Bay Village, Ohio.
As per Sam, he fell asleep in the living room at 11pm. After some time he heard his wife’s screams. He ran upstairs and saw someone in her room. He chased the intruder to a nearby beach where Sam was knocked unconscious. After gaining consciousness he went back home to check up on his wife and 7 year old son. He saw his wife’s body, and called police at 5:57 am.
The stairs and walls were covered in blood. Her body was hit approx 27-35 times . Whole of the crime scene was staged to look like a sexual assault case. It was also found that Sam was bruised and had broken vertebrae.
The case was a media circus from the start. Newspapers, which featured headlines like “Why isn’t Sam Sheppard in jail?”, called for Sheppard’s arrest.
Odd things noticed by the police
There were few things that were missing from the house to make it look like a theft,that included a wristwatch, fraternity ring, and a keychain with a key attached.
These items were later found in a bush behind the house inside of a bag. Also Sam’s wallet and other belongings were safe and intact.
It was also surprising that his son had miraculously slept through the whole commotion.
Neighbors also told investigators they hadn’t heard the family’s dog barking to indicate there was a stranger in the house.
ARREST OF SAM SHEPPARD
Sam Sheppard was arrested for the murder of his wife and the trial began on October 18th, 1954. The prosecution had little evidence, and it was all speculative and circumstantial.
While investigating, it was also found that he was having an affair with one of the nurses at his hospital. Since all the items were recovered from the backyard later, police ruled out that it was a burglary and tried Sam for the murder of his wife.
No murder weapon was ever found in this case.
Sheppard was declared guilty of second-degree murder on December 21st after four days of jury deliberation. He was sentenced to life in prison.
F. Lee Bailey, the famous American Defense Attorney, got interested in Sheppard’s case and took it to the Supreme court. He claimed that the Sam’s constitutional right to a fair trial had been violated. Sheppard got a retrial there after.
An important piece of information reached Bailey which suggested that Judge (who heard the case, trial 1) had told a columnist before the trial even began that Sheppard was “guilty as hell and the trial was a mere formality.”
On Nov. 16, 1966, after a decade in prison, 40-year-old Sam Sheppard was released.
Sam Sheppard was found dead in his home at the age of forty-six in 1970. The autopsy reported liver failure.
CIVIL TRIAL FOR WRONGFUL IMPRISONMENT
Sheppard’s son, Samuel Reese Sheppard, in an attempt to clear his father’s reputation filed for a civil trial. Marilyn Sheppard’s body was even exhumed, in part to determine if the fetus she was carrying had been fathered by Sheppard.
Due to the passage of time and the effect of formaldehyde on the fetus’s tissues, paternity could not be established.
RICHARD EBERLING- SUSPECT
Richard Eberling, an occasional handyman and window washer at the Sheppard home, was the likeliest suspect in Marilyn’s murder. Eberling took a polygraph test with questions about the murder of Marilyn. The polygraph examiner concluded that Eberling did not show deception in his answers.
His involvement however could never be proved.
WHY THIS CASE IS IMPORTANT ?
Dangers of Media Trials/ Free Press
The Sheppard trial is a prime example of media mishandling of a criminal investigation. The reporting style that the media did, compromised the rights of Sam Sheppard. The fact remains that fault lies both on the media’s drive for sensational stories and the legal system’s reluctance to impose restraints.
Watch this small YouTube Video on Sam Sheppard Case. Enjoy
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