Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

CRIME SCENE ANALYSIS OF THE MARILYN SHEPPARD MURDER

Forensic Inconsistencies

Inconsistencies Regarding the Location of Blood:

Dr. Sam Sheppard (AP)
Dr. Sam Sheppard
(AP)

Dr. Sheppard had no blood on his hands or body following the homicide and denies having washed or cleaned himself. As the killer certainly would have been stained with the victim's blood after bludgeoning her to death, one might consider this lack of blood on Dr. Sheppard's person to be consistent with his testimony and his denial of having committed the homicide. It is not. Dr. Sheppard's testimony as well as the physical evidence at the crime scene sets forth several compelling reasons to believe that not only should Dr. Sheppard have had blood on his person but there also should have been blood on items that had none.

Dr. Sheppard testified that he touched his wife and took her pulse on a least two different occasions by placing his fingers on her neck and throat.

A  I looked at her and I felt her (Trial Testimony 12/13/54 Pg. 4971)

A  I felt her. I took her pulse at the neck

Q  You took her pulse at the neck?

A  Yes, sir. (Trial Testimony 12/13/54 Pg. 4973)

Q  Did you touch Marilyn's body?

A  I believe I did, sir.

Q And what part of the body did you touch?

A I'm not sure. I believe I touched the neck, the face, possibly the wrists. I touched her, I feel that I touched around the face and neck. (Trial testimony 12/13/54 Pg.4957-58)

Touching his wife's face and taking her pulse by placing his fingers on her bloodstained neck and/or wrist on at least two separate occasions would have undoubtedly resulted in a primary transfer of blood from the victim to the fingers and hands of Dr. Sheppard. After checking his wife's pulse a final time, Dr. Sheppard testified that he went downstairs and called the Houks on the telephone. It would be logical to expect a secondary transfer of blood from his fingers and hands to the telephone. No blood was detected on either the telephone or on Dr. Sheppard's fingers, hands, or person in spite of the fact that Dr. Sheppard testified that he did not wash or clean up.

It is important to note that Dr. Richard Sheppard, brother of Dr. Samuel Sheppard, who arrived at the scene later that morning observed wet blood on Marilyn Sheppard's face. If the blood on the Marilyn Sheppard's face was wet when Dr. Richard Sheppard observed the body later that morning, then it was even wetter and more likely to have been transferred to Dr. Samuel Sheppard's hands and fingers as he took her pulse and touched her face.

Other reasons to expect Dr. Sheppard to have blood on his person is his testimony that he "grappled" with the killer on two separate occasions the night of his wife's murder. Since the killer would have been covered with the victim's blood, it would be expected that there would have been a secondary transfer of blood from the offender to Dr. Sheppard having "grappled" twice, yet Dr. Sheppard had no blood on his person. Secondly there would have been blood transferred to Dr. Sheppard's hand and fingers by the bloody-handed killer as he removed Dr. Sheppard's wristwatch and ring.

In addition, there is the issue of the blood found on Dr. Sheppard's wristwatch, which was found in a green bag with his ring and a set of keys. The bag was recovered outdoors, a short distance from his house. The crime scene photographs depict blood spots or spatter (as opposed to smears) on his wristwatch. These would be consistent with impact bloodstains and it would indicate that the watch was near the victim while she was being attacked. It would be expected that similar blood spots or spatter would be found on Dr. Sheppard's wrist, forearm or hand, immediately adjacent to the location of his watch. No such blood was found.

A transfer bloodstain on his watch would be consistent with a scenario in which either the watch brushed against the victim or a bloody-handed killer removed the watch from Dr. Sheppard's wrist as is implied by the watch having been recovered in the green bag. There was no such stain on the watch. One might also expect to find evidence of sand from the beach in his watchband as he reported he "grappled" with the killer and was rendered unconscious while on the beach, but there was no evidence of sand in the watchband.

Additionally, it would be expected that there would be evidence of blood on the green bag in which the killer placed the watch as well as indications of blood on the ring and set of keys that were also placed in the bag by the killer. No blood was detected on the green bag or any of the items inside the green bag.

Dr. Sheppard testified that as he regained consciousness in the bedroom, he saw light reflecting off of the badge that he had in his wallet. He later indicated that about between thirty and fifty dollars was missing from this wallet, but that a check and about 60 dollars in cash were under a flap in the wallet and were apparently overlooked by the killer. The implication being that the offender, after murdering Marilyn Sheppard and rendering Dr. Sheppard unconscious, removed the wallet from Dr. Sheppard's pants, opened it, stole some money, left other money and then discarded the wallet near Dr. Sheppard with the badge displayed. With fresh blood on the killer's hands, it would be expected that there would be a secondary transfer of blood from the offender's hands to Dr. Sheppard not only as they "grappled" but also on Dr. Sheppard's pants and wallet. This would have occurred as the bloody-handed killer removed Dr. Sheppard's wallet from his pants and then searched the wallet for money. There was no blood on Dr. Sheppard's wallet or pants.

One must conclude that the most logical explanation for the lack of blood on Dr. Sheppard's pants and wallet, as well as on his watch, keys and ring and the green bag in which these three items were found is that these items were not handled by anyone with bloody hands. The most logical explanation for the lack of blood on Dr. Sheppard's person is that he washed himself thoroughly after the murder and before using the telephone to call the Houks. He did not, however, clean the blood spots or spatter from his watch, which present compelling evidence that the watch was in close proximity to the victim as she was being attacked. The only blood on Dr. Sheppard's pants was one diffuse stain around the knee, which is not really proof of anything.

Also of importance in analyzing this crime and crime scene is to consider the amount of time it took for the offender to stage this scene. Crime scenes are high-risk environments and none more so than a homicide scene. Offenders typically spend no more time than necessary at a crime scene for fear of being interrupted or caught. Consequently there is a high degree of correlation between the amount of time an offender spends at a crime scene and the offender's familiarity and comfortability at that scene. The more time an offender spends at a crime scene the higher the probability that the offender is comfortable and familiar with that scene. Offenders who spend a great deal of time at a crime scene often have a legitimate reason for being at the scene and therefore are not worried about being interrupted or found at the scene.

In his statements and testimony, Dr. Sheppard alluded to the possibility that more than one offender was involved. This is unlikely for a number of reasons. In multiple offender cases where a female victim is vulnerable it is common for one or more of the offenders to sexually assault that victim. Secondly there would be more activity, both criminal and non-criminal, expected at the scene than what occurred. There likely would have been more destructive ransacking of the house and general pillaging and plundering than happened in this case. Finally, it would be uncommon to leave any witnesses or potential witnesses alive in the wake of a homicide. This would be especially true with a killer as enraged as the one who killed Marilyn Sheppard. In my opinion there was only one killer in the Sheppard house that evening.

The totality of this evidence reveals that this crime was, in all probability, not a "for-profit" or drug-related burglary, nor a sexually motivated crime. It was a crime in which the offender took a good deal of time to stage the scene to imply these motives. The amount of time spent staging this scene not only reveals how comfortable and familiar the offender was, but also indicates how important it was for the offender to mask the true motive for the crime. As in all staged homicides, this offender realized that if he did not stage the scene in some way he would immediately become a primary suspect. The offender displayed his lack of criminal sophistication by offering multiple, feebly staged pseudo-motives for this crime.

 

 

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