A new book raises new questions about Marilyn Sheppard's murder and as NewsChannel5's Adam Shapiro reported, Sheppard's stepmother is opening up for the first time in 50 years.
"She was a lovely little girl. Very, very, very, pretty. Very sweet little girl," Jane Reese said. "She was darling very, very pretty, full of life."
That's how Reese remembers her stepdaughter, Marilyn Sheppard, the little girl she helped raise from the age of 7.
Sheppard was the 31-year-old mother murdered in one of Cleveland's most notorious crimes. Dr. Same Sheppard initially was convicted of murder and spent a decade in prison before the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the verdict. Sheppard was acquitted at a retrial in 1966 and died four years later.
"In my heart I knew, I knew that Sam had killed Marilyn," Reese said. "Now I am free finally from the worry that I have had for 50 years."
Reese is now free to tell her story in a new book by lawyers Jack Desario and Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Bill Mason. She says it's to set the record straight.
This is the first time in almost 50 years that Reese has talked to a reporter about the murder.
And although she is 96 years old, blind and hard of hearing, Reese's memory is as sharp as it was on July 4, 1954, when she said she received a phone call from Sam Sheppard's brother, Stephen.
"'And I called to tell you that Marilyn is dead, dead!' And I said, 'What are you saying?' 'She's dead.' And I said, 'Is this some funny joke of some kind?' And he said, 'It's not a joke,'" Reese said.
Mason met Reese in 1999 as he prepared for the civil trial which accused Ohio of wrongfully jailing Sheppard. Sheppard's son lost the case to clear his father's name in 2000. He wanted Cuyahoga County to pay damages for 10 years of wrongful imprisonment.
"As she describes it to me, it is something burned in her memory that she will never forget that morning," Mason said.
Mason won the case, but learned new details about the crime that remain unexplained to this day, like the phone call Reese insisted she got at 6 a.m.
"It was exactly, right at exactly six o'clock," she said.
"She indicates she got this call at about six o'clock in the morning which would be about 10 minutes prior to anybody knowing about the homicide. It raises a lot of questions," Mason said.
Stephen Sheppard who lives in Oregon said he doesn't remember calling Reese. When Shapiro asked him for an interview he said, "I'm sick of reading that stupid book by Mason."
"There are some things that have never come out, and if you are interested you might want to hear it," Reese said.
That's what she told Mason on the day Marilyn's body was exhumed in 1999.
It was the same day she broke her self-imposed almost 50-year code of silence about the phone call and the way the Sheppard family treated Marilyn's family after the murder -- as if nothing had happened.
"These people, when they knew supposedly their son was dying and Marilyn was already dead, that's the way they behaved," Reese said.
"Do you think Sam really loved her?" Shapiro asked.
"No, I don't. He liked himself too much to like anybody but himself. But she loved him. I think she loved him very much. Yes, she did," Reese said.
She said the new book about Marilyn's murder breaks new ground.
"It made Marilyn a person again instead of just somebody who had a cruel and terrible death," She said.
After 50 years, Reese said it's about time.
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