Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Marilyn Monroe

Conflicting Statements

The Time of Marilyn's Death

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.

Autopsy Results

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.