The exact events surrounding Marilyn Monroe's death have remained shrouded in mystery. Much of the evidence and testimony obtained during the investigation has, for the most part, been destroyed or lost, including many of the police files and interviews taken following her death.
From early morning to late afternoon, Saturday, August 4, 1962 appeared to be a pretty ordinary day in the life of Marilyn Monroe. Pat Newcomb, her press agent, had slept over and awakened around noon on Saturday. Marilyn had not slept well and was, at least briefly, in a crabby mood when Pat first spoke to her.
Most of the afternoon Marilyn spent with Dr. Ralph Greenson, her psychiatrist, except for a time in mid-afternoon when Marilyn went for a ride with Eunice driving.
There was a noticeable difference in Marilyn's condition during the afternoon. While she had been alert during the morning, she appeared to be drugged in the afternoon. Her internist, Dr. Hyman Engelberg, had just refilled a Nembutal (barbituates) prescription the previous day and it was possible that Marilyn had taken one or more of the capsules.
Dr. Greenson had been trying to break Marilyn's Nembutal habit and switch her to chloral hydrate as a sleep aid. However, Marilyn had various sources of her favorite drug and had plenty of them around her residence.
Eunice Murray was at Marilyn's home most of the day, arriving at work early in the morning. Dr. Greenson came to Marilyn's after lunch. Donald Wolfe quotes Eunice Murray as saying that she called Greenson after Marilyn asked her if there was any oxygen around.
Pat Newcomb said that she left Marilyn's house somewhere between 5:30 and 6:00 p.m.
Greenson spent some time with Marilyn alone and then later in the afternoon asked Pat to leave for a bit since Marilyn had doled out some sharp words to her that day. Pat left Marilyn's house somewhere between 5:30 and 6:00 p.m.
According to Eunice Murray, Dr. Greenson spent another hour with Marilyn and then left around 7 p.m.
Joe DiMaggio Jr. called Marilyn around 7: 15 p.m. to discuss with Marilyn his decision to end his engagement. Both Murray and DiMaggio Jr. observed that Marilyn was in very good spirits after talking to the young man. Her elevated mood was confirmed by Dr. Greenson who she immediately called to tell him about DiMaggio Jr.'s broken engagement.
About 7:45 p.m., Peter Lawford stated that he called to invite Marilyn to a party he was having, but said that she sounded heavily drugged. He claimed that she shouted her name into the phone a few times when she didn't respond to his conversation. Donald Spoto writes Lawford as quoting Marilyn, "Say goodbye to Pat, say goodbye to the president, and say goodbye to yourself, because you're a nice guy."
At this point, there are sharply conflicting statements from many sources as to when Marilyn died and how and when her death was discovered. These conflicts will be addressed in the next chapter, but first we will continue with the undisputed facts.
At 4:25 a.m. Sunday morning, August 5 Sergeant Jack Clemmons of the West Los Angeles Police Department got a call that he would never forget. Dr. Hyman Engelberg, Marilyn's personal physician, told him that she had committed suicide. When he and the backup police car that he had ordered arrived at Marilyn's home, there were three people Eunice Murray, Dr. Ralph Greenson and Dr. Hyman Engelberg.
They led Clemmons into the bedroom where her nude body was lying covered with a sheet and pointed out the bottles of sedatives. Donald Wolfe quotes Clemmons: "'She was lying facedown in what I call the soldier's position. Her face was in a pillow, her arms were by her side, her right arm was slightly bent. Her legs were stretched out perfectly straight.'" He immediately thought she had been placed that way. He had seen a number of suicides, and contrary to the common conception, an overdose of sleeping tablets usually causes victims to suffer convulsions and vomiting before they die in a contorted position."
The statements taken from the three individuals were very strange and Clemmons was convinced that he was not hearing the truth. They claimed that Marilyn's body had been discovered some four hours earlier, but that they could not contact the police until 20th Century Fox's publicity department had given them permission. Clemmons also noted that there was no drinking glass in the bedroom from which Marilyn could have taken the many pills that she was credited with swallowing.
The preliminary autopsy was conducted by Dr. Thomas Noguchi. As the results of various tests were analyzed, Coroner Theodore Curphey determined that Marilyn died from an overdose of barbiturates. Remnants of the drug pentobarbital (sleeping pills) were found in her liver and chloral hydrate was found in her blood. He claimed that there was no distinguishable physical evidence of foul play. Marilyn's death was listed as a "probable suicide."
However, whether Marilyn committed suicide or not has been the source of great debate for more than 40 years.
One area of controversy revolves around the time of Marilyn's death.
The last fact in her life that we can be sure of is that around 7:15 p.m. on Saturday night, she talked with Joe DiMaggio Jr. about his romantic involvements and she was very happy, elated even with the fact that Joe was breaking off a relationship with a woman that Marilyn didn't like. Joe confirms her mood, as does Eunice and Dr. Greenson, whom she called to give the news.
But then we have Peter Lawford calling within a half an hour. Marilyn has gone from being happy and alert to heavily drugged, making comments that could be construed as suicidal. Lawford was so panicked that he called his friend, Milt Ebbins, who convinced Marilyn's lawyer, Milton Rudin, to call Marilyn's house to see if she was okay.
Rudin claims that he called the house around 8:30 and asked Eunice to check on Marilyn. Eunice said that she checked and Marilyn was fine. Lawford wasn't satisfied so he called his friend, Joe Naar, around 11 p.m. Naar lived close to Marilyn and agreed to go over and make sure that Marilyn had not overdosed. Just as Naar was getting ready to leave his home, he got a call from Rudin telling him to stay put — that Marilyn had been given a sedative by Dr. Greenson.
Two other friends of Marilyn said that they spoke with Marilyn during a time period that Peter Lawford was convinced that Marilyn was heavily drugged and possibly dying from an overdose.
According to Wolfe, Marilyn also spoke with her hairdresser, Sidney Guilaroff, at about 8:30 p.m. Guilaroff claimed that Marilyn said she knew a lot of dangerous secrets about the Kennedys. Marilyn received several more phone calls that evening, including one to her part-time lover, Jose Bolanos.
Bolanos claimed that Marilyn revealed, "something shocking to him that would shock the whole world" in a phone call at about 9:30 p.m. During the conversation, Marilyn laid down the phone without hanging up because she heard some kind of disturbance at her door. He never heard from her again.
Wolfe notes that when the man came to take Marilyn to the mortuary Sunday morning between 5:30 and 6:00 a.m., he noticed that "rigor mortis was advanced" and estimated that she had died between 9:30 and 11:30 Saturday night.
Spoto writes that Arthur Jacobs, Marilyn's publicist, had been told of Marilyn's death around 10:00 to 10:30 Saturday night and had to leave a concert to deal with the press issues.
Eunice, however, claimed that she woke up around 3 a.m., saw a light under Marilyn's bedroom door (which later proved impossible because of deep-pile carpeting), found the door locked (also impossible since there was no functional lock on the door) and called Dr. Greenson. Greenson came to the house, got into the bedroom and around 3: 50 a.m. declared that Marilyn was dead.
The events that occurred between 9:30 and 10:30 p.m. remain a mystery. However, evidence suggests that sometime during that unaccounted hour Marilyn died. Based on recent testimony by acquaintances and people involved with the events surrounding the alleged suicide, Anthony Summers placed the time of Marilyn's death somewhere within that time frame that evening. Testimony by four of Marilyn's friends supports this theory.
Donald Wolfe reports that Eunice and son-in-law Norman Jeffries were at Marilyn's house during the night of her death. The two had conflicting stories concerning the events that took place that evening. Jeffries claimed that between 9:30 and 10.00 p.m., Robert Kennedy and two unknown men came to Marilyn's door and ordered them to leave the house. According to Jeffries, they went to a neighbor's home and waited until the men left around 10:30 p.m. When they returned home, Jeffries stated that he saw Marilyn laying face down, naked in her bed and holding what appeared to be a phone.
Jeffries said that Marilyn looked as if she were dead. Eunice allegedly called for an ambulance and then called Dr. Greenson. Wolfe states that Jeffries saw Lawford and Pat Newcomb arrive at the house. They were in a state of shock and hysterical. According to Summers, a former ambulance driver named Ken Hunter told an investigator for the DA that he arrived at Marilyn's home "in the early morning hours" following the discovery of her body. The ambulance company chief also told the investigator that Marilyn was in fact in a coma when the ambulance arrived, due to an overdose of sleeping pills. He claimed that she was taken to Santa Monica Hospital, where she passed away. Summers suggests that Marilyn's body was returned to her home in order to facilitate the ongoing cover-up.
Another witness account supported Jeffries' story, but it was never included in the records of the investigation into Marilyn's death. Elizabeth Pollard, a neighbor of Marilyn's, told police that she saw Robert Kennedy with two unidentified men approach Marilyn's house at about 6 or 7 p.m. One of the unidentified men was carrying a black medical case.
According to Wolfe, Pollard's story was discredited by police and omitted from the investigation because they claimed her story was an "aberration." If it was an aberration, it was one seen by several people because Pollard was not alone that day. Summers states that she was playing a card game with several people when they all recognized Kennedy driving up to Marilyn's house. The identity of the other witnesses remains unclear.
Coroner Curphey had based his determination that Marilyn had committed suicide by the amount of sedatives in her body, the presence of prescription bottles for the sedatives, the absence of signs of foul play, her previous suicide attempts, and the opinion of Dr. Greenson.
This opinion, however, was not shared by some key forensic experts who argued that there were no traces of Nembutal in her stomach or intestinal tract. Also, there should have been specific crystals and evidence of the yellow capsules in which Nembutal is packaged. Not only were there no capsule parts, there was no yellow dye in her stomach.
Spoto points out that in Marilyn's blood count, "there were 8 milligrams of chloral hydrate and four and a half milligrams of Nembutal, but in her liver there was a count of thirteen milligrams, a much higher concentration of Nembutal...The ratio of Nembutal found in the blood compared to that in the liver suggested...that Marilyn lived for many hours after the ingestion of that drug...This means that while Marilyn was alive and mobile, throughout the day, the process of metabolizing the Nembutal she had taken had reached the liver and was beginning the process of excretion...The barbituates were absorbed over a period of not minutes but hours...This report is consistent with what Greenson himself called her 'somehat drugged' condition."
The idea of an injection of barbiturates was also implausible for two reasons: there were no needle marks found on her body after very close examination, plus an injection of such a high dosage of barbiturates would have caused immediate death, leaving clear bruising.
Spoto explains that one possible explanation that was consistent with physical evidence was that the drugs were administered in an enema, which would account for the "abnormal, anomalous discoloration of the colon."
If Marilyn did die of a rectally administered overdose of drugs, it makes the concept of suicide a bit ludicrous and opens up two other possibilities: accident and murder.
NOTORIOUS MURDERS > CELEBRITY CRIMES Marilyn Monroe
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Smaller | Larger By Rachael Bell Theories
Suicide This is the official cause of death and probably the most widely believed. She had tried it four times previously and she clearly had significant mood swings.
The problem with this theory is that too many forensic facts are at odds with it, unless one can imagine Marilyn making up a barbiturate enema and administering it to herself. Quite a number of forensic experts have discarded the suicide theory as inconsistent with the facts.
Another problem with the suicide theory is that she was in good spirits at the time of her death and had been making plans for future events and movies, and if Spoto is correct, her remarriage to Joe DiMaggio.
If, in fact, Marilyn died from a rectally-administered barbiturate enema, the question is who prepared and administered it. It is not out of the realm of possibility that the overdose was accidental.
Spoto makes a very persuasive case for accidental death. Dr. Greenson had been working with Dr. Hyman Engelberg to wean Marilyn off Nembutal, substituting instead chloral hydrate to help her sleep. Milton Rudin claimed that Greenson said something very important the night of Marilyn's death: " God damn it! Hy gave her a prescription I didn't know about!"
Dr. Engelberg was having serious marital problems and obviously didn't communicate well with Greenson on Marilyn's prescriptions. Spoto suggests that Greenson would not have given Marilyn a heavy dose of chloral hydrate the evening of her death if he had realized that Marilyn had been taking Nembutal capsules throughout the day. Spoto further suggests that after an exhausting full day with Marilyn that he arranged for Marilyn to have a chloral hydrate enema so that she would sleep through the night.
Chloral hydrate significantly slows down the metabolism of Nembutal, but Greenson did not know that she had been taking Nembutal and Marilyn did not realize that Nembutal and chloral hydrate interacted adversely or she probably would have admitted to Greenson that she had taken Nembutals.
If Spoto's theory is correct, then who administered the enema? Spoto believes that it had to be Eunice Murray, who, like Greenson, had no inkling that the sedative enema would be fatal.
Any doctor might be loath to admit to himself or others that he had made such a significant mistake in such a high-profile patient, especially since Marilyn appeared drugged during the afternoon. Also, if Eunice was the person who administered the enema, it would be natural for her to try to protect herself and Dr. Greenson by pretending that no such procedure was given to Marilyn.
Everyone loves a conspiracy. It is so much more exciting than accidental death or suicide. The celebrity status of the main characters in this drama lends itself heavily towards the romance of conspiracy. Look at the cottage industry that John F. Kennedy's assassination has generated.
It's important to distinguish the cover-up of embarrassing information by powerful people from the commitment of a crime to eliminate people who can potentially create embarrassment.
There are a number of credible people who claim that Marilyn Monroe had affairs with one or both Kennedy brothers. John Kennedy, at least, was known to indulge himself in extramarital adventures. So, it is not at all implausible that President Kennedy availed himself of the charms of one of the sexiest and most attractive women of that era. That Robert Kennedy was so inclined is not nearly as clear.
According to Peter Lawford, Marilyn's unrealistic notions about becoming First Lady caused her to embarrass herself with both Kennedy brothers. Her letters and telephone calls to them had become both tiresome and very risky. It was one thing to cavort with anonymous girls, but quite another to be involved with a celebrity sex symbol like Marilyn Monroe. There was every good reason for JFK and RFK to break off the relationship with Marilyn permanently.
What allegedly became so troublesome was Marilyn's supposed rage at JFK's rejection of her and the fear that she was able to strike in both brothers. Donald Wolfe sums it up: "Marilyn Monroe was in a position to bring down the presidency. She was cognizant of Jack Kennedy's marital infidelities and other private matters. She had his notes and letters and was privy to Kennedy's involvement with Sam Giancana. That the Kennedy brothers had discussed national security matters with the film star added to an astonishing array of indiscretions."
It is not out of the realm of possibility that Robert Kennedy was the man appointed by his brother to deliver the rejection to Marilyn personally. It's not the kind of thing that one writes in a letter and it's unlikely that JFK was anxious to deliver the message himself.
Did Robert Kennedy bring Marilyn the news of his brother's desire to break off his relationship on the night Marilyn died? After all, there are some witnesses, including a cop, who place Robert Kennedy near the scene that night. This information may never be known with any certainty, but if Robert Kennedy did somehow make an unannounced visit to Marilyn Monroe on the night of August 4, then it provides unexpected motivation for the suicide theory. That is, while Marilyn may have been in good spirits that day and evening, a visit by Robert Kennedy shattering her notions about an enduring relationship with JFK could have abruptly changed her mood.
Was there an attempt on the part of the government to cover up John Kennedy's indiscretions with Marilyn Monroe? It would be very surprising indeed if there were not such an attempt.
The alleged cover-up was believed to have extended beyond the phone records and police evidence found at the scene. Shortly after his phone call to the Naars before 11 p.m. on the night of Marilyn's death, it is believed that Peter Lawford and Pat Newcomb went to Marilyn's house. Purportedly in a state of panic, Lawford called brother-in-law Bobby Kennedy and explained what had occurred.
However, destroying phone records and personal journals and scraps of paper are not in the same league with murder.
To suggest, as some authors, have that Robert Kennedy was somehow complicit in the murder of Marilyn Monroe is to be ignorant of the character and integrity of the Attorney General. While mystery surrounds the death of Marilyn Monroe, mystery does not shroud the character of Robert Kennedy. Robert Kennedy had a very fixed moral compass which was repeatedly documented in his crusade against organized crime.
Was Marilyn murdered by the Mafia, eager to avenge itself on the Kennedys for Robert's strike against them and expose the Kennedys' philandering to the American public? The motive was probably there but with what is known about the individuals present in Marilyn's home on the night of August 4, 1962, it makes a mob hit with a rectal enema seem a bit unlikely and almost absurd.
The actual events that surrounded Marilyn's death will probably never be known. What was known for certain was that a living legend mysteriously died before her time, in a mist of confusion, scandal and uncertainty. Following the autopsy, Marilyn's body was released to her family. Marilyn's mother, who was institutionalized, did not take custody of the body. Instead, Joe DiMaggio claimed her remains and arranged a small and quiet funeral for the woman he continued to love up until her death. Finally on August 8, 1962, she was laid to rest in Los Angeles' Westwood Memorial Park in the Corridor of Memories. On that day, thousands lined the streets and grieved for their icon and the world's movie legend, Marilyn Monroe.
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