Sam Sheppard's remains exhumed for DNA testing
Son tries to clear father's name in 'Fugitive' murder case
September 17, 1997
Web posted at: 11:31 a.m. EDT (1531 GMT)
COLUMBUS, Ohio (CNN) -- Gravediggers on Wednesday began the
delicate exhumation of Dr. Sam Sheppard, whose sensational
murder trial inspired the TV series and movie "The Fugitive."
About two dozen reporters crowded around the roped-off site
at Forest Lawn Cemetery, where Sheppard was buried 27 years
ago after living a life of agony for being convicted of
murdering his pregnant wife, Marilyn, in their suburban
Cleveland home -- a charge he vehemently denied.
The exhumation is part of a $2 million civil lawsuit filed
against the state by Sheppard's son, Sam Reese Sheppard. The
son wants the state to declare his father innocent and to say
he was wrongfully imprisoned for the 1954 slaying.
The doctor was sentenced to life in prison for the beating
death. After serving 10 years in prison, he was acquitted in
a second trial after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the case
was tainted by pretrial publicity. He died of liver disease
in 1970 at age 46.
Sheppard's body is to be taken to Cleveland where doctors
will compare his DNA samples with the genetic makeup of blood
found at the crime scene.
|Investigators of the Sam Sheppard case were so sure that
Sheppard, his wife, Marilyn, and their son were alone in the
house the night of the murder that they never checked whether
a trail of blood leading from the bedroom to the basement may
have belonged to someone else.
"Coming to Columbus means to me a dark and damp dungeon where
I visited my dad for 10 years," the younger Sheppard said at
a news conference Tuesday. "My dad died in despair. My dad
was crushed. ... His heart was broken."
Civil trial starts early 1998
Under Ohio's wrongful imprisonment law, Sheppard can ask the
Ohio Court of Claims to pay $250,000 for his father's
incarceration, plus compensation for financial losses.
Attorneys believe a final award for Sheppard could top $1
A trial is scheduled for January.
Sheppard, 50, hopes the blood tests could show a DNA match
with a former window washer at the Sheppard home, Richard Eberling. Eberling, in prison for a 1984 murder, has denied killing Mrs. Sheppard.
Prosecutors have said too much time has passed and too much
evidence has been lost to reach a conclusion about the
Following the exhumation and blood tests, the doctor's body
will be cremated and moved to the mausoleum in Cleveland,
where his wife was entombed 43 years ago.
Son to protest death penalty
The son also announced Tuesday that he will make a trek on
foot across Ohio to protest the death penalty. The 220-mile
walk -- from Cleveland to Cincinnati -- was to begin
Thursday at the grave of his mother.
The younger Sheppard, who was 7 at the time of his mother's
death, said he was traumatized by the prospect of his father
facing possible execution only months after his mother's
"That scarred my soul," Sheppard said. "We shouldn't do that
to a child in this country."