10 Real-life Crimes That Became Fictional TV Episodes


Unsolved Murder

"The Fugitive," the 1960s TV series about a husband falsely accused of killing his wife, is widely believed to be based on a infamous, real-life case of Sam Sheppard. Though the creator denied it was based on the Sheppard case, audiences couldn't help but draw connections. In 2005, however, the TV show "Cold Case" featured an episode called "Schadenfreude" that is more clearly based on Sheppard.

In 1954, Dr. Sam Sheppard was accused of killing his wife, Marilyn. According to his story, though, on the night of her death, he had fallen asleep on the couch and awoke to his wife's screams from the floor above. He claims he fought a "bushy-haired man" who knocked him unconscious twice.

In the ensuing trial, a national media frenzy took hold. Newspaper stories and public opinion generally assumed Sheppard's guilt, and it didn't help his case when it was revealed he had had a longtime affair. Sheppard was found guilty and spent 10 years in prison before his conviction was overturned. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the jury in the first trial wasn't properly shielded from the media frenzy surrounding the case. In 1966, Sheppard was found not guilty in the second trial, only to die four years later of liver failure [source: Chermak].

The case remains unsolved. But one suspect is Richard Eberling, a known thief and later a convicted killer, who had worked as a window washer for the Sheppards and whose blood was found at the scene.