By Jeff Gallatin
Two Bay Village murder cases which drew national attention decades apart are getting some additional attention again.
This Saturday, the Amy Mihaljevic murder case will be the subject of a TV documentary to be aired at 7 p.m. on WKYC Channel 3. The Crime Stoppers of Cuyahoga County is focusing on the more-than-two-decades-old case.
On Sept. 28, retiring Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Bill Mason announced he is donating all the materials from the Sam Sheppard murder trials to the Cleveland Marshall College of Law Library and Cleveland State University. The collection includes documents, photographs, recordings and exhibits from the murder trials dating back to 1954.
For Lt. Mark Spaetzel, commander of the Bay Village City Police Detective Bureau, both cases getting the additional attention is a good thing.
In the case of the Mihaljevic murder, that case remains personal to Spaetzel and continues to be investigated by the department. A young patrolman at the time, Spaetzel spoke to the 10-year-old Mihaljevic’s fifth grade class on Oct. 27, 1989 – the day she was abducted in the afternoon from a nearby Bay Village shopping center. After a massive months-long manhunt, Amy’s body was found Feb. 8, 1990 in a rural Ashland County Field. She had been stabbed twice in the neck and hit in the head with a blunt
object, the coroner ruled.
Spaetzel, who keep a poster of the
information about the Mihaljevic case posted in the detective bureau, said the department still checks leads and works on getting the information that will break the case.
“It will be that one phone call or interview that helps us break this,” he said. “We keep working on it and will continue to do so,” he said. “In this case, Crimestoppers periodically will focus one show on a case to draw attention to it. That’s what they’re doing here. They have re-enactments as well as interviews with me and Mark Mihaljevic (Amy’s
father). It could get us some valuable
information, so we’re glad to do it.
In the Mason case, Spaetzel said he thinks Mason’s donation is a good move.
“It’s an appropriate place for the materials from the case, because it still draws attention, a lot of it from students and people studying the case,” Spaetzel said. “People can access the materials there and it can be secured there as well.”
After initially being convicted of the July 1954 murder of his wife Marilyn in their Bay Village home in a trial which drew world-wide attention, Sheppard was later acquitted in a just as famous 1966 re-trial after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Sheppard was denied due process and had an unfair first trial.
“I know technically the case is unsolved, but the prosecutor’s office was and is convinced they had the right person,” Spaetzel said. “I’m glad the materials will be in a place that’s appropriate.”
Mason became more involved with the case in the mid-1990s when the estate of Sam Sheppard, represented by his son and attorneys filed a wrongful imprisonment lawsuit in 1996. This led to a 12-week trial, which again drew major attention.
“It was in preparation for the wrongful imprisonment lawsuit that we amassed all of the evidence from the prior two criminal trials,” Mason said. “It was a rare opportunity to forever preserve an important piece of legal history and show how the advancements in forensic evidence play such an important role in our criminal justice system. I am very excited to entrust this collection to Cleveland Marshall College of Law.”
Craig M. Boise, dean of the law school, said it appreciates getting the materials.
“We are grateful to have been chosen to house the collection in its entirety,”
he said. “Because we are a public law school, the donation of Sheppard materials to Cleveland Marshall Law commits them to the public trust. We believe the materials should be kept together as a collection and made available free of charge to researchers and the general public.”