Ronald H. ‘Mike’ Carroll dies at 74; assistant D.A. led 1982 probe of Marilyn Monroe’s death

Ronald H. “Mike” Carroll, a retired Los Angeles County deputy district attorney who was involved with many high-profile prosecutions and headed a 1982 review of the 1962 death of actress Marilyn Monroe, has died. He was 74.

Carroll, who moved to Fallbrook in 2000, died Sept. 21 in a hospice in Carlsbad after a long battle with lung cancer, said his wife, Carol.

During a 33-year career in the district attorney’s office that began in 1966, Carroll served as chief prosecutor in the highly publicized trial that grew out of a four-hour gun battle between Black Panthers and police at the Panthers’ Central Avenue headquarters in 1969.


He later supervised the investigation and prosecution of the case involving Synanon founder Charles Dederich and two of the group’s members, who pleaded no contest in 1980 to charges that they plotted to kill Los Angeles attorney Paul Morantz by placing a rattlesnake in his mailbox in 1978.

Carroll, who had a stint as head deputy assigned to the Organized Crime and Narcotics Division in the late ‘70s, was appointed director of the Bureau of Central Operations in 1979.

He supervised “most of the high-profile cases in Los Angeles County during the late ‘70s and early ‘80s,” said Robert Heflin, a retired L.A. County deputy district attorney who first met Carroll in the early ‘70s.

“He was a mentor to me, like he was to many other prosecutors in the district attorney’s office,” said Heflin. “He set a standard of integrity for us that was well-known throughout the office.

“He also displayed great courage. … He was totally un-intimidated and was willing to say what he thought was the right thing to do and pursue that course.”

In 1981, Carroll was appointed assistant district attorney under Dist. Atty. John Van de Kamp.

“He was part, in my view, of a wave of really fine deputies who came in around” the 1960s, Van de Kamp said, describing Carroll as “a laconic fellow” with a great sense of humor and “very good judgment.”

In 1982, Van de Kamp assigned Carroll to conduct a “threshold inquiry” to determine whether a full-scale homicide investigation of Monroe’s death was justified.

The 36-year-old Hollywood sex symbol was found dead and naked on her bed in her Brentwood home on Aug. 5, 1962.

As the 20th anniversary of her death approached, numerous assertions that the actress may have been the victim of foul play spurred the district attorney’s 3 1/2-month inquiry.

The 30-page report, prepared by Carroll and investigator Alan B. Tomich, concluded: “Our inquiries and document examination uncovered no credible evidence supporting a murder theory.”

And, The Times reported in 1982, the report “concluded that there was ‘reasonable’ evidence to support a coroner’s finding 20 years earlier that Monroe’s death from a barbiturate overdose was probably a suicide.”

Van de Kamp, The Times reported, had “made the assignment public after the Board of Supervisors urged him to investigate new charges by a former county coroner’s employee that a diary purportedly kept by Monroe had disappeared from the coroner’s office.”

The Times reported that the former employee, Lionel Grandison, said the diary contained the names of government figures and possibly matters relating to sensitive government operations.

But Carroll said he did not find any credible evidence that the coroner’s office was ever in possession of a diary, The Times reported, and “Carroll concluded that a murder of Monroe fitting the known facts of her death would have required a massive conspiracy.”

“The homicide hypotheses,” Carroll wrote in the report, “must be viewed with extreme skepticism.”

Carroll’s career included serving as head deputy of the Van Nuys and Santa Monica branch offices and a reappointment as the director of the Bureau of Central Operations. He retired in 1999.

Born July 31, 1936, in Santa Monica, Carroll grew up in Van Nuys and graduated from Hollywood High School. While serving in the Army from 1954 to ’57, he was a cryptographer in a communication intelligence operation.

He graduated from Occidental College with a degree in political science in 1961 and obtained his law degree from Southwestern University School of Law in 1965. He worked as a business consultant for the Los Angeles Area Economic Development Agency before becoming a deputy district attorney.

Carol, his wife of 30 years, is his only survivor.

A celebration of Carroll’s life is being planned for late November in Los Angeles.