Cleveland February 09, 2018
This Real-Life Cleveland Crime Story Is So Creepy It Even Inspired A Movie
There is no denying that Cleveland is a spectacular city. However, all of its beauty still cannot mask the dark secrets and stories of yore that still chill locals to the bone. Though decades and generations have passed, events like the Torso Murders have left the community scarred. However, one case stands out from the rest, and it’s so unusual that it even captured the attention of Hollywood.
Marilyn Reese and Samuel Holmes "Sam" Sheppard fell in love at Cleveland Heights High School.
Reese considered Sheppard to be a dream. The young man was an athlete, and was even class president for three years of his high school career. The two married in 1945 in Hollywood, where Sheppard completed his studies in osteopathic medicine.
The young couple return to Cleveland, and Sheppard followed in the footsteps of his father and brothers by beginning a career at Bay View Hospital.
But everything changed July 3rd, 1954.
It was an enjoyable night spent entertaining neighbors. The couple owned a lakefront home near Huntington Reservation - the kind of place where you never expect anything horrific to happen. While watching a movie, Sheppard fell asleep on the couch. While he snoozed, his wife Marilyn was bludgeoned to death in the bed upstairs.
According to Dr. Sheppard (pictured far left in the photo), he awoke to the cries of his wife.
Sheppard purportedly rushed to the bedroom, where the intruder knocked him unconscious. After what must have felt like forever, he awoke and found the man downstairs looting his house. He chased the intruder from his home to the beach, but again he was knocked unconscious. When he awoke, he was drenched in lake water and blood. By the time police arrived, Sheppard was disoriented. His young son, Chip, had slept soundly through the whole ordeal.
Sheppard was arrested and tried for the murder of his wife.
This case attracted attention all over the country. Many thought Sam must have committed the murder, considering that his son slept through the event and neighbors never even reported hearing the family dog bark. The prosecution revealed that the doctor had been carrying on an extramarital affair with a nurse where he worked, which they cited as a motive.
After days of deliberation, Dr. Sam Sheppard was found guilty of second-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison.
No murder weapon had been recovered, and the seemingly stolen items from the home were found tossed in the bushes outside of the family home. One report even stated that Marilyn had died of injuries that may have resulted from a scalpel... which Sheppard certainly had access to.
However, Dr. Sam Sheppard offered evidence that corroborated his story.
Sheppard had suffered severe injuries that reinforced the story he told. Among his injuries was a cervical concussion and nerve injuries, which were particularly notable on the left side of the body.
After six years of appeals, the doctor was given a retrial and his charges were dismissed.
After a total of 10 years of imprisonment, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the murder conviction. It turns out, there was actually little evidence that the murder weapon was surgical in nature. Forensic evidence suggested that the murderer was left handed, while Sheppard was right handed. In fact, there was little evidence to link the doctor to the murder at all.
Over the years, the case was largely forgotten... except in Hollywood.
Sometime after his release from prison, Sheppard opened a medical office in the Columbus area. He even enjoyed a brief stint as a wrestler. Over the years, his son worked tirelessly to clear his name. DNA evidence suggests that Richard Eberling, an occasional handyman for the family, was likely the actual murderer. Eberling was eventually convicted of the murder of a Lakewood woman in 1984, though he never officially confessed to the murder of Marilyn Sheppard. The case went on to inspire episodes of
Law & Order, American Justice, and Cold Case, and some believe it served as inspiration for the movie and film series of The Fugitive.
While there is no denying that Cleveland is a lovely place to be, every city hides secrets of dark pasts. This one case has gone done as one of the most controversial cases in American history, and opinions still remain divided as to who was responsible for the tragic murder of Marilyn Sheppard.
For more local history, check out the tale of this
creepy killer that stalked Kingsbury Run.