Saratoga Springs police take fresh look at unsolved homicide from 1980

November 28, 2018 06:03 PM

SARATOGA SPRINGS - A 22-year-old mother from Saratoga Springs, found dead in her second floor apartment.

It was 38 years ago this week that Sheila Shepherd's naked body was tied to her bed at the hands and feet. Her blouse shoved in her mouth. There was also a knife stuck in her abdomen.

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For weeks and months after the November 23, 1980 homicide, police interviewed hundreds of people, but never had enough evidence to charge.

There were no signs of forced entry and no sign of struggle.  Police asked the FBI for a profile of the likely suspect, hoping to narrow their search by pinpointing the kind of person who might do it.

However, with one dead end after another, the case sat dormant for years -- until recently.

Two police investigators are giving the city's only unsolved homicide a fresh look, poring over the case files and talking to witnesses who are still alive.

"It was just a fascinating case. a true 'whodunnit' murder mystery, said Investigator Chris Callahan, who wasn't born at the time of the murder.

Both Callahan and Investigator Matt Wilson grew up in Saratoga Springs and heard the stories of the Shepherd murder.

"It was always something I wanted to look into. Something I think that deserved some kind of closure," Wilson said on Wednesday.

The shocking nature of the killing made it front page news for weeks and months. Now, because of the work of Callahan and Wilson, people are talking again.

"We just want to feel like we've done everything that we can, submitted every piece of evidence that we have access to," said Callahan, who has enlisted the help of the state police crime lab.

DNA evidence wasn't used in 1980, but they're hoping some of the items recovered from Shepherd's apartment will lead them in the right direction.

"There's items that we hope might have some kind of DNA evidence," said Wilson.

Shepherd had a daughter who was 3 years old at the time of the murder. The investigators hope to one day tell her that they've identified her mother's killer.

"And they didn't get away with it. They were held accountable," said Callahan.


Mark Mulholland

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