By: Mark Fitzgerald
When James Neff was growing up in Cleveland, it was an article of faith that Dr. Sam Sheppard killed his wife and deserved the guilty verdict of his 1954 “trial of the century.” But in his Random House book, The Wrong Man, Neff, investigations editor for The Seattle Times, presents the strongest case yet that Marilyn Sheppard was actually killed by a window washer turned social climber named Richard Eberling.
Neff revisits the days when Editor Louis B. Seltzer turned the now-defunct Cleveland Press into an organ for the prosecution — even demanding Sam Sheppard’s arrest in Page One editorials. Also appearing is the gaggle of “sob sister” reporters such as Hearst’s Dorothy Kilgallen, whose coverage Ernest Hemingway admired and followed avidly even in Cuba.
“This trial was bigger than O.J.,” Neff told E&P. The former columnist for The Plain Dealer said that in his hometown the trial remains as controversial as O.J. Simpson’s: “There’s a lot of denial in Cleveland. Some people just won’t even read the book, it’s been that controversial. It’s really hard to admit that we made a really big mistake about this guy.”