Originally created 01/19/00

Sam Sheppard DNA tests inconclusive



CLEVELAND -- A state-ordered DNA test aimed at trying to prove Dr. Sam Sheppard killed his wife proved inconclusive, a prosecutor said Monday.

Cuyahoga County Prosecutor William D. Mason had ordered a DNA test of the fetus carried by Sheppard's wife, Marilyn Sheppard, when she was killed at her home in 1954.

The Sheppards' son, Sam Reese Sheppard, has been trying for a decade to clear his father's name in his mother's violent death. He is suing to have his father declared innocent, a finding that could lead to Ohio being held financially liable for wrongful imprisonment. The civil trial is scheduled to start Jan. 31.

Mason had hoped a determination that Sheppard was not the father could be used to show a motive for murder.

But Mason said tests on DNA from the fetus were inconclusive because the samples tested had degraded over time. While he was still awaiting the final report, Mason said Sheppard could have been the father, but that the information was not conclusive.

Lawyer Terry Gilbert, who represents Sam Reese Sheppard, would not comment prior to the release of the coroner's report. But he said Sam and Marilyn Sheppard were happy about the pregnancy and that there was never any evidence of marital discord concerning it.

Mrs. Sheppard's body, and that of the male fetus she was carrying, were exhumed Oct. 5, more than 45 years after being laid to rest in a suburban Cleveland cemetery.

The doctor was convicted of his wife's murder in 1954 and spent 10 years in prison before the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the verdict and Sheppard was acquitted at a retrial. The case was one of the most highly publicized of its day and inspired "The Fugitive" television series.

Dr. Sheppard, who died in 1970, always claimed a bushy-haired intruder killed his wife and then knocked him unconscious when he ran to her aid.