Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Vicki Morgan

The Aftermath

In his various confessions, Pancoast said Vicki treated him like a "little slave boy" with incessant demands and criticisms.

"I couldn't take it anymore," he said. "I just had to shut her up."

The murder allowed the media to reprise the Bloomingdale sex saga.

Marvin Pancoast in court
Marvin Pancoast in court

Robert Steinberg, one of Pancoast's lawyers, managed to ratchet up the sensationalism by claiming that Vicki's personal affects included videotapes of sex parties attended by men at the highest levels of American politics.

Steinberg said he had viewed portions of the tapes and had them in his possession. But when the media and authorities began pressing for proof, Steinberg announced that tapes had been stolen.

In end, that tangent of the scandal evaporated. The sex tapes were dismissed as a hoax, and Steinberg was charged with making a false report.

Pancoast's guilt, meanwhile, was a foregone conclusion. His sanity was not.

Under California law, the issues were considered separately.

A jury convicted him of murder nearly a year to the day after he beat Morgan to death. In something of a surprise, it then ruled — after four additional days of deliberations — that he was sane when he killed his roommate.

Betsy Bloomingdale
Betsy Bloomingdale

Pancoast was sentenced to 26 years in prison. But he would serve only a fraction of that. He died of AIDS in a prison infirmary in 1991.

Not long after the conviction, a California jury awarded $200,000 to Vicki Morgan's estate. Her lawyer and longtime friend, Michael Dave, had pressed an appeal of the dismissal of her breach-of-contract lawsuit.

The money went to Vicki's son, Todd Morgan, now 37, who is believed to be living in Southern California.

The lawsuit award did not cramp "Best-Dressed" Betsy Bloomingdale's lifestyle. She still lives in the Bel Air mansion, where she dotes on her grandchildren. She is still a leading society doyenne in Los Angeles. And she is still Nancy Reagan's best friend.