BAY VILLAGE, OH - For those old enough to remember, it is difficult to drive by an ornately-appointed building in Bay Village, without casting curious glances to the place where Dr. Sam Sheppard worked as a physician when his wife was murdered in 1954 and he was arrested for her brutal slaying which captured the attention of an entire nation.
The old Bay View Osteopathic Hospital became one of two focal points for curious eyes who wanted to see where Dr. Sheppard worked. The other was his home, the scene of the brutal murder of his wife, Marilyn. Both the home and the hospital were on Lake Road in Bay Village.
Although 60 years have passed since the murder and the first trial of Sheppard, there is still heavy interest in the case which brought the world's attention to the wealthy suburb of Cleveland.
Many years ago, the Sheppard home was purchased by new owners. The old hospital building is still there, although it is no longer a hospital as it became in 1948 when Sam's father, Dr. Richard Sheppard, paid $75,000 for it, adding another $350,000 to convert it into a facility for patients and surgeries. It was this hospital where the elder Sheppard and his three sons, all physicians, practiced medicine.
Because Marilyn had been bludgeoned to death with such force, the prominence of the Sheppard name, and the arrest of her husband, the story was picked up across the country. "They were probably one of the most renown physician families at its time," said Soderquist, standing in a hallway where there are dozens of newspaper photographs of the arrest and court proceedings.
"Anybody who comes into Cleveland obviously knows of the Sam Sheppard story," said Bob Soderquist who for the last 20 years has owned one of the units in what is now Cashelmara Condominium. The residents who live in the historic and beautiful building do not shun the link with Sheppard, whose name skyrocketed to big heights when his wife was murdered July 3, 1954 in their home which lined the Lake Erie shoreline. In the lobby, there are many newspaper articles from the arrest and trials.
For the last 30 years, the building has been condominium. On the anniversary of the death of Marilyn Sheppard, it draws interest. After 60 years, the building on Lake Road again draws stares of the curious who wonder what would be said if the walls of the structure could talk. The walls have remained silent except for the old newspaper articles which peer back from the walls. In a strange way, they do talk, telling the story of murder of a woman six decades ago and a family's tragedy.
The case has become a major part of American journalism because there was a Cleveland media drumbeat, led mostly by Cleveland Press editor Louis B. Seltzer to arrest Sheppard, who denied guilt, contending a "bushy-haired intruder" had broken into the Sheppard home and killed Marilyn. Sheppard said he wrestled with the intruder but could not stop the person who escaped into the night.
Twenty-seven days later, Dr. Sam was arrested for murder. During the days before his arrest, there had been newspaper editorials calling for his arrest. There were fierce newspaper calls for his arrest, prodding police and prosecutors to "bring him in." During the trial, there were many unethical stories written.
Sheppard was found guilty of the murder of his wife and was sentenced to prison. Twelve years later, the U.S. Supreme court ruled "massive, pervasive and prejudicial publicity" prevented Sheppard from receiving a fair trial.
In 1966, a second trial was ordered. In this trial, Dr. Sam was found not guilty. Much of the story adorns the walls of Cashelmara Condominium. "I read the Cleveland Press when I was six or seven years old," said condo owner Anita Nonneman as she was moving into her new home. "I followed the whole history, "she added.
Where Nonneman and dozens of others live has been converted from the osteopathic hospital the Sheppard family operated for years. In the living areas, other than the large number of framed newspaper articles, there are few references to the building's history. However, in the basement, where condo owners maintain storage units, the walls of several harken to a time of medical use. The tiled walls, of what were operating rooms, are still there.
In the basement area, thought to be the old morgue, there are a few items stored by the condo owners. "Because of the Sheppard case, this is actually a piece of American history," said Lou Barbee, a real estate agent who handles owners' transactions in Cashelmara. She knows the strange history of the building. "I can't tell you the number of people who come to look at these who say, 'I had my leg set here' or 'I was born in this hospital.'"
Soderquist surveys the walls of storage units, noting the green or white tiles which were part of the operating rooms. "This was actually the operating room to the hospital where Sam Sheppard and his family practiced medicine here in the Bay View Hospital," he said with amazement,
his eyes darting in the nooks and crannies of the room.
Interestingly, the building was constructed as a home in 1895 by Cleveland businessman Washington Lawrence. He and his wife built it for themselves and their seven daughters. It remained a home for decades until Dr. Richard Sheppard bought it in 1948, converting it into the hospital. The building has since been converted again to living quarters just as it had begun.