The New Prosecutor Faces an Old Controversy
As Cuyahoga County's new prosecutor, William Mason set out to learn everything about the case. The Prosecutor's Office file consisted of newspaper accounts, a few legal summaries, a case timeline, an overview of the facts, and some crime scene photos—not the extensive, detailed review of this complex case that would help him gain insight and form initial impressions. Taking the file home with him over the weekend (a habit his wife, Carol, had grown accustomed to), he hid himself away in his study and forced himself to concentrate on the task at hand. To the sounds of his four young children playing in the backyard, he immersed himself in the incongruously grim details of Marilyn Sheppard's murder.
Marilyn Reese Sheppard was four months pregnant when she was murdered in her bedroom in the early-morning hours of July 4, 1954. She was found in her bed with her pajama bottoms pulled down to her ankles and her top pulled above her breasts. The cause of death was twenty- seven blows to the head with a heavy instrument. The crime scene photographs were gruesome. A young woman, with her face bashed beyond recognition, lay on her bed in pools of blood. Blood was spattered on the walls and closets in the room.
Why would anyone commit such a horrific crime? Her husband, Dr. Sam Sheppard, claimed that a bushy-haired intruder killed his wife while he was sound asleep on a daybed downstairs. Sheppard said that he was roused by the sound of his wife calling his name. When he ran upstairs, he was knocked unconscious by a blow to the back of his head. The next thing he remembered was coming to on the beach at the back of their property.
The Sheppard case had been the subject of lengthy judicial proceedings. The original murder trial began in October 1954 and became one of the