Yes, Sam Did It
1. "Sam's confession": the big "Yes"
|Sam Sheppard autographed a
copy of his book, Endure and Conquer,
for Phyllis Moretti, a beauty salon owner. In addition to his
autograph on the
cover page, Sam scrawled a big "YES" under the heading "DID SAM DO IT?"
on the teaser page. A handwriting expert concluded that the
"Yes" was Sam's. This seems to be a bold admission of guilt to
a good friend.
BUT: THE WORD "YES" APPEARS ABOVE THE WORDS "EVEN THE MOST
ANTI-SHEPPARD READER WILL FIND SOME DOUBTS." WHY WOULD SHEPPARD
SUDDENLY REVEAL HIS GUILT TO SOMEONE HE DIDN'T KNOW THAT WELL?
IT'S ALSO SUSPICIOUS THAT MORETTI CONSIDERED WRITING HER OWN BOOK
ON THE SHEPPARD CASE.
2.The dog that didn't bark
|The Sheppards had a dog, Koko,
one might have expected to have barked at the sight of a nighttime
intruder. The barking presumably would have woken Sam in time to
prevent the attack on Marilyn. But Sam said he never heard the
BUT: EBERLING SAID THE DOG DIDN'T BARK AT HIM WHEN HE WENT TO THE
SHEPPARDS' HOME TO WASH WINDOWS.
Lack of forced entry
|Police discovered no sign of
forced entry into the Sheppard home, making the intruder theory
BUT: THE AHERNS, WHO SPENT THE PREVIOUS NIGHT WITH THE SHEPPARDS, COULD
NOT REMEMBER WHETHER OR NOT MARILYN LOCKED THE KITCHEN DOOR.
4. Where's Sam's T-shirt?
|Sam said he wore a T-shirt on
the night of the murder. Presumably, if he was the killer, the
T-shirt would contain many blood spots from the brutal murder.
police about the shirt, Sam said, "Maybe the man I saw needed
one. I don't know." His explanation was weak at best.
BUT: A TORN T-SHIRT THAT MATCHED SAM'S SIZE WAS
EVENTUALLY FOUND A FEW YARDS FROM THE SHEPPARD PROPERTY LINE. THE
T-SHORT WAS NOT FOUND TO HAVE BLOOD ON IT.
5. The delay in reporting the murder and
inconsistencies in story
|Sam's first call after the
murder, at 5:40 A.M., was to his friend, Spencer Houk, not the
police. Autopsy results put the time of the murder at between
3:00 and 4:00 A.M., and Sam's watch stopped at 4:15. Why the
delay in reporting the crime? Sam says he was knocked out by the
killer, but the couple of hours between the murder and reporting the
crime also could have allowed Sam to clean off blood and fingerprints,
hide or destroy his T-shirt, and make the home look like it had been
Several comments made by Sheppard on the morning of
the murder are, at best, odd and most likely deceitful. For
example, after the Houks arrived, Sheppard remarked, "Someone should do
something for Marilyn" even though he had to have known she was
dead....He also added details to his story in each of his first few
6. Signs of a staged sex crime and robbery
Sheppard's desk as found by police after the murder
|There is evidence that steps
were taken to make the crime look like a murder-burglary, when in fact
it was only a murder. For example, police found desk drawers
pulled open, but evenly and without missing items. Sam's doctor's
bag was overturned, but nothing was missing.
Also, Marilyn's top was pulled up, exposing her breast, and her pajama
bottom pulled down, exposing pubic hair. Yet, there was no sign
of forcible rape.
7. 27 blows: a sign of passion?
times. Is it a burglar or an enraged husband? That's the
Mason, Attorney for the county in civil suit.
The murder scene suggested overkill--not the act of a
Various theories have been offered as a motive for the murder.
For example, it was suggested that Sam went to Marilyn's bed seeking
sex, and when she resisted, he flew into a rage and killed her.
8. Sam's infidelity and troubled marriage
had more than one affair during his marriage to Marilyn, including his
relationship with Susan Hayes, a California lab technician, which he
originally denied at Coroner Gerber's 1954 inquest. He also had an
affair with Bay Village resident Julie Lossman shortly before the
murder. At least some of his relationships were known to Marilyn,
who clearly resented them.
9. Sam's thumbprint on the headboard
|Sam's thumbprint was discovered on
the headboard of his wife's single bed. The thumbprint is in a
place one might expect to find it if Sam were there murdering, or
getting ready to murder, his wife. No fingerprints of anyone
other than Sam or Marilyn were found in the bedroom.
BUT: THERE IS NOTHING TERRIBLY SUSPICIOUS ABOUT FINDING A HUSBAND'S
FINGERPRINTS ON HIS WIFE'S HEADBOARD. THERE ARE MANY INNOCENT
EXPLANATIONS FOR ITS BEING THERE.
10. Sam's bloody watch
|Sam Sheppard's bloody watch
(above) was found in a green bag on a bluff above Lake Erie. The
watch had stopped at 4:15 (suggesting that it had become waterlogged at
that time) and later went forward another 45 minutes before stopping at
5:00. Sam said the water under the crystal got there when he
golfed in the rain or "inadvertantly water-skied" with the watch
on. He claimed the blood got on his watch when he took his wife's
pulse. Sheppard suggested that the murderer took the watch off
his wrist when he lay unconscious on the beach, then put it in a bag
with a couple of other items (class ring, key chain) and then dropped
it or threw it away. Oddly (if the murderer was also a burglar),
Sam's wallet was still in his pants pocket. Prosecutors suggest
that the blood on the watch came from blood spray at the time of the
BUT: DEFENSE EXPERTS CONTEND THE BLOOD SPOTS ON THE
WATCH WERE NOT MADE BY FLYING BLOOD.
11. The missing table lamp?
|A witness testified he
repaired a metal lamp for the Sheppards and place in on the table next
to Marilyn's bed. After the murder, there was no lamp on the
table--an obvious place for a lamp. At the civil trial, lawyers
for the county argued that the pillow stain is consistent with the
U-shaped bow that surrounded the bulb and supported the shade,
suggesting that the table lamp might have been the murder weapon.
(At the first trial, the coroner described the bloody imprint as
resembling "a surgical instrument.")
BUT: THE STAIN COULD SIMPLY HAVE COME FROM THE PILLOW FOLDING
OVER ON CLOTTED BLOOD. ALSO, A BADLY DENTED FLASHLIGHT WAS
DISCOVERED IN LAKE ERIE NEAR THE SHEPPARD HOME, AND MIGHT HAVE BEEN THE
12. No type A blood
|Richard Eberling was found to
have type A blood. No type A blood was discovered in any testing
of blood stains coming from the Sheppard bedroom.
|No, Sam Was Innocent
1. Sam's hard to self-inflict
2. Marilyn on his lap
|Dr. William Fallon, the
director of a trauma center, described Sheppard's neck and other
injuries as serious "and almost impossible to self-inflict."
BUT: IT'S CONCEIVABLE THAT MARILYN, UNDER ATTACK FROM SAM, CAUSED SAM'S
3. Sam's lack of
|On the evening before the
murder, Sam and Marilyn seemed to be getting along fine. They had
a meal with friends, and then watched the movie Strange Holiday on
television. As they watched the movie, Marilyn sat on Sam's
lap. This affectionate behavior doesn't suggest that of someone
seriously thinking about killing his wife.
4. The damaged trophies
|Most husbands that kill their
wives have assaulted them at previous times in their marriages.
There is no evidence that Sam previously assaulted Marilyn--nor had Sam
ever been charged with any other act of violence.
Also, Marilyn's body was found by police spread-eagled
with nipples and pubic hair exposed. Defenders of Sheppard
suggest that exposing a wife in that way for others to see is "not
something husbands do."
5. Where's all the
blood on his pants?
|The police search turned up
trophies that seemed to have been scratched or in other ways
damaged. There is no reason why Sheppard, proud of his athletic
prowess, would have damaged his own trophies. The damage would
more plausibly have been caused by a killer who hated the Sheppards and
was jealous of Sam's accomplishments.
BUT: IT IS NOT CLEAR THAT THE TROPHIES WERE DAMAGED ON THE DAY OF THE
MURDER. THE DAMAGE MIGHT HAVE BEEN INFLICTED BEFORE THEN.
The pants worn by Sheppard on the morning of July
6. DNA analysis of the closet blood stain
|The blood spattered on the
walls of the bedroom suggests that Marilyn's blood was flying in all
directions when she was killed. If Sam was the killer, one would
expect to find Marilyn's blood spots in numerous places on Sam's
pants. Sam's pants, except for one significant stain, were blood
free. Also, his shoes, socks, and belt were without blood
stains--and blood stains are hard to wash off.
Moreover, according to DNA expert Dr. Mohammed Tahir,
the blood stain on Sam's pants did not come from either himself or
Marilyn--but, presumably, from the killer.
BUT: IF SHEPPARD FOUGHT THE KILLER, WHY DIDN'T HE HAVE MORE
BLOOD ON HIS PANTS? ALSO, THE BLOOD STAIN FOUND ON THE PANTS WAS
TYPE O (AS WAS MARILYN'S) AND EBERLING HAD TYPE A BLOOD.
7. Sam's apparent lack of motive
|According to DNA expert Dr.
Mohammed Tahir, only 1 of out of 42 people have a DNA profile
consistent with a large blood stain found on a closet door near
Marilyn's bed--and Richard Eberling is one of those rare persons.
BUT: THE DNA TESTED WAS OLD AND BADLY DETERIORATED. THE RESULTS
8. If he did it, he'd have a better story
|The prosecution never really
offered a clear motive for the murder. There isn't any.
Marilyn knew about Sam's affairs (and seemed resigned to the
situation), they had a pleasant evening the night before with friends,
they had a young son sleeping in a nearby room, and talk of divorce was
sometime in the past. Why would Sam, suddenly in the middle of
the night, trot up the stairs from the daybed on which he was sleeping
and brutally murder his wife? It doesn't make sense.
BUT: SOME MURDERS DON'T SEEM TO MAKE SENSE. WE HAVE NO WAY
OF KNOWING WHAT MIGHT HAVE TRANSPIRED IN THE EARLY MORNING HOURS OF
JULY 4. SAM, FOR EXAMPLE, MIGHT HAVE DEMANDED SEX AND BEEN
REFUSED BY MARILYN, SENDING HIM INTO A RAGE. AT THE VERY LEAST,
WE KNOW THAT SAM'S AND MARILYN'S MARRIAGE WAS TROUBLED. HE HAD
REASONS FOR WANTING HER OUT OF THE WAY.
9. The sperm in Marilyn
|Sam was a reasonably smart guy
with sometime to come up with a story. Why couldn't he have a
more plausible story than the one he gave? Possibly, the very
implausiblity of the story--getting knocked out by the killer TWICE,
the murderer taking his wallet from his pants and then leaving it in
the living room, wrestling with the murderer on the beach, Sam's
description of the killer as a "bushy-haired" man--makes it more likely
to be true.
BUT: COME ON!--GETTING KNOCKED OUT TWICE?
10. Sam's refusal to confess
|Dr. Mohammed Tahir, a DNA
expert, determined that one small sample of sperm found in Marilyn did
not come from Sam.
BUT: SO LITTLE SPERM WAS FOUND THAT IT SUGGESTS CONTAMINATION OF THE
SAMPLE WAS THE SOURCE.
11. Eberling stole Marilyn's ring and
admitted bleeding in the Sheppard home
|Most criminals, subjected to
the gruelling hour-after-hour interrogation that Sam Sheppard faced,
might be expected to confess. Sheppard never did. Publicly
at least, he maintained his innocence until his death. Even his
own lawyers, to whom he might have been expected to confide his guilt,
were never told by Sam that he was guilty.
BUT: SHEPPARD, LIKE ANY MURDERER, HAD A STRONG REASON NOT TO
CONFESS. IN ADDITION TO TRYING TO AVOID PRISON, HE MIGHT HAVE HAD
AN INTEREST IN PROTECTING HIS SON FROM HAVING TO LIVE WITH THE
ADDITIONAL BURDEN THAT HIS FATHER WAS A MURDERER. ALSO, HIS "YES"
(SEE 1 TO
LEFT) MIGHT BE SEEN AS A CONFESSION.
12. Eberling's alleged "confessions"
|Arrested in 1959 for larceny,
Richard Eberling, a former window washer for the Sheppards, was found
to be in possession of a cocktail ring owned by Marilyn Sheppard.
Questioned about the Sheppard murder by police, Eberling said that he
had bled in the house just days before the murder after he accidentally
cut himself. He also knew of an obscure basement entrance to the
BUT: F. LEE BAILEY CONCLUDED THAT EBERLING WAS NOT THE MURDERER,
BASED ON EBERLING APPARENTLY PASSING A LIE DETECTOR TEST. HE
ACTUALLY CALLED EBERLING AS A DEFENSE WITNESS IN THE 1966 TRIAL--SAM
SHEPPARD, A FEW FEET FROM HIM AS HE TESTIFIED, NEVER SUGGESTED "THAT'S
THE GUY I SAW THAT NIGHT!"
|Kathy (Wagner) Dyal, a former
nurse's aide to Ethel Durkin, who was murdered by Eberling, testified
at the civil trial that Eberling revealed to her that he killed
Marilyn Sheppard: "He told me that he had killed her and that he
hit her husband on the head with a pail and that 'the bitch bit the
hell out of me.'"
In 1998, shortly before his death, Eberling in an
interview with James Neff, the author of a book on the Sheppard murder
mystery, described finding himself in the bloody Sheppard
bedroom. "My God," Neff reports him saying, "I had never seen
anything like it. I got out of there."
BUT: EBERLING APPARENTLY PASSED A LIE DETECTOR TEST
SHOWING THAT HE DID NOT KILL SHEPPARD. MOREOVER, EBERLING HAS
GIVEN MANY IMPLAUSIBLE ACCOUNTS OF THE SHEPPARD MURDER, SOME OF THEM