On Aug. 5, 1962, one of Hollywood’s most beloved stars, Marilyn Monroe (born Norma Jeane Mortenson) was found dead in her Brentwood apartment. Her death became one of the most controversial in Hollywood history, filled with conspiracy theories and mystery.
The actress was found by her housekeeper, Eunice Murray, and Dr. Hyman Engelberg, her doctor, about an hour after midnight. She was clutching her phone and lying face down on her bed. According to several reports at the time, the medical examiner determined that Monroe, 36, had died as a result of acute barbiturate poisoning.
Police investigators found an empty bottle of Nembutal tablets—sleeping pills—next to her bedside and estimated that she had been dead six to eight hours before they arrived on scene. Although her death was termed to be a “probable suicide,” several individuals, including some of those who worked the case, believed it was a homicide.
Two of the most notable people involved in the case were Jack Clemmons, the first Los Angeles police officer to arrive on scene, and John W. Miner, a former Los Angeles County deputy district attorney and investigator in Monroe’s death. Both men believed the actress was slain.
According to several written accounts by Clemmons for the New York Post, the former LAPD officer claimed that when he arrived on scene, Monroe’s housekeeper was busily doing laundry and that the crime scene had been “spruced up.”
Clemmons wrote that he believed the actress died as a result of a lethal injection of barbiturates and not their oral consumption, according to an Oct. 22, 1985, issue of The Albany Herald. He wrote in the New York Post that when he viewed the coroner’s report compiled by Dr. Thomas Noguchi, it read that there was a lethal level of the drug in her blood, but not her digestive tract.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Miner, who died on Feb. 25, 2010, at the age of 93, also believed the actress was slain and that she was given an enema of barbiturates. Miner, who was head of the district attorney's medical-legal section and was present at the autopsies of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, the Manson victims and Monroe, never changed his mind that the actress was killed.
Another factor that played into the murder conspiracy was a supposed red diary kept by the actress that Mio Speriglio, a private detective, and Robert Slatzer, a close friend of Monroe’s, said went missing two days after it was brought into the coroner’s office with the actress' body. The two claimed that the red diary contained entries concerning the Central Intelligence Agency and her relationships with President John F. Kennedy and his brother Robert. The intimate relationship between Monroe and the two men was never proven but fueled many of the conspiracy theories.
In 1982, the DA's office reviewed the circumstances surrounding Monroe’s case but found "no credible evidence supporting a murder theory," the Los Angeles Times reported.
Early Life and Hollywood
Monroe was born June 1, 1926, in Los Angeles. Her early life was not as glamorous as her acting career.
Monroe, who never knew her father, spent much of her early childhood in an orphanage and foster care after her mother was institutionalized for psychiatric problems.
Monroe left foster care by marrying her next door neighbor, Jimmy Dougherty, who was a merchant marine. She was discovered by Army photographer David Conover while working in a radio plane munitions factory in Burbank. Dougherty was stationed in the South Pacific at the time.
She began taking acting classes and eventually signed a studio contract with 20th Century Fox, where she developed her famous name, Marilyn Monroe. She divorced Dougherty in 1946 and went on to perform her breakout roles in the films Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and How to Marry a Millionaire.
She went through several high profile relationships, including one with baseball great Joe DiMaggio and playwright Arthur Miller.
The “blond bombshell,” who was already an iconic symbol of beauty in the 1950s, divorced DiMaggio in 1954 after he was angered by the now famous skirt-blowing photo taken while working on the movie The Seven Year Itch.
After taking a small break from the screen and further study to become a more serious actress, she eventually returned to Hollywood and married Miller. The starlet once again showcased her talents in Some Like It Hot.
Citing emotional problems, she divorced Miller in 1961, a year before she was found dead in her Brentwood home. To this day, Monroe’s influence can still be seen in cinema, music and fashion.