Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods


Crime Scene Indicators

Crime Scene Indicators Frequently Noted in a Staged Domestic Homicide

Crime Classification Manual

Sheppard Crime and Crime Scene

The murder weapon, fingerprints and other evidentiary items often removed

The murder weapon was removed from the scene and no latent fingerprints of value were developed.

The victim's body is not concealed.

The victim's body was not concealed rather it was displayed to suggest she had been sexually assaulted.

The crime scene often involves the victim's or offender's residence, as the offender typically has control of the scene and therefore can spend time staging the scene without worry of being interrupted.

The victim's residence was the crime scene.

Death may appear to have occurred in the context of another criminal activity such as a robbery or rape.

The offender staged the scene to make Marilyn Sheppard's death appear as though it occurred in the context of a failed sexual assault or a burglary.

An offender who has a close relationship with his victim will often only partially remove the victim's clothing (e.g. pants pulled down, shirt or dress pulled up, etc.) He rarely leaves the victim nude.

The victim's pajamas were only partially removed as her pajama bottoms were pulled off one leg and her top was unbuttoned and pushed up over her breasts.

The offender frequently positions the victim to infer that a sexual assault has occurred.

The offender exposed the victim's breasts, pulled off one pant leg and slightly spread her legs implying that the victim was the target of a sexual assault.

Despite the body's positioning and partial removal of clothes, the autopsy demonstrates a lack of sexual assault. With a staged sexual assault, there is usually no evidence of any sexual activity and an absence of seminal fluids in body orifices.

The autopsy of Marilyn Reese Sheppard revealed no evidence of vaginal or anal trauma, no seminal fluid nor any indication of sexual assault even though the offender had positioned her body to imply that a sexual assault had occurred.

Another red flag apparent with many staged domestic murders is the fatal assault of the wife and/or children by an intruder while the husband escapes without injury or with a nonfatal injury. If the offender does not first target the person posing the greatest threat or if that person suffers the least amount of injury, the police investigator should especially examine all other crime scene indicators.

The allegation in this case is that an intruder fatally assaulted Mrs. Sheppard while her husband escaped with nonfatal injuries in spite of having two separate physical confrontations with the alleged murderer. I will defer to Dr. White's analysis and conclusions regarding the nature of the injuries sustained by Dr. Sheppard at the time of the homicide, but clearly, they were non-fatal.


The totality of the physical, forensic and behavioral evidence allows for only one logical conclusion and that is that the homicide of Marilyn Reese Sheppard on July 4, 1954 was a staged domestic homicide committed by Dr. Samuel Sheppard. The known indicators for criminal staging as well as the known crime scene indicators consistent with a staged domestic homicide are abundantly present. This evidence not only supports no other logical conclusion, but also significantly contradicts Dr. Samuel Sheppard's testimony and statements.


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