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Issue 1, Article # 1: Solving this Mystery

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Seven key points, and the questions that arise from each, are central to unraveling this unsolved murder mystery.

1. Dr. Sam Sheppard was accused of murdering his wife by the Cuyahoga County Coroner before that elected official even left the murder scene.  Major newspapers, especially The Cleveland Press, printed front page headlines for action against Dr. Sam daily -- before an investigation had been completed and before any trial had taken place. 

  • Why did the coroner so quickly conclude that Dr. Sam Sheppard was guilty?
  • Why did the editor of The Cleveland Press take such a personal and zealous interest this case?
  • What was the connection between these two powerful men and the Sheppard family?

2. The prosecution's entire case rested on its assertion that there was no evidence of a break in, and that "Dr. Sam Sheppard was the only other person in the house."

  • On July 23, 1954, Cleveland Police Detective Henry Dombrowski found evidence that someone had broken into the basement of the Sheppard home. What happened to this report, and why was it never introduced into evidence?

3. In closing statements the prosecution asked for guilt on first degree murder with the penalty of death in the electric chair. The jury found Dr. Sam guilty of murder in the second degree. He was sentenced to life imprisonment.

  • Which important clues were overlooked and might well have proved Sam's innocence?

4. In 1955 the Sheppard family hired a nationally respected criminalist to examine the crime scene. After extensive research and forensic analysis, this expert concluded that right-handed Sam Sheppard did not kill his wife.

  • What evidence led the criminalist to conclude the murderer was left handed?
  • How did he explain the trail of blood leading from the murder room?
  • What was the significance of the unique blood spot on the closet door?

5. Represented by F. Lee Bailey, a fair trial for Dr. Sam began on October 24, 1966. About three weeks later (November 16, 1966), Dr. Sam Sheppard was found "not guilty" by a jury of twelve in his first fair trial in the Ohio court system.

  • What were the key points made in that trial, and why did the jury exonerate Dr. Sam?
6. In 1989, investigative journalist Cynthia Cooper began compiling information regarding Richard G. Eberling, convicted murderer in the homicide of Ethel May Durkin and former window washer for Sam and Marilyn Sheppard.

  • What was the link between Richard Eberling and the murder of Marilyn Sheppard?
  • How did Marilyn's murder become one in a series of violent acts perpetrated against women by Richard Eberling?

7. Armed with modern DNA analysis that proved a third person's presence in the murder room, Dr. Sam's son Samuel Reese Sheppard hoped to prove who actually killed his mother. Young Sam, represented by attorney Terry Gilbert, filed a wrongful imprisonment action against the State of Ohio and asked civil court to provide a declaration of innocence for his father. Strangely William D. Mason, defending lawyer for the State, turned the civil action into a criminal proceeding against Dr. Sam Sheppard, and the jury was not allowed to hear any DNA test results. In 2000 the jury ruled for the State of Ohio.

  • What did DNA analysis reveal, and why were these results kept secret from the jury and the public?
  • What did the State of Ohio (the defendants in this trial) present as evidence, and why did the State prevail?

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Copyright 2010, The Sam and Marilyn Sheppard Foundation