Bombshell: Documents Throw New Light on Marilyn Monroe’s Death

44 years after Marilyn Monroe's tragic death, just released government documents raise new questions about what really happened.

By Anthony Summers from Reader's Digest | October 2006

The man who headed the 1982 review, former Assistant D.A. Ronald Carroll, met with me recently at his home in Southern California. He is retired now but has vivid memories of the Monroe probe, and sturdily defends the way it was handled. “My job was to look for evidence of murder,” Carroll said, “and I didn’t find any. There were pieces of information that might have thrown light on aspects of Marilyn Monroe’s final days, her involvement with the Kennedy brothers, for instance. But that’s for the biographers and the historians. It wasn’t my job, wasn’t the assignment we had.”

Newly released files reveal one of the report’s more egregious omissions. Former coroner Curphey, whose suicide finding effectively closed the original case, refused to cooperate with the D.A. in 1982. “I’ll be goddamned if I’ll get involved,” he told a D.A. investigator. Curphey would respond, he said, if served with a subpoena, but the D.A.’s office took no action. Why did the D.A.’s office not think it vital to interview such a senior official, who was still alive and had been privy to all information available back in 1962?

The D.A.’s office did interview the police officer who first reached Monroe’s house after her doctor reported her death. Sgt. Jack Clemmons said the death scene had not looked “kosher” to him and that the housekeeper’s version of events had been inadequately investigated. The D.A. gave Clemmons’s comments no weight, not least because his record showed that he had minimal investigative experience and no familiarity with suicide cases.

Inexplicably, the D.A.’s investigators did not bother to interview homicide detective Sgt. Robert Byron, the officer who took over from Clemmons and filed the only three police reports that have survived. Those involved in the probe knew that he, too, had doubts about housekeeper Murray’s veracity. Byron and a colleague had felt strongly enough to include their suspicion in a report filed on August 8, three days after Monroe’s death.

“It is officers’ opinion,” they wrote after interviewing the housekeeper for a second time, that she was “vague and possibly evasive in answering questions pertaining to the activities of Miss Monroe. It is not known whether this is, or is not, intentional.” I spoke with Byron — for the only interview he ever gave — in 1986 at a dimly lit roadhouse north of Los Angeles.

By the time he and his superior got to Monroe’s house on the night of her death, Byron remembered, Dr. Greenson was gone. Milton Rudin, the attorney Monroe shared with Frank Sinatra, was there, and seemed to be in charge. “He’d probably told Mrs. Murray, ‘Don’t say anything,’ ” Byron told me. “My feeling was that it had all been rehearsed.” As for Rudin and Dr. Engelberg, the officer said, “There was a lot more they could have told us … I didn’t feel they were telling the correct time or situation.”

I asked former Assistant D.A. Carroll why his office had not interviewed Byron. “It beats me,” he responded. “We had his written reports. Still, he should have been interviewed.”

Both Byron and Clemmons suspected that the witnesses were covering up something in particular: the time frame of events on the death night. The account of one witness — yet another person the D.A.’s staff did not get to — suggests that suspicion was well founded.

The housekeeper and doctors claimed that Monroe was found dead at around 3:30 a.m. Their testimony is badly shaken, though, by an interview I conducted in 1985 with Natalie Jacobs, widow of Monroe’s press spokesman Arthur Jacobs. Word that the actress was dead reached the Jacobses, Natalie told me, while she and her husband were attending a Henry Mancini concert at the Hollywood Bowl. The concert was over by 11 p.m., which means some insiders learned Monroe was dead by then, at the very latest.

After my book was published, Juliet Roswell, a former employee of Jacobs, corroborated his widow’s statement. In an interview with me, she said her boss told her that he “went out there [to Monroe’s home] at 11 o’clock.”

If true, the statements of these two witnesses leave several hours unaccounted-for. “We would have looked further,” former Assistant D.A. Carroll recently told me, “if we had known that some individuals knew Monroe was dead five or six hours before the police were called.”

Press spokesman Jacobs, a renowned Hollywood spin doctor, had been summoned from the concert to start urgent damage control. “Arthur had to fudge the press,” Natalie said. “He went to Marilyn’s house … fudged everything.” Michael Selsman, then a young publicist working for Jacobs, told me he was roused before 6 a.m., ordered to Monroe’s house, and got there as the reporters began to arrive. “Arthur told me to give out as little information as possible,” said Selsman. “He knew about Marilyn and the Kennedys.” Should the story get out, the publicist had heard Jacobs worrying, the political fallout could be immense.

I interviewed Mrs. Murray six times while doing research for my book. She stuck more or less to her old account until our last conversation, a 1985 interview for a BBC television documentary. The camera crew was starting to pack up when 83-year-old Murray put her head in her hands and cried, “Why, at my age, do I still have to cover this thing? … It became so sticky that the protectors of Bobby Kennedy had to step in and protect him.”

Had the D.A.’s men interviewed photojournalist William Woodfield, who worked on the story for the New York Herald Tribune at the time of Monroe’s death, they would have had evidence of such protection. Woodfield managed to get through to Monroe’s psychiatrist on the phone months after her death. He recorded the conversation, and the tape survives to this day. Having struggled to answer several questions, Dr. Greenson ended the call with an outburst. “I can’t explain or defend myself,” he said, “without revealing things I don’t want to reveal … It’s a terrible position to be in, to say I can’t talk about it. I just can’t tell the whole story. … Talk to Robert Kennedy!”

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