Tragic Details Found In Marilyn Sheppard's 1954 Autopsy Report

Marilyn Reese Sheppard was found dead on July 4, 1954. Her husband, Dr. Sam Sheppard, claimed an intruder had broken into their Bay Village, Ohio home, but he was eventually arrested for the crime. In December of the same year, a jury found him guilty of second-degree murder, and a judge sentenced him to sentenced to life in prison, per Case Western Reserve University. He was acquitted in 1966, and the identity of the killer is debated to this day.

The autopsy report compiled by the Cuyahoga County Coroner's Office the same day Marilyn's body was found revealed the tragic nature of her death. Her brutal murder was determined to be caused by "multiple impacts to head and face," as well as skull fractures, hemorrhages, and brain contusions. Marilyn, who was four months pregnant at the time of her death, had fractures to her nose and teeth and "contused lacerations" of her scalp and forehead. Toxicology determined she had no alcohol in her system, and the manner of death was listed as "homicide by assault."

She was murdered in the morning

According to the autopsy report, Sam Sheppard (above) found his wife Marilyn dead in her bed at around 5:30 a.m. She was transported from her 28924 Westlake Road home to the Cuyahoga County Coroner's Office and pronounced dead at 8:00 a.m. the same day. UMKC School of Law says she died sometime between 3:00 a.m. and 4:45 a.m.

Patrolman Fred F. Drenkhan was the first to arrive at the murder scene. His statement was outlined in a police report released by the Cuyahoga County Sheriff's Office on July 16, 1954. He said Bay Village mayor Spencer Houk had called him at 5:57 a.m. and told him something had happened to Marilyn before requesting an ambulance to her residence immediately. According to PBS, Sam Sheppard had called Houk and his wife Esther to the home at 5:50 a.m.

Drenkhan said he got to the house at around 6:00 a.m. After Esther led him to Marilyn's room, he examined the body. "She was lying with her head about three feet from the head board on her back, with her right arm lying beside her, and her left arm folded over her stomach — the legs were bent at the knees protruding over the outer edge of the bed, beneath a cross bar," he said. The patrolman noted "many lacerations on her forehead" and "considerable clotted blood about her hair and face." He said she "appeared to be dead."

Who killed her?

Marilyn Sheppard's killer has yet to be identified. On July 9, 1954, a detective interviewed Richard Eberling, a window washer for Dick's Window Cleaning who worked on the Sheppard home (per UKMC). In November 1959, Eberling was arrested for larceny. Among his possessions was a cocktail ring belonging to Marilyn Sheppard, and he confessed to working on the Sheppard home two days before the murder. But in 2004, a dying man who had worked at the same company said it was not Eberling but him who had washed the Sheppard home before the murder, per UMKC.

In the 2002 book "Tailspin: The Strange Case of Major Call," author and former FBI agent Bernard F. Conners speculated that Air Force deserter and cop killer James Call killed Marilyn. "There is strong evidence to support the charge that James Call (hereinafter referred to as the subject) murdered Marilyn Sheppard," Conners wrote, claiming that Call was near the scene of the murder at the time and in a "state of profound psychological distress." Call had also reportedly been on a crime spree of assault, burglary, and robbery both before and after Marylin's murder.

"The only break in his crime spree, according to the subject, were the days prior to the Shappard homicide when he professed to have been alone on the Appalachian Trail," Conners wrote. The author said that Call was not able to support his claim of being on the trail and noted that the killer did admit he was in Cleveland not long before.