Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

CRIME SCENE ANALYSIS OF THE MARILYN SHEPPARD MURDER

The Assignment

Supervisory Special Agent Federal Bureau of Investigation (Retired) National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime

December 1, 1999
Mr. Dean Boland
Office of the Prosecuting Attorney
Justice Center
1200 Ontario Street
Cleveland, Ohio 44113

Re: The Estate of Samuel H. Sheppard v. The State of Ohio.
Case No.: 312332

Gregg O. McCrary (Gregg McCrary)
Gregg O. McCrary (Gregg McCrary)

I was asked to conduct a criminal investigative analysis regarding the homicide of Marilyn Reese Sheppard that occurred on or about July 4, 1954. Specifically I was asked to analyze the crime and crime scene, and review all pertinent case materials in order to classify this homicide and offer opinions regarding victimology, motive and the likelihood of more than one offender being involved in this crime. The following report is based on the material I have reviewed.

A Prefactory Note

The field of criminal investigation is a professional area of specialization with pronounced standards, a distinct published literature that ranges from journal articles to textbooks on the subject, college and university courses within undergraduate and graduate curricula, and scholarly treatises which study crime, criminals, victims and the detective function. Texts on the subject abound[i][ii][iii][iv] and scientific principles that apply to this field and many of its sub-specialties are highly developed and widely accepted as authoritative.[v][vi] There are recognized sub-specialties in the criminal investigation field, including Homicide, Robbery, Sexual Assault and Burglary, to name some of the most prominent investigative foci. It is a given that crime is the most studied American social phenomenon[vii] and the four crimes just mentioned are the most studied forms of criminal activity.[viii] The results of these studies have been profusely published, and have resulted in a body of knowledge that has changed the face of police training programs, while contributing to a wider understanding of the dynamics of interpersonal violent crimes and how to investigate them. Specifically, the program of Criminal Investigative Analysis, as pioneered by the FBI, has emerged as a dominant analytical and investigative tool used in violent crime investigations.[ix]

Criminal Investigative Analysis

This process as developed by the FBI involves a behavioral approach to an offense from an investigative perspective as opposed to a mental health viewpoint. The process generally involves several steps:

  1. Comprehensive analysis of the victim
  2. Comprehensive evaluation of the specifics of the crime scene
  3. Evaluation of the crime itself
  4. Thorough review and evaluation of the investigative reports
  5. Evaluation of all forensic, laboratory or other specialized examinations

Such an evaluation typically affords an experienced criminal investigative analyst the ability to offer informed opinions regarding the crime, crime scene, motive, number of offenders and other potential criminal dynamics.

Victimology

Every meaningful analysis of a violent crime begins with a study of the victim. The purpose of victimology is to determine what, if anything, elevated an individual's potential for becoming the victim of a violent crime and then to place the victim on a risk continuum from low to moderate to high. The lifestyle of the victim and the situational dynamics present at the time of the crime are the primary focus in making this determination. There was nothing in Marilyn Reese Sheppard's lifestyle, such as criminal activity, drug use, etc. that would have elevated her risk for becoming the victim of violence, nor were there any situational dynamics that unduly escalated her potential for becoming the victim of a homicide. She was at her home with her son and husband on a holiday weekend in a low-crime area and was either preparing for bed or in bed when attacked. Ms. Sheppard was at low risk for becoming the victim of a violent crime.


[i] Alfred R Stone and Stuart M. Deluca, Investigating Crimes, (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1980)

[ii] Charles E. O'Hara and Gregory L. O'Hara Fundamentals of Criminal Investigation 5th ed. (Springfield: Charles C. Thomas, 1980)

[iii] Paul L. Kirk, Crime Investigation 2nd ed. (New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1974)

[iv] Charles L. Swanson, Neil C. Chamelin and Leonard Territo, Criminal Investigation 6th ed. (New York McGraw-Hill 1996).

[v] Ibid. Pg. 24-26

[vi] William J. Bopp, Police Personnel Administration (Boston: Holbrook Press, 1974), P. 194)

[vii] Joseph Sena and Larry Siegel, Introduction to Criminal Justice 7th ed. (Minneapolis West Publishing 1996). Pg. 51-74

[viii] Ibid.

[ix] Vernon J. Geberth, Practical Homicide Investigation (New York CRC Press, 1996) Pg. 707-793

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