CLEVELAND — The voluminous files from the Dr. Sam Sheppard trials are going to the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law Library, Cleveland State University, Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Bill Mason announced Friday.
The collection includes documents, photographs, recordings and exhibits from the murder trials dating back to 1954, after Sheppard’s pregnant wife, Marilyn, was bludgeoned to death in her bed in Bay Village.
Mason called the arrangement with Cleveland-Marshall “a rare opportunity to forever preserve an important piece of legal history” and show how advancements in forensic evidence affect the justice system.
The law school’s dean, Craig M. Boise, said the collection will be open to both scholarly researchers and members of the general public after it is cataloged and digitized. Eventually the material will be accessible online, he said.
The Sheppard case has been widely embraced by popular culture, and is believed to have been the inspiration for “The Fugitive” television show and later a film starring Harrison Ford.
Sheppard contended he struggled on the shores of Lake Erie with a bushy-haired intruder who killed his wife, but he was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.
He spent a decade behind bars before he was freed in 1966 after a retrial.
Sheppard’s last days were spent as a professional wrestler.
He died in 1970.
In 1989, the case resurfaced when authorities began looking into the possibility that Marilyn Sheppard was actually killed by Richard Eberling, a window washer in the Sheppards’ home who was convicted of murdering a wealthy widow, Ethel May Durkin.
The Chronicle-Telegram ran a Page One series of stories about Eberling’s connections to a number of mysterious deaths, including those of Marilyn Sheppard and Durkin.
In 1996, the estate of Samuel Sheppard filed a wrongful imprisonment lawsuit, and Mason personally handled the case, which was won by the county in 2000. He later co-authored a book about the case.