The Sam Sheppard Case Timeline: 1954-2002
February 21, 1945: Sam Sheppard and Marilyn Reese are married.
1947: Samuel (Chip) Reese Sheppard is born.
1951: Sam joins the staff of Bay View Hospital, which was founded by the Sheppard family.
July 3, 1954: Sam and Marilyn host a dinner party for their neighbors Don and Nancy Ahern. The Aherns leave the Sheppard home around midnight with Sam asleep on the daybed.
July 4, 1954
3:00-5:00am: 31-year-old Marilyn Sheppard is murdered. She was beaten 27 times with an unknown weapon. Marilyn was four months pregnant.
5:50am: Mayor J. Spencer Houk and his wife Esther arrive at Sheppard home after receiving a call from Sam: “For God’s sake, Spen, get over here quick. I think they’ve killed Marilyn.”
6:02am: Bay Village Patrolman Fred Drenkhan arrives at the murder scene, the first law officer to see the body, blood spots throughout the house, and evidence of an apparent robbery. Sam disjointedly reports to Drenkhan he heard Marilyn scream, ran upstairs, fought on the stairs, and woke up in the lake.
6:00-7:30am: Sam’s brothers, neighbors, police, and press members walk through the home and into the murder room. Chip, still sleeping, was taken from the home by Sam’s brother Richard. Sam is taken to Bay View Hospital after complaining of head and neck injuries as a result of his struggle with a “bushy-haired” intruder.
8:00am: Cuyahoga County Coroner Samuel Gerber arrives at the murder scene.
9:00am-3:00pm: Sam, under sedation at Bay View Hospital, is questioned by Gerber and several police officers. The Sheppard home is sealed for investigation.
July 5, 1954: The Sheppard murder dominates Cleveland newspapers. Sheppard is again interviewed by police and examined by a neurologist.
July 6, 1954: Papers report that the Sheppard family secured attorney William J. Corrigan for Sam, who recommends that Sam not talk to police.
July 7, 1954: Funeral of Marilyn Sheppard. Chip does not attend because of extensive press coverage.
July 8, 1954: Sam issues statement saying he has fully cooperated with authorities. He offers a $10,000 reward for the “arrest and conviction” of Marilyn’s killer.
July 9, 1954: Sam returns home with law enforcement to reenact the events of July 4. He tells law enforcement he will not submit to a lie detector test at this time.
July 10, 1954: Sam voluntarily gives a formal statement at the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s office. He states he did not have an affair with Susan Hayes.
July 12, 1954: Sam returns to work at Bay View Hospital but admits he is "still a little fuzzy about things." He wears dark glasses during his rounds because the light hurts his eyes.
July 21, 1954: Morning edition of Cleveland Press runs front page editorial: “Why No Inquest? Do it now, Dr. Gerber.” Later that day, Coroner Gerber calls an inquest.
July 22, 1954: Inquest is held at Normandy High School gymnasium in order to accommodate large crowds, newspaper reporters, radio, and TV crews. Sam’s attorneys are not permitted to represent him at the inquest. During the 3-day event, Sam was questioned and again denied an affair with Susan Hayes—a lie that would later be used to impeach his credibility at trial. Coroner Gerber's verdict named Sam as the murderer.
July 23, 1954: Cleveland Police formally take over the police investigation.
July 24, 1954: Susan Hayes is questioned by police in California and admits to having an affair with Sam.
July 30, 1954: Front-page editorial in morning edition of Cleveland Press asks, “Why Isn’t Sam Sheppard in Jail?” At 10:00pm, Sam is arrested and charged with murder in the first degree.
August 16, 1954: Sam is released on $50,000 bail. Grand Jury meets to consider indictment.
August 17, 1954: Grand Jury returns first-degree murder indictment and Sam is re-arrested.
August-October, 1954: Massive press coverage continues. At voir dire, every juror except one testifies to reading or hearing about the case in the news media.
October 18, 1954: Selection of jury begins. Local and national media reporters pack the courthouse. The Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office seeks the death penalty.
October 19, 1954: Judge Edward Blythin denies motions by Defense to move trial out of Cleveland and delay trial until publicity dies down.
October 28, 1954: Jury is sworn in.
November-December 1954: Judge Blythin does not order sequestering of jury. Jurors’ names and photos appear in papers over 40 times.
November 3, 1954: Jury travels to Sheppard home. Crowds of spectators and news media surround the home. Sam, handcuffed to a deputy, is also present.
November 19, 1954: Two jurors admit to hearing a false national news report about the arrest of a woman claiming to have an illegitimate child by Sam. Defense asks Judge Blythin to question jury about hearing this report and he refuses, saying “It is a matter of free speech . . . We are not going to harass the jury every morning.”
December 9, 1954: Police issue a press release calling Sam “a bare-faced liar.” Sam begins a week-long testimony during which he admits being unfaithful but maintains his innocence.
December 16, 1954: Testimony ends. Prosecution seeks death by electric chair for first-degree murder.
December 17-21, 1954: Jury deliberates and is sequestered for the first time. Jurors are permitted to make unsupervised phone calls to their homes.
December 21, 1954: Jury returns verdict of murder in the second degree. Jury reports that for the first four days it was split on whether Sam was guilty or innocent. At 11:00am on day five, all agreed he was guilty. Sam is sentenced to life in prison and maintains his innocence. Sheppard home is unsealed and returned to the family.
January 3, 1955: Judge Blythin denies Sam’s motion for a new trial. Motions include 40 grounds for a new trial, including: pretrial publicity, denial of a change of venue, presence of the press in the courtroom, substitution of a juror, errors in jury instructions, and denial of a motion for continuance.
January 7, 1955: Ethel Niles Sheppard, Sam’s mother, commits suicide.
January 18, 1955: Richard Allen Sheppard, Sam’s father, dies of complications from stomach cancer.
January 22, 1955: Paul Leland Kirk, professor of criminalistics and forensic expert for the Sheppard defense team, visits the Sheppard home and examines evidence and samples collected by police.
April-July 1955: Defense moves for new trial on grounds of evidence discovered by Kirk. Judge Blythin overrules this motion on May 9, 1955, and all appeals to higher courts are unsuccessful. Sam is moved to a maximum security prison in Columbus.
December 1956: United States Supreme Court strikes down Sam’s request for a new trial.
Early 1959: Ariane Tebbenjohanns, Sam’s future wife, writes her first letter to Sam through his brothers.
November 8, 1959: Richard Eberling is arrested for larceny. Marilyn Sheppard’s jewelry is found in his possession.
November 19, 1959: Eberling is cleared of involvement in Marilyn’s murder after a polygraph and police investigation.
1961: Sam is transferred to Marion Correctional Institution and Ariane is permitted to write him directly. Sam cannot respond to her directly until 1962.
July 1961: Sam’s attorney and friend William J. Corrigan suffers a stroke and dies. Young Boston attorney F. Lee Bailey flies to Cleveland to visit Sam’s brother Stephen and agrees to represent Sam.
August 1961: Chicago Tribune reporter Paul Holmes publishes “The Sheppard Murder Case.” It appears on the bestseller list for 14 weeks.
May 20, 1962: Myrtle Irene Fray, 64, sister of Eberling’s employer Ethel May Durkin, is beaten to death. The murder is unsolved.
February 1963: Thomas Reese, Marilyn’s father, commits suicide. Ohio Parole Board denies Sam’s request for parole.
April 13, 1963: Bailey files a new habeas corpus petition in U.S. District Court, arguing that prejudicial publicity surrounding the 1954 trial violated Sam’s right to due process.
September 1963: TV program “The Fugitive” about a doctor wrongly accused of murdering his wife first airs.
February 1964: Gerber writes letter to Ohio Attorney General William Saxbe requesting that Governor James A. Rhodes pardon Sam.
July 15-16, 1964: District Court Judge calls the 1954 trial a "mockery of justice" that violated Sheppard's 14th Amendment rights to due process. The State is ordered to release Sheppard and gives the prosecutor 60 days to bring charges, otherwise the case would be dismissed permanently.
July 18, 1964: Sam marries Ariane.
March 4, 1965: The State of Ohio appeals the District Court ruling to a U.S. Court of Appeals. The ruling is reversed. Bailey appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court on writ of certiorari; the U.S. Supreme Court grants certiorari to hear the Sheppard v. Maxwell federal habeas corpus case.
1966: Sam releases his book titled “Endure and Conquer.”
June 6, 1966: In Sheppard v. Maxwell, by an 8-1 vote, the Court concludes that Sam did not receive a fair trial consistent with the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment and orders the murder verdict invalid. Days later, Prosecutor John Corrigan announces Sam will be re-tried.
October 24, 1966: Sam’s second trial begins. Judge Francis Talty limits press in the courtroom. Sam does not take the stand in his defense.
November 16, 1966: The jury deliberates for less than one day and finds Sam not guilty.
1967: Sam regains his medical license but is sued in the death of a patient and quits his practice.
December 1968: Ariane and Sam divorce.
1969: Sam becomes a professional wrestler working under the stage name “Killer.” He marries Colleen Strickland, the 20-year-old daughter of his wrestling manager.
April 6, 1970: Sam dies at age 46 of liver failure.
January 3, 1984: Ethel May Durkin dies weeks after being hospitalized for a fall in her home.
July 7, 1989: Eberling is convicted of aggravated murder in Durkin’s death.
October 1989: Sam Reese Sheppard states that he will work to clear his father’s name and solve his mother’s murder.
March 1990: Sam Reese Sheppard meets with Eberling in Ohio’s Lebanon Correctional Institution.
April 30, 1993: Sam Reese Sheppard and author Cynthia Cooper agree to publish a book about Marilyn’s murder and Sam’s trial. The book, claiming Sam’s innocence and casting suspicion on Eberling, is released in September 1995 as “Mockery of Justice.”
November 1993: Cooper and Sam Reese Sheppard hire investigative firm AMSEC to investigate Marilyn’s murder. Their final report states that blood evidence shows an intruder was in the house just as Sam claimed.
October 19, 1995: The Sheppard estate files a petition for declaration of innocence as a wrongfully imprisoned individual under the original Cuyahoga Court of Common Pleas criminal case number 64571. The case is closed in August 1996 because the defendant, Sam Sheppard, is deceased.
February 22, 1996: Court hearing about Sheppard case takes place before Judge Ronald Suster.
April 29, 1996: Kathie Collins Dyal, a former nurse of Ethel May Durkin, reports that Eberling admitted to killing Marilyn. Eberling denies having said this.
July 24, 1996: In Davis v. State of Ohio, the Sheppard Estate files a civil action against the State of Ohio Cuyahoga County Prosecutor seeking a declaration of innocence and a determination of wrongful imprisonment (such a determination is a prerequisite to filing a case for monetary damages with the Ohio Court of Claims).
September 17, 1997: Sam Sheppard’s body is exhumed for DNA testing.
March 4, 1998: Terry Gilbert, lawyer for the Sheppard family, announces that DNA tests performed by Dr. Mohammed Tahir of the Indianapolis-Marion County Forensic Services Agency show that the blood found at the murder scene could not be Sam Sheppard’s. Tahir further states that Eberling’s blood was consistent with the blood type found at the murder scene.
July 25, 1998: Eberling dies in prison.
December 1998: The Ohio Supreme Court clears the way for trial by ruling against a request by the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor to stop the suit by Sam Reese Sheppard against the State of Ohio for wrongfully imprisoning his father.
October 5, 1999: Marilyn Sheppard’s body, along with the fetus she was carrying at the time of her death, is exhumed for medical testing.
January 31, 2000: Davis v. State of Ohio civil trial begins.
February 7, 2000: Jury selection begins.
February 18-22, 2000: Terry Gilbert reports that the state never made a good-faith effort to settle the lawsuit. Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Bill Mason informs the media about an “outrageous” settlement agreement proposed by Terry Gilbert, which requested $3.25 million in return for the Sheppard family dropping the lawsuit.
April 12, 2000: Jury finds in favor of the State of Ohio after an eight-week trial.
February 21, 2002: The Sheppard Estate appeals to the Eighth District Court of Appeals, who finds that the civil suit should never have proceeded to trial because such a claim abated upon the death of Sam Sheppard.