Sam and Marilyn Sheppard

Samuel Holmes Sheppard was the youngest of three sons born to Dr. Richard Allen Sheppard. Sam, known for his boyish good looks and dimpled chin was a 6’0" athletic man weighing 180 pounds. Sam attended the Cleveland Heights High School where he served as president of his class for three years. In his senior year he was voted the school’s outstanding athlete for his exceptional talents in football, basketball and track. He was regarded by his classmates at friendly and outgoing….a real charmer, with an inner arrogance but an outer modesty. He was also voted the man "Most Likely to Succeed" by his senior class.

Right out of high school, Sam toiled with the idea of becoming a professional athlete. He was even offered athletic scholarships to several small colleges, that ultimately wanted him to become a coach at their schools. However, Sam chose to follow the lead of his father and two older brothers and study osteopathic medicine.

Sam met Marilyn Reese when his older brother Steve introduced them. Steve had dated Marilyn previously. Marilyn, who was a year older than Sam, was a lovely girl hazel eyed, long dark-brownish hair with a slim build of 5’7" in height and 125 pounds. Marilyn went off to Skidmore College in Saratoga, New York while Sam finished his senior year of high school.

During this time, World War II had broken out and Sam wanted to enlist in the army, but his overpowering father persuaded him that he would be more valuable to his country as a doctor than as a soldier. Consequently, Sam entered Hanover College in Hanover Indiana to study pre-osteopathic courses. He completed his prep courses in two years by taking supplementary courses at Western Reserve University in Cleveland in the summer of 1943. While at Hanover College, Sam gave Marilyn his fraternity pin to indicate that they were engaged to be married. During this time, Sam was faithful to Marilyn and she to him.

Sam studied and graduated at the Los Angeles Osteopathic School of Physicians and Surgeons where he received above average grades. Sam and Marilyn maintained their long distance relationship even though they could only see each other on holidays and vacations. In September 1945, Sam asked Marilyn to come to California where they were quickly married at the First Hollywood Methodist Church. No one from either family was present.

The newlyweds rented an apartment and Marilyn found a secretarial job. They decided to have a baby right away. However, Marilyn’s first pregnancy ended in a miscarriage. In early 1947, their son Samuel Reese Sheppard was born. He was quickly nicknamed Chip.

After Sam graduated from medical school, completed his internship and received his Doctor of Osteopathy degree, he became a resident in neurosurgery under Dr. Randall Chapman at the Los Angeles County Hospital. In response to family pressure, Sam and Marilyn returned to Ohio in the summer of 1951, so that Sam could join his father’s growing hospital and family practices.

The young couple rented an apartment until Sam’s father loaned then the money to buy their first home, a white-frame four bedroom, two-story Dutch Colonial house located at 28924 Lake Road in Bay Village, a fashionable suburb of Cleveland. The house was 60 years old but had been modernized. The house was surrounded by large trees. It sat on a high cliff nearly a hundred feet above the Lake Erie shore. The house was less than a five minute drive to the Bay View Hospital.

While her husband practiced medicine, like most married women during this time, Marilyn was a homemaker. She did all of her own shopping and most housework with the assistance of a maid one day a week. She was an excellent cook and made nearly all of the family’s meals.

Sam and Marilyn were members of the local Methodist Church, where Marilyn also taught Bible classes. Marilyn was even baptized in the living room of the Sheppard’s home.

Marilyn also shared her husband’s enthusiasm for sports. She bowled and played golf with friends. One of the families main sources of recreation was water skiing on Lake Erie. It was said that the Sheppard family would work hard in the winter so that they could spend time on the water over weekends in the summer. They co-owned a 14-foot aluminum boat with a 25 horsepower motor with their neighbors J. Spencer and Esther Houk. They also taught many of their friends and neighbors how to water ski.

Sam enjoyed playing sports with the neighborhood kids as well. He installed a basketball hoop and backboard on the back of their garage, which he used to play basketball with neighborhood teens. The Sheppards also set up a "club room" for the neighborhood boys above their garage, where they put barbells and a ping-pong table. Sam was even known to introduce the neighborhood boys to sports heroes, such as his friend Otto Graham, the star quarterback of the Cleveland Browns.

The Sheppards rarely spent money on outside entertainment. They preferred having informal parties, beach picnics and "pot luck" suppers with friends and neighbors.

During their marriage, Sam had been involved in at least one extra-marital affair which Marilyn supposedly knew about. In the months prior to her death, the Sheppards were attempting to revitalize their marriage. Supposedly, there were discussions of disposing with their twin beds and sharing a double bed, as they did when they were first married. In fact, Marilyn was four months pregnant with their second child on the night of her death.

On December 21, 1954, Samuel H. Sheppard was convicted of second degree murder of his wife Marilyn Sheppard and sentenced to life in prison. Sam spent the next 10 years and 12 days in prison. On July 16, 1964, Judge Weinmann ordered Sam Sheppard released from prison because his constitutional rights had been violated in the first trial.

During his days in prison, Sam corresponded with a glamorous blond divorcee from Germany named Ariane Tebbenjohanns. Sam and Ariane were married in Chicago the day following his release from prison. Although Sam was a free man, his legal troubles were hardly over. Over the next several years he was entangled in a second trial for the death of his wife. On November 16, 1966 a second jury found Sam Sheppard not guilty in the death of his wife Marilyn Sheppard.

In the years following Sam’s acquittal, his life went quickly downhill. He was readmitted to the practice of medicine, however, he was sued for malpractice in the death of a patient. In 1968 Ariane filed for divorce, saying that under the influence of alcohol and drugs, Sam had stolen her money, threatened her and thrown empty bottles at her.

Sam moved to Columbus Ohio and for a while appeared as a pro wrestler. In 1969, he and Colleen Strickland, the 20 year old daughter of his wrestling manager, announced that they had been married on a motorcycle trip to Mexico.

On April 6, 1970, Samuel Holmes Sheppard was found dead in his and Colleen’s home. The cause of death was ruled as liver failure. He had been known to drink as much as two fifths of liquor a day.

Sheppard Trial Homepage