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
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
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
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.