Cool Spaces: There’s more to the story behind this Westlake home than the renovation (photos, video)

December 14, 2017 GMT

Cool Spaces: There’s more to the story behind this Westlake home than the renovation (photos, video)

WESTLAKE, Ohio - - When Leslie J. Dus chats about the Westlake fixer-upper that he purchased more than a decade ago and turned into a showpiece, there’s a lot more to his renovation story than ripping out walls to create a Great Room and laying beautiful floors.

There’s also the part about the house having ties to Northeast Ohio’s most famous homicide.

Dus’ home on Bradley Road once belonged to the Eberling family, as in Richard Eberling, who some are convinced brutally murdered Marilyn Sheppard, and not her husband, Dr. Sam Sheppard, who originally was convicted of the 1954 slaying. Eberling washed windows at the Sheppard’s lakefront home in Bay Village. He later went on to commit crimes, including an arrest for larceny that turned up cash and Marilyn Sheppard’s cocktail ring, and homicide, convincing some that the wrong man was sent to prison.

“Richard Eberling was the foster child of the Eberlings, and they owned this whole area,” says Dus (pronounced deuce), who, with his wife, Deborah Riggs, purchased the home in 2005. “The house was built in 1893, and it was in the Eberling family for a number of years before they sold it.

A little creepy? Not really, says Dus, who even found Shepphard’s auto salesman business card stashed in a drawer of a desk that was left in the home after the Eberlings moved, and it remained there through subsequent owners.

“I thought that was kind of weird,” Dus adds. “This was the guy who probably killed his (Sheppard’s) wife and they still remained in contact after Sheppard got out of jail.”

As it stands now, Dus’ 5,200-square-foot home with four bedrooms and three and one-half baths has gone from being severely divided inside to having a high-ceilinged, wide open first floor – so open that it’s possible to walk a complete circle from the front door through all of the living areas, back to the entrance.

“This house was very compartmentalized before,” Dus explains. “We opted to blow out everything that wasn’t a load-bearing wall and open it up.

Some of the home’s original features, such as the living room fireplace and kitchen hearth were kept and improved because of the character that they lend.

“I love saving history because I have great respect for it,” says Dus, who is President of Benefits Management Agency, Inc., a company that sets up health and pension programs.

The fireplace was converted to floor-to-ceiling dimensions and a mahogany surround was added. The kitchen hearth was converted to Volga Blue Granite-topped buffet used for family and friends to self-serve. Blue Pearl Granite accents the kitchen island and the six-burner stove.

Tall windows were installed to allow natural light to flood the home. To add warmth to airy areas, Dus coffered some ceilings and added other kinds of textured wood to others. From the mahogany fireplace surround to the staircase, and to the floors to shelving, wood warms the entire home. Other floors are done in brushed and polished Brazilian black slate.

Dus believes in color.

“I chose every color in the home,” he says of the terra cotta, summer red, lavender and other shades that bring the rooms to life. “There isn’t a white wall in this house except for the ceilings. I think that looks antiseptic.”

The walls are decorated with a lot of art, in a big variety of mediums, including paintings by his brother, Laszlo, who lives in Budapest, and a Babylonian area rug that his mom picked up in the Middle East.

“I didn’t want anyone to walk on it, so I cut it up in strips and hung it around the house,” Dus says.

There were setbacks during the renovation, of course. Part of a ceiling collapsed. And, ironically, there was crime involved. With his wife and stepson living elsewhere, Dus stayed in the home while the renovation went on around him, but he decided to leave while the work was going on.

“No sooner did I move off site that the place was robbed,” he remembers. “They took all of the copper, all of the workman’s tools and anything else sitting here. It seems they were robbing construction sites around here.”

Thanks to some nifty police work, just about everything was recovered, Dus adds.

People who are familiar with the history of the home still occasionally stop by out of curiosity, but others come for other reasons.

“We used to get people who were interested in the connection to Richard Eberling,” Dus says. “Now we just get people who stop by and say ‘thank you’ for turning this into such a beautiful home.”