Friday, March 24, 2000

Sheppard's lover heard

Tape describes affair in '50s

The Associated Press

        CLEVELAND — Prosecutors played tapes Thursday of a woman who had an affair with Dr. Sam Sheppard in the years before his wife was beaten to death in 1954.

        Tapes of a deposition with the woman, whose name in the 1950s was Susan Hayes but is identified in modern court documents as Susan Benitez, were played for about an hour at a trial for a lawsuit brought by Mr. Sheppard's son against the state of Ohio.

        Sam Reese Sheppard claims his father was wrongfully imprisoned for the slaying of his mother, Marilyn Sheppard, at the family's home on Lake Erie nearly 46 years ago.

        Dr. Sheppard was convicted of murder and spent a decade in prison before the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the verdict. The doctor was acquitted at a retrial and died in 1970.

        Prosecutors, who are defending the state, have tried to show that Dr. Sheppard was guilty of the killing. They have argued he was an unfaithful husband who was angry about being trapped in his marriage.

        In 1954, Mr. Sheppard initially denied, then later admitted, to having a relationship with Ms. Hayes, then a lab technician at his hospital. Her testimony at Mr. Sheppard's first trial badly damaged the doctor's credibility.

        During her latest testimony, Ms. Sheppard's former lover, now 70 and living in California, recounted trysts with the doctor in his car and a visit he made to her in California in March 1954. That was the last time the pair saw each other before Mrs. Sheppard was slain.

        The woman, whom prosecutors called Hayes throughout their questioning, described her affair with the doctor as sporadic. She said she never thought he would he leave his wife for her.

        “It was a very tight family,” she said. “There was no place for me in it.”


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