Book: The Wrong Man

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The Wrong Man

Author: James Neff
Publisher: Random House

The real-life murder that became known as “The Fugitive” case began before dawn on July 4, 1954, in a Cleveland suburb, when Marilyn Sheppard was viciously beaten to death in her bed. After an inadequate investigation, her husband, Dr. Sam Sheppard, was charged with the crime, and a chain of events was set in motion that has caused more speculation, more publicity, and more cultural myth than any other American murder.

James Neff is an award-winning investigative journalist who, over the past ten years, has assembled the most compete set of Sheppard records in existence, including DNA analyses and interviews with every living person central to the case. He has also gained unprecedented access to crime-scene evidence that shows conclusively that Sham Sheppard did not murder his wife–and points to the man who did. Peeling away the layers of fiction surrounding the case, Neff uncovers the factual events and the key players in a story that until now has been shrouded in mystery. The Wrong Man is a landmark work, a gripping narrative, and indeed the final verdict on America’s most famous unsolved murder.


Before O.J. Simpson, Sam Sheppard was probably the most famous man acquitted for murder in the United States. Sheppard was a suburban Cleveland doctor accused of murdering his wife in 1954. The essentials of his case are well known. Sheppard said he was asleep on the couch when he heard his wife scream from the bedroom; he ran up the stairs and was knocked out by her attacker. Before long, Sheppard himself became the leading suspect—and most of the public came to consider him guilty. In The Wrong Man, reporter James Neff offers a detailed and well-told narrative that argues for Sheppard’s innocence. Based on 10 years of research and interviews with many of the people whose lives touched the case, from family members to jurors to Sheppard’s famous attorney F. Lee Bailey, Neff’s account seems convincing. He even proposes a perpetrator, who, Neff says, offered something “close of a confession” during an interview shortly before his death in 1998. There may never be a “final verdict” in the saga of Sam Sheppard, but many readers will think this book effectively closes the case. —John Miller

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