The Complex Truth Behind Marilyn Monroe’s Death: Debunking Conspiracy Theories and Examining the Science
While it is my preference to celebrate the remarkable life and career of Marilyn Monroe, it is impossible to overlook the widespread interest in the circumstances surrounding her untimely death. No website, fan page, or research about Marilyn is complete without addressing the question of her passing. Therefore, it is necessary to delve into this topic and examine the facts surrounding her demise.
The death of Marilyn Monroe, one of Hollywood’s most iconic figures, has sparked countless conspiracy theories over the years. However, a comprehensive examination of the available evidence strongly suggests that Marilyn’s death was not the result of foul play, but rather a tragic case of an overdose – either accidental or intentional. This article will delve into the facts surrounding Marilyn’s prescription drug use, the autopsy report, the absence of third-party involvement, the whereabouts of the Kennedy brothers, and dispel the theory of her being murdered by Enema, refuting claims of murder involving the Kennedys or anyone else.
MARILYN’S LAST DAY
4 August 1962
- 8:00 am: Eunice Murray, Marilyn’s housekeeper, arrives at Marilyn’s home after being dropped off by Henry D’Antonio, who was servicing Mrs Murray’s car that day.
- Marilyn informs Mrs Murray that she plans to spend the day with her friend and publicist, Patricia Newcomb, by the pool, as Pat is sick. Neighbours report hearing a woman coughing in the garden.
- Furniture is delivered from The Mart and Pilgrim’s Modern Furniture. Marilyn writes a check to Pilgrim’s for $228.80. Marilyn’s furniture, ordered from Mexico, had been delivered to the wrong address, and bills had arrived at Marilyn’s home.
- Around noon: Pat Newcomb wakes up and is unwell with bronchitis. Marilyn tells her to stay with her to “bake it out.” Mrs Murray prepares lunch for Pat (an omelette), but Marilyn refuses to eat. Additional deliveries and plants arrive.
- After 1:00 pm: Dr Ralph Greenson arrives. According to Milton Rudin, Marilyn’s attorney and Dr Greenson’s brother-in-law, Dr Greenson spends most of the day with Marilyn.
- 2:00 pm: Joe DiMaggio Jr. calls Marilyn, but Mrs Murray informs him that Marilyn is not home.
- Between 2:00 pm and 4:00 pm: Eunice Murray’s car is dropped off by D’Antonio and his wife.
- Around 3:00 pm: Pat leaves at Greenson’s request, followed shortly by Greenson himself.
- At approximately 4:30 pm: Joe DiMaggio Jr. tries to contact Marilyn again, but Mrs Murray states that she is still not home.
- 5:00 pm: In 1975, Lawford claims he called Marilyn at this time, and she accepts his dinner party invitation.
- 5:15 pm: Dr Greenson returns to the hacienda to continue therapy with Marilyn. In a letter to Marianne Kris dated August 20, 1962, Dr Greenson writes, “I was aware that she was somewhat angry with me. She often became annoyed when I did not absolutely and wholeheartedly agree [with her]… I told her we would talk more, she should call me on Sunday morning.”
- 7:00/15 pm: Dr Greenson leaves Marilyn in her room, and Eunice Murray stays overnight, which she normally doesn’t do.
- At approximately 7:15 pm: Joe DiMaggio Jr. finally chats with Marilyn over the phone in her room. They speak for approximately 15 minutes. He later states that he found her alert and happy. Joe Jr. confirms the time to the police by watching a live broadcast of the sixth/seventh inning of the Angels/Ontario baseball game on television.
- Marilyn calls Dr Greenson at about 7:40 pm while he is shaving for dinner, happily telling him that Joe Jr. had broken off his engagement, which had been a cause of concern for her based on her own experience as a young bride.
- At approximately 7:45 pm: Peter Lawford calls again to ask Marilyn to come over for dinner, but she declines. Other guests who attend are Joseph Naar and his wife Dolores, who are there from 8:00 pm to 10:00 pm, and George Durgom. They order Chinese food.
- A neighbour sees Marilyn throwing the ball to Maf in the garden and tells Mrs Murray, “I don’t think we’ll take that drive after all,” referring to a drive recommended by Greenson.
- 8:00 pm: Marilyn retires to her bedroom, saying goodnight to Mrs Murray.
- 8:25 pm: According to police reports, Peter Lawford calls Milton Rudin, a talent manager, as he is concerned about Marilyn’s welfare. He asks Rudin to call Milton Ebbins, as stated in a Re-Interview Report by Lieutenant Grover Armstrong on August 10, 1962. According to Rudin, Lawford hears Marilyn “fading out.”
- 8:45 pm: According to police reports, Rudin calls Ebbins.
- 9:00 pm: Rudin ultimately phones Marilyn’s home and speaks to Mrs Murray, who assures him that Marilyn is fine. In her memoir, Mrs Murray later states that no one made her aware that there was cause for concern. It is believed that she didn’t want to disturb Marilyn in case she was asleep.
- After 10:00 pm: Lawford calls the Naar residence (as stated by Joseph Naar in 1992) and asks them to check on Marilyn, as he still believes something is wrong. However, while they are getting ready to leave, Rudin calls and tells them not to worry, as Marilyn had been given a sedative to help her sleep by Dr Greenson.
Additional notes regarding this date:
Mrs Murray had been given a check dated August 4, 1962, for $200, signed by Marilyn. Based on information from Patricia Newcomb, Marilyn planned to terminate Mrs Murray’s services. Mrs Murray had also planned a tour of Europe in August.
5 August 1962
- 3:00 am: Eunice Murray wakes (to use the toilet, to check on Marilyn or even for a drink, it’s not known) to find Marilyn’s light still on and has no response. She calls Greenson.
- 3:30/4:00 am: Dr Greenson arrives due to a call from Mrs Murray expressing concern about Marilyn. As the door is locked, he breaks the window, finds Marilyn unresponsive, and unlocks the door. He calls Engelberg.
- 3:35 – 3:50 am: Dr. Engelberg arrives.
- 4:25 am: Sergeant Jack Clemmons is called and informed that Marilyn is dead. He personally goes to investigate the scene with two patrolmen.
- 4:35 am: Clemmons is escorted into Marilyn’s bedroom and inspects the scene.
- 5:00 am: Pat Newcomb is informed of Marilyn’s death.
- 5:25 am: Marilyn’s body is taken to Westwood Memorial before an autopsy is conducted.
- 7:45 am: Coroners dispatch a vehicle to collect Marilyn from Westwood, and she was respectfully transported to the Los Angeles County Morgue. During this time, a photographer named Leigh Wiener, without authorisation, took a series of photographs of her body’s arrival.
- 8:00 am: Marilyn’s body arrives at the morgue.
- 9:00 am: Marilyn’s body is “removed to Coroners Dept” where an autopsy takes place at 10:30 am by Dr. Thomas Noguchi, at the Los Angeles County Coroner. Afterwards, Marilyn’s body is held at the morgue pending more tests.
- Joe DiMaggio arrives from San Francisco. Berniece Miracle authorises the release of Marilyn’s body to Joe DiMaggio. Marilyn’s body is taken to the funeral home.
PRESCRIPTIONS AND BODY METABOLISM
During the last two months of her life, Marilyn had been prescribed an alarming number of pills—over 770, to be precise. Between June 7 and August 3, she was prescribed 772 barbiturates, including 50 chloral hydrates on July 25 and another 50 on July 31. These medications were essential in managing Marilyn’s various physical and psychological issues however, these are extreme doses. Dr Hyman Engleberg, a well-respected physician, had signed off on these prescriptions after evaluating Marilyn’s medical condition. It is important to note that in the 1960s, the medical community had a different approach to medication, often relying on high doses to address patients’ symptoms but much of the responsibility for her overdose came down to the doctors.
When individuals take prescription medication for an extended period, their bodies can change drug metabolism and elimination. Over time, the body may adapt to the presence of the drug, potentially leading to altered rates of elimination and increased tolerance. In the case of Marilyn’s extensive prescription drug use, the high levels of medication found in her system at the time of her death could be attributed to her prolonged use and potential tolerance to those medications.
Theodore Curphey, the chief coroner, determined that there were approximately 40-50 pills in her bloodstream, a potentially lethal amount as a dose of 10-15 pills is considered fatal. To reach these levels of 4.5 mg in the blood and 13 mg in the liver, one must consider the impact of enzyme induction due to chronic use. Habitual users may experience a faster metabolism, like the tolerance that develops in addicts using drugs like morphine or heroin. When taken on an empty stomach, absorption occurs rapidly, usually within an hour or less, as there are no substances to slow it down. The exact time before death would depend on various factors, including the specific drug, individual tolerance, and the rate of absorption, making it difficult to provide a precise estimate.
The official autopsy report provides critical insights into Marilyn’s cause of death. It stated that she had 4.5 Nembutal (a sedative) and 8.0mg of Chloral Hydrate (a sleep aid) in her blood, along with 13mg of Nembutal in her liver at the time of death. These levels were significantly higher than therapeutic levels and were consistent with an intentional overdose of the prescribed medication. The report concluded that Marilyn Monroe’s death was the result of acute barbiturate poisoning. This evidence strongly suggests that Marilyn Monroe was the one to take her own life.
One of the prevailing theories surrounding Marilyn’s death involves the alleged involvement of the Kennedys, CIA, Mafia and even her housekeeper. However, a thorough examination of the available evidence debunks this notion. The evidence overwhelmingly supports the conclusion that there was no one else present in Marilyn Monroe’s home at the time of her death, aside from her housekeeper, Eunice Murray.
Investigators interviewed Marilyn’s housekeeper, Eunice Murray, who was the only person with her at the time. They also spoke to Peter Lawford, one of the last people to speak to Marilyn before she died. Murray’s account, supported by physical evidence and other witnesses, indicated that Marilyn was alone and locked in her bedroom throughout the evening. Although specific details changed over time, nothing specifically indicated homicide took place. Some have claimed Marilyn did not have a lock on her bedroom door, however, photos from the scene show this is not the case.
John F. Kennedy (JFK)
On that specific evening, John F. Kennedy, the President of the United States at the time, was not in California where Marilyn resided. Historical records as well as photographic images show that JFK was in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts, at the Kennedy family compound. The President’s activities for that day and evening were well-documented, including meetings, official engagements, and social gatherings. The 3000-mile distance between Massachusetts and California makes it highly improbable for JFK to have physically played a role in Marilyn’s death.
Robert F. Kennedy (RFK)
Robert F. Kennedy, the Attorney General of the United States and brother of JFK, also had a clear alibi for the night of Marilyn Monroe’s death. RFK was confirmed to be in San Francisco, California, on the day leading up to and on the night of 4th August 1962. Official records and contemporaneous news reports detail his attendance at a series of public events and meetings in San Francisco, miles away from Marilyn’s residence in Brentwood.
Kennedys – Lack of Motive
While it is known that Marilyn had personal relationships with JFK and RFK, including alleged romantic involvement (discussed in previous blog posts on ourmarilynmonroe.com), there is no substantial evidence linking these relationships to a motive for murder. Personal relationships, particularly in the context of extramarital affairs, do not inherently provide sufficient grounds for the Kennedys to resort to murder, especially as the older Kennedy brother had previously had affairs with no direct consequence to the women involved.
CIA and Mafia
One of the fundamental aspects of any conspiracy theory is establishing a motive. In the case of the CIA or the Mafia’s alleged involvement in Marilyn Monroe’s death, a clear and credible motive is lacking. Marilyn, while having associations with influential individuals, was not involved in political matters or organised crime. Without a discernible motive, it becomes increasingly improbable that the CIA or Mafia would have targeted her for assassination.
Absence of Enema-Related Evidence
Another theory suggesting Marilyn Monroe was murdered by enema by her housekeeper and Dr Greenson can also be debunked. The official autopsy report makes no mention of any enema-related injuries or trauma. In fact, due to there still being faecal matter present, this would eliminate the theory entirely.
No Needle Marks
One of the key indicators of death by injection is the presence of needle marks at the site of injection. However, no credible evidence or documentation exists to support the notion that Marilyn had needle marks on her body. The detailed examination conducted during the autopsy would have revealed any such marks, yet none were reported. This absence of needle marks significantly weakens the theory of Marilyn’s death by injection.
If there was swelling, which some claim displays she was murdered, it is implausible that an incision would be made to alleviate swelling, as there should be no reason for swelling in that area. Swelling isn’t typically resolved through incisions, as it doesn’t involve fluid that can be drained. The swelling in question is likely intracellular, which wouldn’t be alleviated by making an incision. Therefore, we should trust the medical examiner’s opinion over the attendant who made that claim, as it is unlikely that swelling in the neck area can be effectively addressed in this manner.
WHERE DO THESE CLAIMS COME FROM?
One prominent claim of murder comes from Jack Clemmons, the Los Angeles Police Department’s detective sergeant assigned to her case. Clemmons publicly questioned the official explanation of suicide, suggesting the possibility of foul play or accidental overdose. His statements garnered significant media attention and added fuel to the growing doubts surrounding her death. Clemmons made claims such as Marilyn’s washer being on when he arrived indicating a crime scene cleanup. However, Marilyn’s home inventory and floor plans show Marilyn didn’t have a washer or dryer nor did she have a water supply at the house to wash anything which is why most laundry was done via an external laundry service.
Additionally, Fred Otash, a former Los Angeles police officer turned private investigator, claimed to have conducted his own investigation into Marilyn Monroe’s death. He alleged that she had been murdered due to her involvement with powerful individuals, including the Kennedys. Otash’s sensational claims further contributed to the intrigue and suspicions surrounding Marilyn’s demise.
Another individual who perpetuated the idea of Marilyn’s murder was Frank A. Cappell, a writer and conspiracy theorist. Cappell extensively researched and wrote about Marilyn’s death, proposing the theory that she was murdered. He claimed to have conducted his own investigations, interviewed witnesses, and gathered evidence to support his assertions.
Cappell’s book, titled The Strange Death of Marilyn Monroe, was published in 1964 and presented his conspiracy theories surrounding Marilyn’s demise. In his work, he alleged that Marilyn had become entangled with powerful individuals including organised crime figures, which led to her murder. Cappell’s book gained attention and further fuelled public speculation about Marilyn’s death. However, none of these claims were backed up by any sort of scientific evidence.
While individuals like Clemmons and Otash played a role in popularising the idea of Marilyn’s murder, it is critical to approach their accounts with caution. Both Clemmons and Otash had affiliations with tabloid journalism and had motivations for creating sensational political narratives. Their claims lacked concrete evidence and were driven by personal interests rather than factual findings. It is also crucial to note that the official investigations, including the autopsy report conducted by the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office, consistently attributed Marilyn’s death to an overdose of prescription medication – whether this was accidental or intentional, we don’t know. But despite the perpetuation of murder theories, the evidence supporting suicide remains the most widely accepted explanation. The claims made by individuals like Clemmons, Cappell and Otash, while adding to the speculation surrounding her death, should be evaluated within the context of their potential biases and overall lack of concrete evidence.
ASKING THE EXPERTS
In a previous interview with Marijane Gray of Immortal Marilyn, pathologist Dr Cyril Wecht was asked questions regarding the many questions fans have about Marilyn’s passing.
Through Dr. Wecht’s unparalleled insight and experience, certain truths about the death of Marilyn have been revealed. We know from science that:
- it is likely that she could have taken all the pills orally as the science aligns with that, although psychologically it is unusual that she would do so shortly after having been reported to be in good spirits during her phone call with Joe DiMaggio Jr;
- It is highly unlikely if not impossible for her to have overdosed accidentally by forgetting if she’d taken pills and then taking more due to the amount of pills she would have taken for the levels in her blood;
- She did not die via a build-up of pills that she might have taken over the course of the day;
- That there was nothing suspicious or unusual about the discolouration of her colon, that it was as part of the natural dying process as the congestion and swelling in the lungs was;
- That theories of death via enema, cyanide, suffocation, and of her dying in an ambulance simply do not correlate with science;
- That the body was in moved, but there is nothing nefarious or suspicious about it;
- That Marilyn’s body showed no signs of ever having an abortion;
- There is nothing unusual about her having an empty stomach,
- and that Nembutal does not leave a dye trail.
At the time of the interview with Immortal Marilyn, Dr. Wecht claimed that the time of death was around eight o’clock and no later than nine. However, in April 2016, when Dr. Wecht appeared on the radio programme, Goodnight Marilyn Radio, he recanted the preceding statement and admitted that he had made a mistake. After criticising the amount of time that elapsed before Marilyn’s doctors notified the police and the coroner arrived, Dr Wecht offered the following correction:
“[…] determination of time of death is difficult and vague enough as it is, in the tightest type of scenario and the dragging out of hours and hours diminishes markedly the validity of temporal determination as to time of death. Rigor mortis, livor mortis, algor mortis, body temperature, with each passing hour those criteria become less and less scientific. […] Well, body temperatures decline in a normal environment, I mean, you know, not excessively hot and not excessively cold, you know, just room temperature and so on. It’s not fixed to the tenth of a degree or so on but the formula we use is within the first hour one and one-half to two degrees Fahrenheit the temperature drops and then with each hour thereafter one more degree.”
Accordingly, Dr Wecht adjusted his estimated time of death to approximately 2:00 am on August 5th.
Dr. Wecht opined that Marilyn most certainly lingered for a few hours after she ingested the pills, meaning she slipped into a deep sleep, then into semi-coma, then into a coma, and finally into death. He also noted that her bodily functions would have continued until Marilyn’s lungs and then finally her heart succumbed to the terrible effects of the barbiturates in her system. In short, Marilyn lived long enough for her digestive tract to dissolve any capsules that she had ingested and long enough for her liver to start metabolising the barbiturates.
Therefore, Marilyn possibly died between 8:30 PM on the 4th of August and 2:30 AM on the 5th of August with the mean time of 12:30 am on the 5th of August. Regardless of what time Marilyn died, it is apparent that she became an unresponsive, comatose body at some point before midnight when August the 4th became August the 5th.
It’s also important to acknowledge that while there is little to dispute regarding her autopsy and toxicology results, some issues can raised.
- Why did she sound happy and fine and take so many pills shortly after?
- How long exactly was she passed out and comatose?
- Was it intentional or did Marilyn not realise the risk of taking so many pills?
- Why did witness stories keep changing?
- Why was there such a delay in calling the police?
- Why was ‘barbs-overdose’ improperly written on the initial reports?
- Why was Marilyn’s manner of death determined to be ‘probable’ suicide when there is no other known case with the qualifying ‘probable’ included?
- Why were Dr Engleberg and Dr Greenson absolved of all culpability for their role in her death by prescribing her such a deadly and unethical number of drugs?
Unfortunately, these are not questions that can be answered by science. However, hopefully, Dr Wecht has been able to put to rest several rumours and speculation that have circulated through the years.
Marilyn Monroe was more than just fodder for conspiracy.
She was a living, breathing human being who deserves more than what she’s been given after her death. Some of the outlandish theories surrounding her death, those with a lack of clear motive and lack of any evidence, portray the real woman in such a light that is completely unfamiliar to those who knew and loved her.
She becomes a caricature for the tabloids and is removed from who she is. While celebrating her life should always be at the forefront, examining her death and debunking the lies and slander also helps us get a clearer picture of who she was. She was not a delusional woman who was murdered because she “knew too much”; she was a strong, tough, remarkable woman with an addiction who was failed by her medical professional, who was tragically gone from this world too soon.
Dr Wecht finalises this in Tales from the Morgue, in which he states:
“We can nevertheless analyse her life and hold it side by side with the scientific facts left by death. It is easy to want someone with such a remarkable life to have a sensational death. And here, after a brief examination of the woman in life and a more thorough examination of the body in death, I must conclude that I agree with Dr. Tom Noguchi and with the 1982 investigation by the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office. I see no credible evidence to support a murder theory. When it comes to science, any aspect of it, one must let go of previously held ideas if proven evidence contradicts it. While many feel somehow comforted to cling to some of the various conspiracies surrounding Marilyn’s death, and while there are still many unanswered questions swirling around it, we must accept what scientific evidence tells us.”