BAY VILLAGE, Ohio — It is Cleveland’s most enduring murder mystery, and July 4 marks the 60th anniversary of the brutal slaying of Marilyn Sheppard.
The 1954 bludgeoning death of Sheppard and the arrest and conviction of her husband, Dr. Sam Sheppard, still resonates with visitors to the Bay Village Historical Society.
BVHS member Eric Eakin, who helped put together a display on the Sheppard case, told Fox 8, “it was just such a one of a kind thing, where all the stars aligned to have a handsome guy, his beautiful wife murdered in her bed, and still no one knows who did it.”
After serving 10 years in prison, Sam Sheppard’s conviction was overturned in 1966, on the basis that sensational coverage of the case prevented him from getting a fair trial, and he was acquitted in a second trial.
Sheppard’s claim that his wife was murdered by a bushy-haired intruder, was the inspiration for the television show and movie, “The Fugitive”.
Sam Sheppard died in 1970, and 30 years later, his son filed a wrongful imprisonment lawsuit against the State of Ohio, claiming the murder had actually been committed by a window washer and convicted murderer, Richard Eberling.
A civil jury found that Sam Reese Sheppard failed to prove his case, but that did not stop the questions about the murder of Marilyn Sheppard.
“The bushy-haired stranger, the Eberling connection, the unknown DNA in the bedroom, all of this has thrown doubt into the story, and that’s what keeps it alive today,” said Eakin.
The historic home of Sam Sheppard’s parents, which is where he was arrested 26 days after the murder, was moved in 1984 to Huntington Reservation and is now home to an art gallery, operated by an organization called BAYarts.
“He was having dinner with his parents, who were inside and the police invited him to come out so they would not embarrass him in front of his parents,” said Executive Director Nancy Heaton.
In 1954, it would have been inconceivable to think that the Sheppard family home would someday bring joy to art lovers in Greater Cleveland.
In the days after Sam Sheppard was convicted of killing his wife, his mother committed suicide and just eleven days later, his father died from a bleeding gastric ulcer.
As part of a unique Sheppard modern art show in August, BAYarts is now inviting Clevelanders to share their stories about the notorious case.
“With all the sensationalism of the case, it’s still a very serious story of what happened and there’s a lot of stories that were not told,” said Heaton. “It’s just sort of this myth that kind of continues, it’s legend.”