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Sheppard's 'walk' takes him through city

September 23, 1999

Sam SheppardBy DAN KULIN / Staff Writer

photo: KEVIN G. GILBERT / staff photographer




Sam Reese Sheppard's walk from the U.S. Supreme Court to a county courthouse in Cleveland where his father was wrongfully convicted of killing his wife in a highly publicized murder trial almost 45 years ago took him through Hagerstown on Thursday.

The 400-mile journey is intended to prepare Sheppard for the Oct. 5 exhumation of his murdered mother's body, and then the declaration of innocence trial for his late father, which is to begin Jan. 31 in Cleveland.

"It's for me and my mental health in a lot of ways," Sheppard said Thursday as he sat along the side of Nottingham Road near Washington Street in Hagerstown.

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"I'm a little tired but I feel great. It's a way I can be proactive instead of just waiting (for the trial). ... Walking is a great source of meditation," Sheppard said.

Sheppard's "Walk for Justice" also is intended to raise awareness about alternatives to the death penalty.

The active opponent of the death penalty is being joined in his walk by fellow anti-death penalty advocates, including members of the group Citizens United for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.

Sheppard, now 52, was 7 years old when his mother, Marilyn Reese Sheppard, was brutally murdered on July 4, 1954.

Later that year his father, Dr. Samuel H. Sheppard, was accused, arrested and convicted of the murder.

The case drew national media attention at the time and was the basis for the television program, "The Fugitive," and the movie of the same name.

After 10 years in prison, Dr. Sheppard was released in 1964, granted a new trial and found not guilty of his wife's death. He died in 1970.

Now his son, through a civil lawsuit, is seeking an official apology from the state that prosecuted his father and an official declaration of his father's innocence.

This is the younger Sheppard's third long walk.

In 1995, just before his book "Mockery of Justice - The True Story of the Sheppard Murder Case" was published, Sheppard took six months to walk from Boston to New Orleans.

In 1997, Sheppard took three weeks after his father's body was exhumed to walk across Ohio.

On Thursday, Sheppard walked about 15 miles from just south of Funkstown to near Clear Spring.

He and his group spend the night at friends' houses along the way.

Their trip is broken up by several speaking engagements. On Thursday night, Sheppard was scheduled to speak in Baltimore.

Sheppard said he'll interrupt his walk near Pittsburgh to see his mother's body be exhumed in early October.

He will then resume the walk and expects to reach the courthouse in Cleveland around Oct. 18 - exactly 45 years after what Sheppard calls the "unfair trial" of his father began.

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