Front Page







World Summary

On Air


Talking Point


Low Graphics


Site Map

Monday, January 26, 1998 Published at 12:46 GMT


Family seeks to clear 'The Fugitive'
image: [ The murder remains unsolved - did Dr Sheppard kill his wife? ]
The murder remains unsolved - did Dr Sheppard kill his wife?

The case of Dr Sam Sheppard, who was convicted of killing his wife in 1954, is to be re-heard at the Ohio Supreme Court in the United States on Monday.

Do you remember ABC's 'The Fugitive' ? (Real Video)
The story inspired the hit 1960s television series 'The Fugitive' and more recently a film of the same name starring Harrison Ford.

Dr Sheppard died in 1970, but new DNA evidence may show that he was innocent of the murder.

[ image: Sam Sheppard Junior wants to clear his father's name]
Sam Sheppard Junior wants to clear his father's name
Sam Sheppard Junior, the convicted man's son, filed a civil lawsuit against the state of Ohio in an attempt to clear his father's name.

Last September the body of Dr Sheppard was exhumed to undergo DNA testing. Genetic samples have been compared with DNA from blood found in the Sheppard family home.

Dr Sheppard always denied that he killed his wife, Marilyn. He said that on the fateful night he had fallen asleep on the sofa and woken to the sound of his wife's screams. He said he then ran upstairs to her bedroom, but that a "bushy-haired intruder" knocked him out, before bludgeoning his pregnant wife to death.

[ image: Dr Sheppard was sentenced to life]
Dr Sheppard was sentenced to life
But after what was then the longest murder trial in American history, he was found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment.

Ten years later the conviction was overturned by the US Supreme Court, which ruled that prejudiced media coverage had made the trial a "mockery of justice".

Dr Sheppard was acquitted at a second trial in 1966, in which he was defended by F. Lee Bailey, later to be on O.J Simpson's legal team. Mr Bailey contended that Marilyn Sheppard was killed by a neigbour.

But although the jury were convinced of Mr Sheppard's innocence, it was never conclusively proved that he did not kill his wife, and his name was already tarnished in many people's minds.

After Dr Sheppard's death in 1970, his case was taken up by his son, who was only seven at the time of his mother's murder.

Only two weeks after the guilty verdict, Dr Sheppard's mother shot herself. In the same month his father died of a gastric ulcer that haemorraged during the stress of the trial.

Sam was brought up by his uncle and aunt and wrote to his father in prison nearly every day.

But it was not until long after his father's death that he determined to trace the truth behind his mother's murder. He was then 39.

[ image: Richard Eberling - in prison for another murder]
Richard Eberling - in prison for another murder
In 1989 he was put in touch with Richard Eberling, his parents' window cleaner, who was then in prison serving a life sentence for another murder.

Sam Sheppard asked Mr Eberling to supply a blood sample but his request was refused. However, early last year an Ohio judge issued an order compelling him to do supply one.

Although Mr Eberling has denied any involvement in the murder, the tests showed that he shares a key genetic marker with blood and semen taken from the Sheppards' house.

[ image: DNA testing sheds new light on the crime]
DNA testing sheds new light on the crime
The results of DNA tests showed there was a third person at the scene of the crime.

If Sam Sheppard Junior wins his case he will be able to sue the state for damages of up to 1m.

Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage

Internet Links

Sam Sheppard Case from Beacon Journal

The Sam Sheppard case history - Amsec International

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.
In this section

From Business
Microsoft trial mediator appointed

Violence greets Clinton visit

From Entertainment
Taxman scoops a million

Safety chief deplores crash speculation

Bush calls for 'American internationalism'

Hurricane Lenny abates

EU fraud: a billion dollar bill

Russian forces pound Grozny

Senate passes US budget

Boy held after US school shooting

Cardinal may face loan-shark charges

Sudan power struggle denied

Sharif: I'm innocent

From Business
Vodafone takeover battle heats up

India's malnutrition 'crisis'

Next steps for peace

Homeless suffer as quake toll rises

Dam builders charged in bribery scandal

Burundi camps 'too dire' to help

DiCaprio film trial begins

Memorial for bonfire dead

Spy allegations bug South Africa

Senate leader's dismissal 'a good omen'

Tamil rebels consolidate gains

New constitution for Venezuela

Hurricane pounds Caribbean

Millennium sect heads for the hills

South African gays take centre stage

Lockerbie trial judges named

World Contents

Middle East
South Asia
From Our Own Correspondent
Letter From America