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Judge Orders Sheppard Evidence Surrendered to Court

February 21, 1996

CLEVELAND (AP) _ A judge has ordered investigators to turn over all evidence from the 1954 murder trial of the late Dr. Sam Sheppard, a celebrated case that inspired the TV series and movie ``The Fugitive.″

Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Ronald Suster also scheduled a hearing for Thursday on a motion filed by Sheppard’s son, Samuel Reese Sheppard. The younger Sheppard wants the state to declare his father innocent and wrongly imprisoned for his mother’s murder.

``The burden of proof will be on the Sheppard estate now,″ Suster said Tuesday.

Sheppard’s son, now 48, insists that the state never seriously looked for any other suspect and suggests that a man imprisoned for an unrelated murder was the killer. Unidentified blood drops found at the slaying scene were not from Sheppard or his wife.

The Cuyahoga County prosecutor’s office filed a request last month with the Pickaway County prosecutor for a blood sample from Richard Eberling, who is imprisoned at the Orient Correctional Institution.

Eberling had washed windows at the Sheppard home several days before Marilyn Sheppard was bludgeoned to death on July 4, 1954. He also matched the description of a bushy-haired man the elder Sheppard claims escaped after a struggle.

Unlike the TV series and movie, Sheppard never fled and was never a fugitive.

Sheppard was convicted of beating his wife to death, and served 10 years in prison before the Supreme Court reversed the conviction on grounds that publicity made it impossible for him to get a fair trial. Reporters had been allowed to sit close enough in court to hear the defendant whisper in his lawyer’s ear.

Represented at his second trial by a young F. Lee Bailey, Sheppard was found innocent. But he died in 1970 of liver failure and substance abuse at age 46, knowing that people still believed him a murderer. He had abandoned his medical practice and at one point became a professional wrestler.

Suster’s order requires authorities in Cuyahoga County, Cleveland and the Cleveland suburb of Bay Village to turn over documents, police reports and other evidence from the investigation of the slaying and the trials.

Terry Gilbert, a lawyer representing the son and the estate, said Tuesday he will present evidence that will demonstrate Sheppard’s innocence.

The younger Sheppard said he has visited Eberling in prison. Sheppard also collaborated with a writer on the book ``Mockery of Justice: The True Story of the Sheppard Murder Case.″

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