Lawyer: New DNA tests point to killer in Sheppard case
In this story:
March 5, 1998
Dr. Sam Sheppard
Web posted at: 3:33 p.m. EST (2033 GMT)
CLEVELAND (CNN) -- New genetic tests provide "conclusive
evidence" that blood found on Dr. Sam Sheppard's pants and in
his home was not his own, pointing toward an intruder as the
person who bludgeoned to death Sheppard's wife in 1954, a
lawyer for Sheppard's son said Thursday. The case inspired
the TV series and movie "The Fugitive."
Earlier DNA tests also revealed the blood wasn't from
Sheppard's pregnant wife, Marilyn, 31, who was murdered in
the couple's suburban Cleveland home.
Their son Sam Reese Sheppard, now 50, is trying to clear his
father's name. He believes his mother's killer is Richard
Eberling, a former window washer at his parents' home.
'Blood could only have come from the killer'
"The trail of blood (found at the home) could only have come
from the killer. The trail of blood did not come from
Marilyn," said Terry Gilbert, an attorney for Sheppard's son.
|Attorney Terry Gilbert comments on the evidence
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"The question then becomes, 'Whose blood can it be?' And
Richard Eberling cannot be removed from the equation,"
Gilbert told reporters.
At the briefing, Gilbert displayed crime scene photos and
charts to show that Sheppard's blood also was not found in
several other spots around the home -- including a blood
stain on a wardrobe door less than two feet away from where
Mrs. Sheppard was found.
Sam Reese Sheppard did not attend the Cleveland news
conference where Gilbert spoke.
Eberling is in prison for slaying an elderly widow in 1984,
but denies killing Mrs. Sheppard, most recently in letters
sent last week from the Orient Correctional Institution near
He was ordered by the court to provide DNA samples in the
case. Sheppard's body was exhumed in September so that his
tissue samples could be examined.
Rape evidence overlooked?
Gilbert also accused investigators of overlooking evidence
that Mrs. Sheppard was raped.
"Her pajama tops were above her breasts and her pajama
bottoms were down by her knees, clear indication of a sexual
assault crime, completely overlooked by the investigators
because it did not fit the theory of a husband ... who might
want to get rid of his wife because he might be having an
affair," the attorney said.
Semen taken from Mrs. Sheppard matches Eberling's genetic
makeup, but could also have come from her husband, Gilbert
Reopening investigation unlikely
The results announced Thursday are from DNA tests conducted
by Mohammad Tahir, an Indianapolis forensics expert.
Marilyn and Sam Sheppard
Even before the new findings were revealed, prosecutors
downplayed the validity of the new DNA tests, saying the
crime scene was trampled.
What the Sheppard team "interprets as good news may not be
reliable evidence," said Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Stephanie
Tubbs Jones, who opposes reopening the criminal case.
Her position angers Gilbert, who has spent eight years
seeking to prove the elder Sheppard was wrongly convicted of
murdering his wife.
"The prosecutor's office has the duty to investigate crime,"
he said, "and when a victim comes to them with evidence of
crime, they have a responsibility by law to follow through."
Wrongful-imprisonment suit still pending
Dr. Sam Sheppard, who died nearly penniless of liver disease
at age 46 in 1970, always insisted that a "bushy-haired
intruder" killed his wife and knocked him unconscious after a
struggle on the night of July 4, 1954.
He said he was dozing on a downstairs couch when he was
awakened by his wife's screams from her upstairs bedroom.
Sheppard spent 10 years in prison after he was found guilty
of murder. But the U.S. Supreme Court overturned his
conviction, and he was acquitted at a retrial in 1966.
His estate is suing the state of Ohio, alleging wrongful
imprisonment. The estate could collect about $2 million if
the doctor is found innocent -- a tougher legal standard than
a "not guilty" verdict.
Prosecutors have asked the Ohio Supreme Court to dismiss the
suit. A ruling is expected this spring.
The DNA results will not be presented to the court, which is
ruling only on the dismissal motion. The results will be
presented as evidence if the suit goes to trial.