Sam Sheppard, the Cleveland doctor blamed for the brutal 1954 slaying of his pregnant wife, Marilyn, died a penniless drunk at age 46. Despite his acquittal, he was ostracized--no one seemed to believe his story of a mysterious intruder who killed his wife, knocked him cold and disappeared.
On Thursday, the lawyer for Sheppard's son appeared at a Cleveland news conference to announce that new DNA testing has cleared the man who inspired The Fugitive's Richard Kimball (played by David Janssen on TV and Harrison Ford onscreen). "We now have conclusive evidence that Dr. Sheppard did not kill his wife," attorney Terry Gilbert said. "He's out of it. He is not the murderer of Marilyn Sheppard."
According to the report from a forensic scientist working for the family, Sheppard's DNA did not match bloodstains found at the crime scene, bolstering Sheppard's story implicating a "bushy-haired" stranger. (The bushy-haired stranger became The Fugitive's one-armed man.)
In fact, Gilbert says he knows the identity of the killer: one Richard Eberling, a former handyman for the Sheppards. Eberling is in prison for murdering a woman in 1984 but has denied having a role in the slaying of Marilyn Sheppard.
"This evidence puts Eberling within a foot or two of the murder," Gilbert told the Cleveleand Plain Dealer. "Eberling's DNA is included in everything."
However, local prosecutors have refused to reopen an investigation into the case. They say the new tests are inadmissable in court because they were run on contaminated, 44-year-old samples.
Sam Reese Sheppard, 50, has been doggedly trying to clear his father's name for years. He has filed suit against 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.