Police Open the Files on Marilyn: No Bombshells

Times Staff Writer

Twenty-three years after actress Marilyn Monroe died of a drug overdose in her Brentwood home, the Los Angeles Police Department on Monday released what it said was its confidential file on the case.

A department spokesman said the file was made public to dispel lingering “speculation, innuendo and out-and-out lies” that Monroe was the victim of foul play.

“She committed suicide by barbiturates; that is the reality, and there is nothing very special about it except for the fact that she was Marilyn Monroe,” said Police Chief Daryl F. Gates. “It’s not a pretty story. It’s very tragic.”


The half-inch-thick internal file contains little new. It includes copies of a newspaper article on Monroe’s death, an excerpt from a book on Monroe, telephone bills from the last months of her life, bills that her physician and drug store submitted to her estate, detectives’ summaries from interviews with a handful of people who last saw or spoke with the blonde, 36-year-old sex symbol, and autopsy reports.

Former Los Angeles County Chief Medical Examiner Theodore J. Curphey concluded in 1962 that Monroe’s death was “caused by a self-administered overdose of sedative drugs and that the mode of death is probable suicide.”

Gates said he decided to release the police file after receiving a request for the information from ABC’s “20-20” television program, which reportedly plans to broadcast a report on Monroe’s death this week.

Part of the file was censored “to protect people’s privacy,” Gates said. Phone numbers from Monroe’s last telephone bill were excised. Also, photos taken at the death scene were blacked out. “But, at least, when (writers) come to us from now on, we can tell them that we have released everything we have on her,” he said.

Gates said that the original file on Monroe’s Aug. 5, 1962, death was destroyed in 1972, in accordance with a police regulation which requires that records 10 years or older be purged.

The chief said that the file made public is a nearly complete duplicate of the one that detectives compiled in the weeks following Monroe’s death. He said he had seen the original file and could not remember if anything was missing.


The file made public Monday was compiled during a 1975 investigation of Monroe’s death by the department’s Organized Crime Intelligence Division. That “reinvestigation” was ordered by then-Police Chief Ed Davis, in response to publication of an article in Oui magazine that was critical of the Police Department’s handling of the case, Gates said.

Copies of documents from the original file were discovered in the personal archives of Thad Brown, a deceased former chief of detectives, the chief added.

The Oui article, which was strongly rebutted in the file made public Monday, said that Monroe was not suicidal. The story theorized that she had been injected with a lethal dose of drugs on the afternoon before her death. The article also theorized that Los Angeles police, in collusion with the Los Angeles County coroner’s office, distorted evidence to protect then U.S. Atty. Gen. Robert F. Kennedy, with whom Monroe was rumored to have had a secret love affair.

Others, including a man who claimed to have been secretly married to Monroe, have asserted that Monroe was slain because of her association with Robert Kennedy and his knowledge of U.S. intelligence plots against Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

Spurred by those allegations and charges that a former coroner’s assistant was pressured into signing a suicide death certification, the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office in 1982 conducted its own 3 1/2-month investigation. It discounted theories that Monroe had been murdered and that the Police Department had covered up.

“Based on the evidence available to us, it appears that her death could have been suicide or come as a result of an accidental drug overdose. . . ,” said then-Dist. Atty. John Van de Kamp, now California’s attorney general. “Permit me to express a faint hope that Marilyn Monroe be permitted to rest in peace.”