It’s impossible to say whether or not any aspect of the Sheppard case influenced Huggins’ creative process. It’s true that in 1960, when Huggins says he came up with the idea for The Fugitive, the Sheppard case had been dormant for six years. Nonetheless, considering that Sheppard’s 1954 trial for the murder of his wife was called the “Trial of the Century” and garnered international coverage (think Casey Anthony minus the Internet and 24-hour news), it’s certainly plausible that Huggins, like most Americans, would have heard about the trial and that it might have lodged somewhere in his subconscious.*
*Sheppard certainly thought so, as he threatened to sue ABC after he was acquitted in his 1966 retrial.
At any rate, while there are obvious links between the two (both were doctors accused of murdering their wife, both claimed they saw someone else fleeing the scene of the crime, although David Janssen was better looking than Sam Sheppard), the greatest link of them is also the least obvious and the most incredible.*
*Although I’ve long had a strong interest in the Sheppard case and long been a fan of the TV show, I didn’t know about this until reading it in James Neff’s book The Wrong Man.
|Hayes at the Sheppard trial.|
After the trial, in which Sheppard was convicted of second-degree murder, Hayes returned to Los Angeles, where she eventually married Ken Wilhoit, who worked in Hollywood as a music editor and supervisor for various television series, including several for producer Quinn Martin: 12 O’Clock High, The FBI, Cannon, Barnaby Jones, and – you guessed it – The Fugitive. Paul Harvey couldn’t have made this up.
The relationship between The Fugitive and the Sheppard case was often commented on during the show’s run, and I have to wonder, assuming they were still married in 1963 when the series started, just what went through Susan Hayes’ mind when she found out what show her husband was working on. If, indeed, he ever shared the news with her.