Authors: Donald H. Wolfe
for my wife, Ann,
my son, Paul, and
my daughter, Mary
1962â1998, Decades of Deception
The Locked Room
“Keep Shooting, Vultures!”
The Final Verdict
Answers and Questions
Odd Men Out
The Paper Chase
The Ambulance Chase
Tumblers of Truth
1926â1946, Gemini Child
Into the Abyss
Norma Jeane, the Human Bean
Did You Happen to Seeâ¦?
This Way Out
Los Angeles Limited
1946â1954, All the Bright Colors
Rara AvisâWith Options
Beauty and the Beast
The Ways of the Cross
1955â1959, The Danger of All Dreams
A Madness to the Method
Black Bart and Grushenka
Please Don't Kill Anything
Every Day I Have the Blues
On the Ledge
1960â1962, Rainbow's End
Let's Make Love
The Jack Pack
The Lady of Shallot
The Hand of God
The White Knight
Thanks for the Memory
Hell Hath No Fury Likeâ¦
The Method to the Madness
The Devil's Weekend
The Ominous Ear
Blonde and beautiful Marilyn Monroe, a glamorous symbol of the gay, exciting life of Hollywood, died tragically Sunday. Her body was found nude in bed, a probable suicide. She was 36. The long-troubled star clutched a telephone in one hand. An empty bottle of sleeping pills was nearby.
âThe Associated Press, August 5, 1962
efore dawn on Sunday, August 5, 1962, a warm wind swept off the Mojave Desert and rushed into the Los Angeles basin, swaying the tall trees that formed a curtain of privacy around the Brentwood home of Marilyn Monroe. Antique wind chimes that had been a gift from the poet Carl Sandburg softly tolled in the darkness. Strange sounds were carried on the wind during the nightâshouting and the crash of broken glass. Neighbors reported that a hysterical woman had yelled, “Murderers! You murderers! Are you satisfied now that she's dead?”
Mr. and Mrs. Abe Landau, who lived to the immediate west of Marilyn Monroe, had returned home from a dinner party late Saturday evening and had seen an ambulance and a police car parked in the cul-de-sac in front of the film star's residence. Near midnight neighbors heard a helicopter hovering overhead. There were other strange sights and sounds before dawn as the city slept. In the crush of time and extremity the film star's home was carefully rearranged, telephone records were seized, papers and notes were destroyedâand a frantic phone call was placed to the White House.
Shortly before midnight a dark Mercedes sped east on Olympic Boul
evard in Beverly Hills. Estimating the car to be driving in excess of fifty-five miles per hour, Beverly Hills police officer Lynn Franklin flipped on his siren and lights and gave chase. When the Mercedes pulled to a stop, Franklin cautiously walked to the driver's side and directed his flashlight toward the three occupants. He immediately recognized that the driver was actor Peter Lawford. Aiming his flashlight at the two men seated in the rear, he was surprised to see the attorney general of the United States, Robert Kennedy, seated next to a third man he later identified as Dr. Ralph Greenson. Lawford explained that he was driving the attorney general to the Beverly Hilton Hotel on an urgent matter. Reminding Lawford that he was in a thirty-five-miles-per-hour zone, Officer Franklin waved them on.
At midnight on Saturday, August 4, 1962, Sergeant Jack Clemmons came on duty as watch commander at the West Los Angeles Police Department on Purdue Street. Clemmons's duties proved to be routine until the call that came in shortly before dawn. The caller identified himself as Dr. Hyman Engelberg and said, “Marilyn Monroe has died. She's committed suicide.”
Thinking it could be a hoax, Clemmons asked, “Who did you say this is?”
“I'm Dr. Hyman Engelberg, Marilyn Monroe's physician. I'm at her residence. She's committed suicide.”
“Give me the address. I'll be right over.” Clemmons noted that it was 4:25
and wrote the time in his logbook. Driving down San Vicente Boulevard, he radioed for a backup patrol car to meet him at 12305 Fifth Helena Drive. He sped down the deserted streets to Carmelina Avenue, then turned down the short cul-de-sac known as Fifth Helena. Finding the address at the end of the street, he pulled through the open gates into the courtyard, where several cars were already parked. Clemmons heard a dog barking as he got out and walked toward the hacienda-style home. After knocking on the front door, he heard footsteps and whispered conversation from inside. A full minute later the porch light came on and a middle-aged woman opened the door. She seemed fearful and nervous as she identified herself as Eunice Murray, the housekeeper. Confirming that Marilyn Monroe had committed suicide, she led Clemmons to a bedroom where a body lay sprawled across the bed. A sheet had been pulled up over her head, leaving visible only a shock of ash-blond hair. A
distinguished-looking man sat near the bed, his head bowed, his chin in his hands. He identified himself as Dr. Engelberg, the person who had called the police. Another man, standing near the nightstand, introduced himself as Dr. Ralph Greenson, Monroe's psychiatrist.
“She committed suicide,” Dr. Greenson said. Then, gesturing toward an empty container of Nembutal on the nightstand, he added, “She took all of these.”
Clemmons could sense the two doctors watching him as he drew back the sheet that covered the naked body. It was indeed Marilyn Monroe, but the face known to millions of moviegoers all over the world was without makeup and splotched with the lividity of death. A telephone cord ran over one side of the bed and lay beneath her. Her body appeared to be bruised.
Clemmons recalled, “She was lying facedown in what I call the soldier's position. Her face was in a pillow, her arms were by her side, her right arm was slightly bent. Her legs were stretched out perfectly straight.” He immediately thought she had been placed that way. He had seen a number of suicides, and contrary to the common conception, an overdose of sleeping tablets usually causes victims to suffer convulsions and vomiting before they die in a contorted position.
“Was the body moved?” Clemmons asked.
“No,” the doctors replied.
Studying the two doctors, Clemmons noted that Engelberg, the taller and more distinguished-looking of the two, seemed despondent and uncommunicative, while Greenson, who did most of the talking, had a strange, defensive attitude. Clemmons recalled, “He was cocky, almost challenging me to accuse him of something. I kept thinking to myself, What the hell's wrong with this fellow? because it just didn't fit the situation.”
“Did you try to revive her?” Clemmons asked.
“No, it was too lateâwe got here too late,” Greenson replied.
“Do you know when she took the pills?”
In Clemmons's experience, doctors were readily informative and didn't need to be probedâbut then, this was the death of a film star. When the sergeant turned to talk to the housekeeper, he found that Murray had left the room.
Searching through the sparsely furnished house, which seemed rather small and inelegant for the home of a film star, he found Murray in the
service porch off the kitchen, where both the washer and the dryer were running. She appeared agitated as she folded a stack of laundry on the counter. Clemmons thought it odd that the housekeeper was doing laundry in the middle of the night while her employer lay dead in the bedroom. While she continued folding, he asked, “When did you discover that something was wrong with Miss Monroe?”
“Just after midnight,” Murray replied. “Then I called Dr. Greenson, and he arrived at about twelve-thirty. I went to bed about ten o'clock. I had some things to do, and I noticed the light was on under Marilyn's door. I assumed she was sleeping or talking on the telephone with a friend, so I went to bed. I woke up at midnight and had to go to the bathroom. The light was still on under Marilyn's door, and I became quite concerned. I tried the door, but it was locked, you see, from the inside.”
“The door was locked?” Clemmons asked.
“Yes,” she replied, “I knocked on the door, but Marilyn didn't answer, so I called her psychiatrist, Dr. Greenson, who lives not far away. When he arrived, he also failed to get a response upon knocking on the door, so he went outside and looked through the bedroom window. He saw Marilyn lying motionless on the bed, looking peculiar. He broke the window with a poker and climbed inside and came around and opened the door. He told me, âWe've lost her,' and then he called Dr. Engelberg.”
Clemmons felt that her story seemed prepared; she related the events in an even, precise voice and fidgeted with the laundry. The fact that Marilyn Monroe's body had been discovered at 12:30
, but the police had not been called until 4:25
, Clemmons found disturbing. He asked Murray what she had done after the body was discovered.
“I just had so many things to doâ¦” she responded. “I realized that there were probably going to be hundreds of people involved, and I had to dress. I had all sorts of things to doâ¦. I first called Norman Jefferies, a handyman employed by Marilyn. He had helped with the interior decorating and was a guard at the gate when necessary. So I called him immediately to come over and repair the broken windowâ¦and then I was doing other things, you know,” she added.
“Other things?” Clemmons asked.
“Getting my own things together,” she answered, “I've practically lived here most of the time, and I have many personal things besides my clothes, and I have a basket here that's mine, so I filled it with my things.”
Returning to the bedroom, Clemmons asked the doctors why they'd waited four hours before calling the police. Greenson caustically replied,
“We had to get permission from the studio publicity department before we could call anyone.”
“The publicity department?” Clemmons wondered aloud.
“Yes, the 20th Century-Fox publicity department. Miss Monroe is making a film there.”
“What did you do during those hours?” he asked.
The doctors became more evasive, but Clemmons pressed the point.
“We were just talking,” Engelberg mumbled.
“About what?” Clemmons queried. “What were you talking about for four hours?”
The doctors shrugged their shoulders and stared at him blankly. Protected by professional confidentiality, they were not compelled to answer, but Clemmons thought their attitude was strange under the circumstances. He noted that there was no drinking glass in the bedroom and wondered how she had swallowed the Nembutal tablets. He recruited the two doctors to help search for the drinking glass, but they found no glass or cup in the bedroom or the adjoining bathroom, where Clemmons discovered that the water had been shut off during remodeling. The sergeant then asked if Monroe was in the practice of using a hypodermic needle or syringe. Engelberg said she was not, and that the medications prescribed were all oral; however, the doctor stated he had been treating her for diarrhea and had recently administered some injections.
Returning to the bedroom, Clemmons again asked how the body had been discovered. Greenson related the story much as Murray had told it. The housekeeper had called him sometime after midnight. Arriving at about 12:30
, he broke the bedroom window with a poker to gain access to the room, where he found Marilyn on the bed. Greenson stated that her hand was firmly gripping the telephone, and he removed the phone from her hand shortly after discovering the body. He added that she must have been trying to call for help. Clemmons found it curious
that Greenson would conclude Marilyn was calling for help when Murray was in the house, and her door was scarcely ten feet down the hall. But it wasn't Clemmons's job to investigate these matters. His duty was to take the initial report and write down what he saw and heard.
Clemmons was relieved by Sergeant Marvin Iannone, and by the time he went off duty, the sun had risen and the desert winds had warmed the morning air. It was going to be a hot day. The police had sealed off the house, but the news had spread quickly, and the streets were soon blocked by the press and a crowd of curious onlookers.
Driving back to the West Los Angeles Division Headquarters, Clemmons was plagued by puzzling thoughts: He believed the body had been moved, and he wondered what the doctors could have been talking about for four hours before calling the police. Why hadn't he found a drinking glass in the locked room, and why had the housekeeper been so anxious to have Norman Jefferies fix the broken window?
By the time he arrived at headquarters to file his preliminary report, Clemmons was convinced that something was very wrong. He felt that he hadn't been told the truth about what happened that night at 12305 Fifth Helena Drive.