Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Interview of Gregg McCrary

Staged Domestic Homicide

In Cleveland, he met Boland, along with Bill Mason, the Prosecuting Attorney for Cuyahoga County, and Steve Dever, his chief trial attorney.  They then showed him his task: to go through all the available informationand it was considerable.

The transcript from the first trial was 6,000 pages long, and the second trial transcript ran to 1,500 pages.  The records from the Bay Village Police Departments investigation filled seven 5-inch thick binders--some 2,100 pages.  Then there were 1,600 images from the coroners office, a 400-page transcript of the coroners inquest, and seven books devoted exclusively to the Sheppard case.  Despite a loss of some of the evidence along the way, there were still over one hundred exhibits to consider.

Dr. Sam Sheppard
Dr. Sam Sheppard
As he read it over from his perspective as a long-time investigator, McCrary discerned that Marilyn had been a low-risk victim, but had been in an unhappy marriage.  Sam had lied to police about having an affair, and Marilyn had told a third party that she wanted out of the marriage.  Those were fairly clear signals of a potential domestic homicide.  Added to that were problems with matching the crime scene to Sams account of what had occurred that night.   Blood was not where it should have been, notes McCrary, and it was where it should not have been.

Also, crime scenes are high-risk environments and offenders typically spend no more time than necessary there.  Offenders who remain for a longer time often have a legitimate reason for being at the scene and are therefore not worried about being interrupted or discovered.  This offender, he observed, had spent an inordinate amount of time at this crime scene.    A constellation of red flags emerged that indicated that the scene had been set up to appear to be an intruder homicide.  They included:

  • Perpetrating the crime posed a high degree of risk
  • The point of entry made no sense for this type of crime
  • There was evidence of overkillmore effort than was needed to do the job
  • If burglary appeared to be the motive, the items taken from the scene were inappropriate for that scenario

Yet the intended effect was not quite achieved.  When you look at the case closely and distill it to its essence, McCrary says, you can see that its nothing more than a staged domestic homicide.

After looking at everything available, he felt confident that Sheppard was the offender, and his testimony was admitted into the trial. 

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