The new twist in the 43-year-old Sam Sheppard

By John Affleck Associated Press Published:

The new twist in the 43-year-old Sam Sheppard murder case raised hope that

the doctor can be exonerated in the slaying. But a prosecutor immediately

cast doubt Wednesday on whether the evidence will stand up in court.

The material, held by a former student of a forensic scientist hired by

the Sheppard family in the 1950s, includes two vials containing bloodstains

taken from a wardrobe door in Marilyn Sheppard's bedroom, according to court

papers.

The wardrobe bloodstains are ``of huge significance,'' said Terry Gilbert,

an attorney for Sam Reese Sheppard, the couple's son. ``It is a potential

source of blood from a third-party suspect in the murder room itself, something

that we have not had yet in this case.''

The Sheppard team hopes that the new sample could show a DNA match with

Richard Eberling, 67, a former window washer at the Sheppards' home who

is in prison for a 1984 murder but denies killing Mrs. Sheppard. DNA testing

was not used by criminologists in the 1950s.

Assistant Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Carmen Marino was skeptical that the

blood samples could be verified as taken from the Sheppard home.

``One of the problems throughout this case is going to be the chain of custody,''

Marino said. ``How is anyone going to establish that evidence being tested

now is evidence accumulated back at the crime scene?''

Sheppard, who insisted that a ``bushy-haired intruder'' knocked him unconscious

and killed his pregnant wife, spent 10 years in prison for her beating death.

He was acquitted at a second trial in 1966 and died four years later of

liver failure at 46.

Sheppard's estate is now suing the state on behalf of his son, claiming

wrongful imprisonment.

The bloodstains, like the rest of the evidence in the Sheppard case, were

ignored for years after the doctor's acquittal. When the younger Sheppard

assembled a team to reinvestigate the case in the early 1990s, they searched

for the wardrobe blood samples but were unable to find them.

Earlier this month, a judge ordered Sheppard's body exhumed to compare his

DNA to the genetic makeup of blood found in his Bay Village home after the

killing. Both that process and the examination of the bloodstains are tentatively

scheduled for September, Gilbert said Wednesday.

If Sheppard is declared innocent _ different under Ohio law than the verdict

of not guilty rendered in 1966 _ his son could collect an award estimated

at up to $2 million.

Prosecutors maintain that too much time has passed and too much evidence

lost to make a definitive conclusion about the killer.

Common Pleas Judge Ronald Suster on July 8 ordered that the bloodstains

be sent to the county coroner's office from Walnut Creek, Calif., where

they are in the hands of forensic scientist John Murdoch.

Murdoch was a student of Paul Kirk at the University of California at Berkeley.

In 1955, Kirk was hired by the Sheppard family to collect samples and analyze

bloodstains at the crime scene. He concluded that Sheppard's blood was not

present in the room.

From the shape of the bloodstain on the wardrobe, he also deduced that it

came from the killer touching it, rather than blood being spattered from

Mrs. Sheppard.

Kirk died in 1970, and when his office was cleaned out, Murdoch received

a box of material related to the case, including the vials with the bloodstains,

Gilbert said. Murdoch, who now works for the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and

Firearms, contacted the Sheppard team last month.

Murdoch was at a meeting in Maryland on Wednesday. Calls to his hotel and

his office in California were not immediately returned.

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