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Marilyn Monroe was found dead in the bedroom of her Brentwood home by her psychoanalyst Ralph S. Greenson after he was called by Monroe's housekeeper Eunice Murray on August 5, 1962. She was 36 years old at the time of her death. Her death was ruled to be "acute barbiturate poisoning" by Dr. Thomas Noguchi of the Los Angeles County Coroners office and listed as "probable suicide". Many individuals, including Jack Clemmons, the first Los Angeles Police Department officer to arrive at the death scene,[1] believe that she was murdered. No murder charges were ever filed. The death of Marilyn Monroe has since become one of the most debated conspiracy theories.[2][3][4]

Allegations of conspiracy

On Aug. 5, 1962, at approximately 4:45 a.m., Sergeant Jack Clemmons received a phone call from Dr. Ralph Greenson informing him that Marilyn Monroe had died from an overdose of pills. Clemmons drove out to Monroe’s bungalow in Brentwood. He had suspicions that it might have been a prank, but they were soon doused upon his arrival at her home.

Dr. Greenson and housekeeper Eunice Murray led Clemmons into Monroe’s bedroom. The officer found the actress facedown on her bed, nude, her left hand sprawled across the bed touching the telephone on the nightstand. He noticed several prescription bottles littered on top of the nightstand. He did not, however, notice a drinking glass in the room. Clemmons asked Murray about the bathroom. The maid informed the detective that there was no running water. Clemmons also noticed that Murray had done the laundry, so he questioned her about her odd behavior. She nervously replied she knew the coroner would come to the house and seal it up for evidence, so she wanted to make sure everything was neat and tidy. Clemmons further observed that Monroe’s body was in an advanced state of rigor mortis, which indicated that she had been dead for at least six hours. The officer asked Murray what time she found Monroe’s corpse. Murray claimed that she noticed Monroe’s bedroom door was locked after midnight. Murray claimed she knocked on the door and did not hear a response from her employer. She got worried and telephoned Dr. Engelberg.

The doctor claimed to arrive at Monroe’s bungalow and was unsuccessful in waking up Marilyn Monroe. The doctor and maid went outside to Monroe’s window and saw the actress lying on her bed. Dr. Engelberg retrieved a fireplace poker and smashed the window to gain entry. Monroe, however, was already dead. Instead of calling for police or paramedics immediately, Murray waited nearly four hours to contact authorities after discovering Marilyn Monroe’s body. Murray also admitted to contacting some movie studios first, as well as some of Monroe’s business associates. Clemmons was perplexed as to why it took four hours to complete these calls.

Head coroner, Dr. Theodore Curphey, added to the aura of mystery surrounding Marilyn Monroe’s death. Curphey stated, unequivocally, that Monroe died from an oral overdose of Nembutal and chloral hydrate. He estimated she had swallowed at least 50 pills in "one gulp," despite there being no water at the death scene. Furthermore, Curphey was not dissuaded by the lack of some key evidence. Nembutal capsules, when digested, leave a yellow dye discoloration on the lining of the intestine. There was no such discoloration inside Monroe. There was no evidence that partially or undissolved capsules even existed in her digestive tract.

Reportedly, Robert Kennedy was in Los Angeles on Aug. 4, the day Monroe died. His staff, however, claimed he was in San Francisco for the entire day and could not have been in Brentwood to kill Monroe.


Many questions remain unanswered regarding the circumstances and timeline of Monroe's death after her body was found.

  • 7-7:15p.m. Joe DiMaggio, after trying to get in touch with Monroe all day, speaks with Monroe about DiMaggio's broken engagement. DiMaggio said when interviewed that Monroe sounded cheerful and upbeat. On duty with the Marines in California, DiMaggio was able to place the time of the call because he was watching the seventh inning of a Baltimore Orioles-Los Angeles Angels game being played in Baltimore. According to the game's records the seventh inning took place between 10 and 10:15 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time; thus, Monroe received the call around 7 p.m. California time.
  • 7:30-7:45p.m. Peter Lawford telephones Marilyn to invite her to dinner at his house, an invitation she had declined earlier that day. According to Lawford, Monroe's speech was slurred and was becoming increasingly indecipherable. After telling him goodbye the conversation abruptly ends. Lawford tries to call her back again but receives a busy signal. Telephone records show that this is the last recorded phone call Monroe's main line received that night.
  • 8:00p.m. Lawford telephones Eunice Murray, spending the night in Marilyn's guest house, on a different line asking if the maid would check in on her. After a few seconds Murray returns to the phone telling Lawford that she is fine. Unconvinced Lawford will try all night long to get in touch with Marilyn. Lawford telephones is his friend and lawyer Mickey Rudin, but is advised to keep away from Monroe's house to avoid any public embarrassment that could result from Marilyn possibly being under the influence.
  • 10 p.m. Housekeeper Eunice Murray walks past Monroe's door and states she saw a light on under the door but decided not to disturb her.
  • 10:30 p.m. According to actress Natalie Trundy (later Mrs. Arthur P. Jacobs), Monroe's agent Arthur P. Jacobs hurriedly leaves a concert at the Hollywood Bowl that he is attending with Trundy and with director Mervyn LeRoy and his wife, after being informed by Monroe's lawyer Mickey Rudin that she has overdosed. Trundy's timeline fits with undertaker Guy Hockett's (see below) estimation that Monroe died sometime between 9:30 p.m. and 11:30 p.m.
  • Midnight. Murray notices the light under the door again and knocks but gets no reply. She tells police she immediately telephoned Dr. Ralph Greenson, Monroe's psychiatrist.
  • Dr. Greenson arrives and tries to break open the door but fails. He looks through the French windows outside and sees Monroe lying on the bed holding the telephone and apparently dead so breaks the glass to open the locked door and checks her. He calls Dr. Hyman Engelberg. There is some speculation that an ambulance might have been summoned to Monroe's house at this point and later dismissed.
  • 1 a.m. Peter Lawford is informed by Mickey Rudin that Monroe is dead.
  • Police are called and arrive shortly after 4:30 a.m. The two doctors and Murray are questioned and indicate a time of death of around 12:30 a.m.
  • Police note the room is extremely tidy and the bed appears to have fresh linen on it. They claim Murray was washing sheets when they arrived.
  • Police note that the bedside table has several pill bottles but the room contains no means to wash pills down as there is no glass and the water is turned off. Monroe is known to gag on pills even when drinking to wash them down. Later a glass is found lying on the floor by the bed but police claim it was not there when the room was searched.
  • 5:40 a.m. The undertaker, Guy Hockett, arrives and notes that the state of rigor mortis indicates a time of death between 9:30 and 11:30 p.m. The time is later altered to match the witness statements.
  • 6 a.m. Murray changes her story and now says she went back to bed at midnight and only called Dr. Greenson when she awoke at 3 a.m. and noticed the light still on. Both doctors also change their stories and now claim Monroe died around 3:50 a.m. Police note Murray appears quite evasive and extremely vague and she would eventually change her story several times. Despite being a key witness, Murray travels to Europe and is not questioned again.
  • The pathologist Dr. Thomas Noguchi could find no trace of capsules, powder or the typical discoloration caused by Nembutal in Monroe's stomach or intestines indicating the drugs that killed her had not been swallowed. If Monroe had swallowed the drugs there should have been residue.[citation needed] If Monroe had taken them over a period of time which might account for the lack of residue she would have died long before ingesting the amount found in her bloodstream. Monroe was found lying face down but lividity on her back[citation needed] and the posterior aspect of the arms and legs[citation needed] indicated she had died lying on her back. The body was covered in bruises[citation needed], all minor except for one on her hip. There was also evidence of cyanosis, an indication that death was very quick. Noguchi had asked the toxicologist for examinations of the blood, liver, kidneys, stomach, urine, and intestines which would have revealed exactly how the drugs got into Monroe's system. However the toxicologist after examining the blood didn't believe he needed to check other organs so many of the organs were destroyed without being examined. When Noguchi asked for the samples, the medical photographs and slides of those that were examined, and the examination form showing bruises on the body had disappeared making it impossible to investigate the cause of death.
  • The toxicology report shows high levels of Nembutal (38-66 capsules) and chloral hydrate (14-23 tablets) in Monroe's blood. The level found was enough to kill more than 10 people.
  • An examination of the body ruled out intravenous injection as the source of the drugs, leaving only an enema or suppository as a source.[citation needed] These sources were considered unlikely, so Noguchi reluctantly[weasel words] wrote that the drugs were swallowed. The Dec 2005 Playboy interview w/ former LA Cnty Prosecutor John Miner, deems this the most likely method for a homicide.
  • The coroner, Dr. Theodore Curphey, oversaw the full autopsy. Apart from the cause of death as listed on the death certificate, the results were never made public and no record of the findings was kept.

Many elements of this timeline have often been brought into question. Most notable are the discrepancies in exactly what time Monroe either made or received her last phone call and at what time during the late night and early morning hours of August 4 and 5 her body was discovered.[5]

The funeral

The funeral arrangements for Monroe were made by her second husband, baseball legend Joe DiMaggio.

Marilyn Monroe was buried in what was known at that time as the "Cadillac of caskets" — a hermetically sealing antique-silver-finished 48-ounce (heavy gauge) solid bronze "masterpiece" casket lined with champagne-colored satin-silk; the casket had been manufactured by the Belmont casket company in Columbus, Ohio. Before the service, the outer lid and the upper half of the divided inner lid of her casket were opened so that the mourners could get a last glimpse of Monroe. Whitey Snyder had prepared her face, a promise he had made her if she were to die before him.

The service was the second one held at the newly built chapel at Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in West Los Angeles,[6] and only 25 people were given permission to attend. Monroe's acting coach, Lee Strasberg, delivered her eulogy. An organist played "Over the Rainbow" at the end of the service.

Monroe is interred in a pink marble crypt at Corridor of Memories, #24. Hugh Hefner owns the rights to the crypt next to it. Monroe had visited the cemetery more than once as a struggling actress because Ana Lower, the adult to whom she had been closest during her juvenile years, had been buried there in 1948. Lower was related to Grace Goddard, Monroe's official guardian during much of her childhood. When Goddard committed suicide in 1953,[7] Monroe, by then wealthy, arranged for her burial at Westwood.

DiMaggio had a half-dozen red roses delivered to her crypt three times a week for the next 20 years and never remarried.

Publicity in the 1970s

In 1973, Norman Mailer received publicity for having written the first bestselling book to suggest that Monroe's death was a murder staged to look like a drug overdose. The book has no footnotes and does not cite any interviews with witnesses, police officials or coroner Thomas Noguchi, who performed the autopsy, although there are many references to the Kennedy brothers. In a notorious 60 Minutes interview in August of that year, Mailer told Mike Wallace that he could not have interviewed Monroe's housemate Eunice Murray because Murray was dead before he started work on the book. Wallace said on the air that Murray was alive and listed in the West Los Angeles telephone directory.

In a 1974 book on Monroe's death that was not publicized on television, author Robert Slatzer made controversial claims about not only a conspiracy, but also his alleged brief marriage to Monroe in Tijuana, Mexico in 1952. (During that year her romance with Joe DiMaggio was reported by gossip columnists, although they did not marry until 1954.) Unlike Norman Mailer, Slatzer interviewed an authority whose name, which was unknown to the public at the time, appears in official documents from 1962. Slatzer's source was Jack Clemmons, a sergeant with the LAPD who was the first officer to report to the death scene. According to Clemmons' statements in Slatzer's book, Eunice Murray behaved suspiciously, doing laundry at 4:30 a.m. and answering his questions evasively. When Slatzer approached Murray with questions, she denied any wrongdoing by herself or by Monroe's psychiatrist Ralph Greenson, who had hired Murray to watch the actress for signs of drug abuse or suicidal tendency. Greenson himself refused to talk to Slatzer, having reacted to Norman Mailer's highly publicized book by telling the New York Post that Monroe "had no significant involvement" with John or Robert Kennedy.[7]

BBC investigation

In 1985, the American media publicized an investigation by British journalist Anthony Summers. That year BBC viewers saw a documentary titled The Last Days of Marilyn Monroe that was narrated by Summers and based on his research. (Years later it was seen by Americans under the title Say Goodbye To The President.) The program contained soundbite interviews with, among others, Jack Clemmons and Eunice Murray, who was still alive 12 years after Norman Mailer's erroneous claim that she was dead. A former district attorney named John Miner is also seen being interviewed. He refused at the time to say anything about his interview with a griefstricken Ralph Greenson in 1962, citing a policy of confidentiality at the district attorneys' office and Greenson's doctor/patient confidentiality. Summers also came out that year with the book Goddess, which quoted Miner as saying he was aware that Greenson was now dead, but their 1962 conversation was still confidential.[7]

A People Weekly cover story in 1985 reported that 20/20 had canceled a segment about Monroe's relationships with the Kennedys and the circumstances of her death. Barbara Walters, Hugh Downs and Geraldo Rivera were reported to have reacted angrily to the cancellation. The staffs of both the BBC and 20/20 had worked closely with Anthony Summers. All of these investigations had started after the 1979 death of Ralph Greenson. For the BBC program Eunice Murray initially repeated the same story she had told Robert Slatzer in 1973 and the police in 1962. She apparently noticed the camera crew starting to pack up and then said, "Why, at my age, do I still have to cover this thing?"[7] Unknown to her, the microphone was still on. Murray went on to admit that Monroe had known the Kennedys.[8] She volunteered that on the night of the actress' death, "When the doctor arrived, she was not dead."[8] Murray died in 1993 without revealing further details.

21st century investigations of Monroe

Rachael Bell of Court TV

According to a mini-biography of the events leading up to Monroe's death written by Rachael Bell for Court TV's Crime Library, a sedative enema might have been administered on the advice of Monroe's psychiatrist, Dr. Ralph Greenson, as a sleep aid and as part of Greenson's larger project to wean his patient off barbiturates.

Drawing on Donald Spoto's updated edition of his biography from 2001, Bell elaborates on the theory that Greenson was perhaps unaware of the fact that his patient's internist, Dr. Hyman Engelberg, had refilled Monroe's prescription for the barbiturate Nembutal a day earlier, and that the actress may very well have ingested enough Nembutal throughout the day such that it would lethally react with the chloral hydrate later given to her. Bell writes:

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: "Gosh darn it! He gave her a prescription I didn't know about!"

Bell goes on to suggest that the suspicious circumstances surrounding Monroe's death are very possibly the result of an elaborate cover-up for what was, essentially, a tragic medical mistake.[9]

John Miner's "tapes" assertion

On August 5, 2005, the Los Angeles Times published an account of Monroe's death by former Los Angeles County district attorney John Miner, who was present at the autopsy. Miner claimed that she was not suicidal, offering as proof his notes on audio tapes she had supposedly recorded for Greenson and that Greenson had played for him. Miner had refused to discuss them during Anthony Summers' 1980s investigation. In 2005, Miner did not explain why he was now willing to break the confidentiality agreement he had made with Greenson in 1962. The relationship of Greenson, an eminent figure in the history of psychoanalysis (he died in 1979), with Monroe is controversial (see L. Mecacci, Freudian Slips: The Casualties of Psychoanalysis from the Wolf Man to Marilyn Monroe, Vagabond Voices, Sulaisadiar 'san Rudha (Scotland), 2009, pp. 1–36, 181-183).

The CBS 48 Hours investigation

In April 2006, CBS's 48 Hours presented an updated report by Anthony Summers on Monroe's death. Through Summers, 48 Hours gained access to audio tapes of interviews conducted by the Los Angeles District Attorney's office in 1982.

According to Summers' sources, Monroe attended social events at actor Peter Lawford's beach home in Santa Monica, California, in the months before her death that also included President John F. Kennedy and Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy. The 48 Hours report quoted a former Secret Service agent as stating that it was "common knowledge" among his colleagues that there was an affair between Monroe and John Kennedy. Rumors of a relationship with Robert Kennedy were not confirmed.

According to newly released FBI documents, Monroe was considered to be a security risk. In March 1962 Monroe visited Mexico on a vacation, where she socialized with Americans who were openly communist. Subsequently the FBI maintained a file about Monroe. Summers stated that, contrary to her public image as a dumb blonde, Monroe was passionate about politics and discussed atomic testing issues with President Kennedy just three months before the Cuban Missile Crisis.[citation needed]

According to the broadcast, Lawford told police that he spoke to Monroe on the phone shortly before her death, that she sounded groggy and depressed, and that she said to him, "Say goodbye to Jack", and "Say goodbye to yourself". Phone records of her long distance calls that evening were lost, which was a cause of suspicion. Former Assistant District Attorney Mike Carroll, who conducted the 1982 investigation, said they found "no evidence of an intentional criminal act", and indicated that suicide was the most likely cause of death. He stated, "The bottles were there. She was unconscious. She had a history of overdose. In fact, she had a history of not only overdosing, but of being resuscitated."[10]

FBI 2006 File Release

In October 2006, under the FOI act, the FBI released thousands of pages of previously classified documents. In early 2007, writer Philippe Mora discovered a three page report among the papers titled Robert F. Kennedy that discussed Monroe's death. This report has since been included in the FBI index under Marilyn Monroe.[11]

Written by a former FBI agent (name is redacted from the report) working for the then governor of California Pat Brown, it details Robert Kennedy's affair with the movie star and claims that Kennedy had promised Monroe he would divorce his wife and marry her, but after the actress realised he had no intention of doing so, she made threats to make the affair public. The report claims that to silence Monroe, who had a history of staging publicity seeking fake suicide attempts, she was deliberately encouraged to do so again but was this time allowed to die. The report implicates Robert Kennedy, Peter Lawford, her psychiatrist Ralph Greenson, her housekeeper Eunice Murray, and her secretary and press agent, Pat Newcomb in the plot. The agent states in the report that he could not authenticate the information.[12]

Mora admits he is not sure what to make of the file: "Is all this the elaborate dirty tricks of Kennedy haters from decades ago, or are we getting closer to the historical truth?"[13]


  1. ^ Wolfe, Donald H. (1998). The Last Days of Marilyn Monroe. ISBN 0787118079.
  2. ^ " - Marilyn Monroe Death - Did she commit suicide or was she murdered? - Conspiracy Clinic". Retrieved 2008-08-05.
  3. ^ "Some Theories About Who Was Involved With Monroe's Death -". Retrieved 2008-08-05.
  4. ^ "The Death of Marilyn Monroe - Crime Library on". Retrieved 2008-08-05.
  5. ^ Ellis, Chris & Julie (2005). Celebrity Murder: Murder played out in the spotlight of maximum publicity. Constable & Robertson. ISBN 1 84529 154 9.
  6. ^ Hitchens, Neal; Riese, Randall (1987). The Unabridged Marilyn: Her Life From A To Z. New York: Congdon & Weed. p. 71.
  7. ^ a b c d Summers, Anthony (1985). Goddess: The Secret Lives of Marilyn Monroe. New York: Macmillan.
  8. ^ a b Say Goodbye To The President. Released on DVD by Winstar Interactive Media on December 22, 1998 [1]
  9. ^ The Death of Marilyn (9. Theories) By Rachael Bell. Courtroom Television Network. Retrieved 28 December 2006.
  10. ^ "The Marilyn Tapes," CBS News 48 Hours Mystery, August 1, 2006. Retrieved 2007-11-11.
  11. ^ FBI material concerning Marilyn Monroe
  12. ^ Marilyn Monroe "Cross" References pdf Federal Bureau of Investigation Pages 18 - 21
  13. ^ Marilyn: The case for 'assisted suicide' The Independent March 18, 2007

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