REDRUM: The Murder of Marilyn Monroe
In Steven King’s classic movie The Shining, viewers see a wall with the word REDRUM flash periodically on the screen throughout the film. Near the end it’s revealed that moviegoers had seen the word in a mirror, and what was actually written on the wall was the word MURDER.
History becomes a mirror when we gaze back in time and only see a reflection of things that were happening at the time. To get a clear picture of what is actually going on we have to acknowledge that the reflection of the past we are looking at is distorted. In the days, weeks, then years that followed Monroe’s death, we must accept that there was a concerted effort to ignore, downplay and divert attention away from key elements of Marilyn’s life. Her connection to the Kennedys, the lesbian rumors, her involvement with the MCA case and the events at Cal-Neva, were effectively covered up for many years. There was one person at the center of this cover-up and if she is responsible for Marilyn’s death then she is the one person who had the most to gain from not allowing the true facts get out.
Perhaps all along we’ve been witnessing Marilyn’s death from the wrong vantage point. All theories put forth involve an accident, a suicide or a conspiracy involving an injection, enema or suppository. For numerous reason all these theories can be called into question. Maybe all along it was the work of one person, a person Marilyn trusted, a person that left her a deadly cocktail of drugs. Could it have been a murder that fooled everyone? Did everyone just assume it was an accident or suicide and then go along with a cover-up to hide the fact that the Attorney General had contact with the deceased on the day of her death? I think the actions of almost all the principals involved is best explained by everyone from the doctors, to the police, to the coroner actually believing it was an overdose. Everything that followed was a cover-up to save the reputation of a good, decent man. A man who’s reputation could have been harmed, from the embarrassment of an investigation. It’s this cover-up of information and “rush to judgment,” that actually did cover up a murder.
If you think there is any credibility to the accidental homicide theory then you can see how easily this can be turned into a murder scenario. To see if it’s a possibility we have to have an affirmative answer to one question. Could Marilyn have drank one drink, let’s say an amount equal to half a can of soda, that contained the amount of drugs that was found in her system. The answer to that is yes. The smallest number of pills that forensic evidence allows to account for the drug levels found in Monroe’s body is 17. This is based on forensic pathologist, Dr Wecht’s estimate of 5 chloral hydrate and 12-24 Nembutal. If Marilyn had orally taken 3 or 4 Nembutal before her phone conversation with Joe Jr then the amount of pills in the deadly cocktail could be reduced to 13 or 14. An amount easily hidden in a small amount of liquid.
It’s worth noting here that many doctors, for humanitarian reasons, have assisted terminal patients with suicide. In many cases the combination of drugs they use contain barbiturates and chloral hydrate in a drinkable solution. Many of these “death-with-dignity” cocktails contain much more of the same medications that killed Marilyn Monroe. It is possible Marilyn could have consumed this lethal amount of drugs by drinking them. This would explain the empty stomach and the petechial hemorrhage found on the stomach lining. The primary objection to this scenario being a murder would be that it couldn’t have been done without her knowledge. But what if she knew the drink contained the drugs, but she was unaware of how much? All you would need for this scenario to be possible is to have someone Marilyn trusted give this to her.
Before we begin to examine if there is anyone that had the means, motive and opportunity to kill Marilyn, let’s revisit the seven key areas to see if they can inform this murder scenario.
The Kennedy Connection. This murder scenario requires no sexual relationship between Monroe and any of the Kennedys. I guess you could say the beauty of this scenario is that you don’t even have to consider an actual affair between Marilyn and a Kennedy at the time of Monroe’s death. The most significant Monroe/Kennedy relationship is Marilyn’s bond with Pat Kennedy Lawford, but the most important one on the day she died is the one with Robert Kennedy. The only reason that this platonic relationship becomes important at this time is because rumors of a sexual nature are buzzing in Hollywood, and that buzz has finally made it into print, in newspapers all across the country on August 3, 1962.
Here’s Dorothy Kilgallen’s column from August 3, 1962: “Marilyn Monroe’s health must be improving. She’s been attending select Hollywood parties and has become the talk of the town again. In California, they’re circulating a photograph of her that certainly isn’t as bare as the famous calendar, but is very interesting…. And she’s cooking in the sex-appeal department, too; she’s proved vastly alluring to a handsome gentleman who is a bigger name than Joe DiMaggio in his hay day. So don’t write off Marilyn as finished.”
The Lesbian Rumors. The lesbian rumors can largely be disregarded as having anything to do a murder scenario. But they are still important, even if they are wrong. After a detailed examination of these rumors, it’s found that their basis (at least around the time of Monroe’s death) is probably the result of the “ever-present” Pat Newcomb spending so much time with Marilyn. During the summer of 1962, according to the hearsay evidence that is left to us, Newcomb is the only name connected to these rumors. No affair with Pat Newcomb or anyone else is assumed in this scenario. But the rumors do illuminate just how far Newcomb had inserted herself into every area of Marilyn’s life. Fox studio executives wanted Marilyn to get rid of Newcomb. The director of SGTG wanted her off the set. Dr Greenson wanted to separate the two, and many of Marilyn’s friend’s felt that Newcomb had become a barrier they had to go through to even talk to Marilyn. Just how far Monroe had come to rely and trust Newcomb is evident by how Marilyn had her hide in an adjacent room so she could hear the conversation when the executive VP of Fox came to Monroe’s home for a meeting. No one was closer to Marilyn in her final months than Pat Newcomb.
The MCA Case. The MCA case plays a huge role in this scenario. This importance is readily apparent when a timeline of the developments in the case are overlaid onto a calendar of Marilyn’s last weeks. Also important is the brief paragraph in Shirley MacLaine’s memoir about Marilyn, Bobby and the MCA case. I believe MacLaine’s statement clarifies the rumors that were circulating at the time of Marilyn’s death. It was not only rumors of an affair, it was rumors that she was using her “boyfriend” to wage some kind of vendetta she had because of her break with MCA. Rumors of this kind could have been disastrous for her career. When Monroe was fired, she fought back not only in the press, but by sending telegrams to all her coworkers who were disadvantaged by cancellation of the film. She wanted them to know it was not her fault and she was ready to get back to work. Less than two weeks before her death, half of Hollywood suddenly found themselves without an agent. July 24, 1962, became known as “Black Tuesday.” The headline of the Daily Variety that day was “MCA DISSOLVES ENTIRE AGENCY.” The government, under RFK’s orders, had decreed that the company known around Hollywood as the “black-suited mafia,” could not sell off it’s talent agency as it had planned. It was just simply gone, as were the agents of some the biggest talent in the industry.
Given the rumors circulating at the time, isn’t it reasonable to assume Marilyn would want to tell everyone that the results of the MCA case were not her fault? We know from Ralph Roberts and Rupert Allan that Marilyn was reaching out to her old publicist for something important. Allan was ill and postponed the meeting. George Barris also confirms Marilyn wanted to talk with him about something important. He was out of town and promised to see her the following week. I believe that what she wanted to talk about with them had a lot to do with clearing the air about MCA. The government had decided to go after MCA long before she knew anything about it, I’m sure she wanted that known.
In Shirley MacLaine’s My Lucky Stars: A Hollywood Memoir, she says: “Marilyn Monroe was unhappy with her agency, MCA, during the time of her relationship with Bobby Kennedy. She went to Kennedy and complained. He commenced proceedings that culminated in the breakup of the most powerful talent agency in town.”
About two weeks before Monroe’s death, on July 20, 1962, Time magazine ran a story about MCA called, “After the Octopus”. Here are excerpts from that article:
“For months Hollywood and Vine has buzzed with gossip of a really big show cranking up in the movie capital. Producer: the U.S. Justice Department… Reluctant villain: the mammoth MCA Inc., which acts as agent for half or more of the U.S.’s top actors, is the nation’s largest producer of filmed television shows, leases a library of old movies for late-night…It would be an antitrust epic…”
One week before Marilyn’s death, on July 28, 1962, this appeared in Hedda Hopper’s column: Hollywood…Studio Workers Hail Return of Zanuck. Workers… Government Attorney Leonard Posner, who insisted MCA give up all its clients, is not popular here. (Source: Chicago Tribune)
Also in this same time period a Hollywood Close-Up editorial by Jaik Rosenstein read: “The attack on MCA is a blow that will set Hollywood back five years… This has all the marks of a deliberate vendetta against MCA, and the Justice Department is moving into an area of which it hasn’t the remotest concept… in effect what it has done is to imperil the one organization that has the chance of preserving and maintaining film production in Hollywood…” (Source: The Last Mogul: Lew Wasserman, MCA, and the Hidden History of Hollywood. Dennis McDougal)
In her book, Mr and Mrs Hollywood: Edie and Lew Wasserman and Their Entertainment Empire, Kathleen Sharp says this about MCA and the government’s case: “In New York, the grand jury made little progress because “witnesses were frightened to death,” said one prosecutor. Joseph Cotton had been threatened, Betty Grable had been bribed, and now even investigators were being warned about Werblin and Wasserman, supposed masters of skulduggery. “If you go after [MCA] too hard, watch out for the concrete shoes,” one federal attorney was told.
Hollywood’s elite assumed that Lew Wasserman was connected to the mob, even though few could explain his ties. But “MCA’s connections were an open secret,” said Robert Mitchum. “Everyone knew that Stein worked for Al Capone in Chicago. That’s how MCA got into the band business. During the Great Depression, Lew worked for Dalitz and his gang, promoting their lavish nightclub, the Mayfair Casino, located in downtown Cleveland.”
Cal-Neva Weekend. It took a very long time for information about the Cal-Neva weekend to become public knowledge. Even then that information was grossly distorted. What’s almost certain is that photos were taken, photos that included Monroe and Giancana. Six days later a columnist writes about a photo of Marilyn. What’s amazing is how few people think these photos are related. If we take Woodfield’s word, then Sinatra destroyed all the photos that were taken at Cal-Neva as soon as they were developed. But we have no way of knowing if Sinatra saved a photo or a negative without Woodfield’s knowledge. Even if no photo survived, the rumors did. I don’t believe Kilgallen ever saw the photo she wrote about in her column, I would bet she only heard about it. If my theory in Last Love is correct, this photo is why RFK was at Marilyn’s house the day she died, and the photo is what he was looking for. That assumption is not necessary in this workup. For this murder scenario, RFK’s presence the day she died is not necessary, nor is an actual photo. What is important is Marilyn’s reaction to the circumstances that led to the photo’s being taken. She must have been concerned about exactly what and how this was leaked to the columnist, and finally, how to contain the matter from blowing up in the press. These reasons; MCA, Cal-Neva and Kilgallen’s column, are why Marilyn is almost desperate to contact RFK on her last weekend alive and demanding to speak to him in person.
RFK’s Movie. Robert Kennedy’s movie was not only about Hoffa and the teamsters. The movie was based on his book which was about his time fighting the mob with the Rackets Committee. The book mentions Sam Giancana by name as a boss of the Chicago underworld and one of the top hoodlums in the country. There is no way that Monroe didn’t know who Giancana was. She knew him as Sinatra’s friend, but it’s unlikely they ever spent any time together. First, Marilyn and Sinatra’s relationship was very private. They seldom appeared together in public even at the height of their relationship. When they were together it was behind closed doors away from prying eyes. When Sinatra spent time with Giancana it was a “boys night out” type of revelry that Marilyn would have never been involved with. Second, she must have known of Giancana’s reputation as not only a gangster but a notorious killer as well. She, like Ava Gardner and Lauren Bacall before her, would not have been part of that side of Sinatra’s life. So if Marilyn had ever crossed paths with Giancana while she was in the company of Sinatra, any exchange of words between the two was likely brief, cordial and superficial. Given these facts just imagine how startling it was when Giancana and Rosselli, burst into a room and someone began taking pictures! She must have been outraged and would have demanded to know what Robert Kennedy was going to do about. It should be becoming clear that the reason Monroe was adamant about a face to face with RFK on her last weekend had nothing to do with being dumped.
In addition to this whole mess with Giancana, there is something else that was happening that would have upset and bewildered Marilyn. We’ve seen how RFK’s movie was going to be filmed by Fox studios. It was being produced by Jerry Wald. Wald was a friend of Monroe’s and the two had known each other for a decade. Wald had given Marilyn a big break early in her career by including her in the film Clash By Night. They had a good working relationship throughout the years. It was common knowledge that Wald had been threatened and harassed by goons trying to intimidate him into not doing the film The Enemy Within. Imagine how upset Marilyn must have been when just about three weeks before her death Wald was found dead of mysterious circumstances. I’ve read almost every biography ever written about Marilyn Monroe and I can’t recall one author ever even mentioning Wald’s death and Monroe’s reaction to it. His death also happened on the same day the Justice Department dropped a bombshell on Hollywood and accused MCA of antitrust law violations. MCA had agreed to sell of it’s talent agency and this move was totally unexpected. There is one clue that might show how much these events upset her.
The bill Greenson submitted to the Monroe’s estate after her death has been commented on by numerous authors over the decades. The bill details sessions with Marilyn from July 1 through her death. The first half of the bill indicates she saw Greenson nearly every day but always just one session per day. The last half details many days with double sessions. What was the first day with double sessions? The same day Jerry Wald was found dead and the MCA lawsuit was announced. Wald’s death was ultimately reported as a heart attack. But in later years his brother would make a cryptic comment concerning his death. He felt it had something to do with Harry Cohn. Cohn was already dead, but the gangster Cohn hung around with all his life, Johnny Rosselli was alive and well. Rosselli also had known ties to Hoffa, who desperately wanted the film shuttled. And that’s exactly what happened.
In the weeks before Marilyn’s death Fox changed management. Zanuck had just taken over when thugs came into his office and threatened trouble if the film wasn’t canned. That marked the end of Fox’s involvement with the film. Imagine how incredulous Marilyn must have been when her studio backed down because of mobster pressure and now Bobby appeared to be doing nothing about what had just happened at Cal-Neva. Marilyn had proven she was not bashful about talking to journalists about the mob. Near the end of her life, during her last trip back to New York, Marilyn was having a conversation with a British journalist and they were discussing books. Marilyn mentioned that she found the book The Last Tycoon to be too romantic in it’s portrayal of Hollywood. She said of the author, F. Scott Fitzgerald, “He’s missed out on the truly violent gangster element. The mob.” It was probably this same trip that Marilyn confided in Paula Strasberg that she was afraid of the mafia. Her fears were not unfounded. Her break with MCA put her in direct opposition to some of the most powerful men in Hollywood. Men with known ties to the mob. Now on the same day it’s announced that the Justice Department is pursuing a criminal case against MCA, Wald turns up dead. If Marilyn was anxious and nervous in her last weeks, I think you need look no further than these two facts to explain it.
Marilyn’s Publicists. It’s only in the last three decades that the term “spin doctor” had become synonymous with press agent or publicist. But even before the term was coined, spinning news was exactly what publicists did. The Merriam Webster definition of spin doctor is: “a person responsible for ensuring that others interpret an event from a particular point of view.” In the years that followed Monroe’s death that’s exactly what Pat Newcomb did, and she was a master at her craft. She learned from, and was mentored by three of the greatest publicists Hollywood ever saw, Henry Rogers, Warren Cohen and Arthur Jacobs. But that was just the beginning. They, along with Pierre Salinger, press secretary to the president, provided what you might call Newcomb’s “undergrad” education. She received training for her “masters” degree in propaganda when she joined the United States Information Agency, less than a year after Monroe’s death.
You might think that’s just my “spin” on what this agency does, but it’s not. Fitzhugh Green, author of American Propaganda Abroad spent most of his career in the United States Information Agency, and in his book he says that USIA is the “propaganda” arm of the government. For Green this word is roughly synonymous with “psywar” and “public diplomacy.” Whatever you call it, this agencies purpose is to put a favorable spin on the presentation of America life and culture to people in foreign countries. Newcomb was taught by the best how to promote a favorable interpretation of events to journalists.
And that’s right what she did from the very beginning. Many people have heard that Newcomb left Hollywood after Marilyn’s funeral, was photographed have a good time on the Kennedy yacht in Hyannis Port, and then disappeared to Europe for more than half a year. That’s close to what happened. Before her extended “vacation” abroad, she did return to Hollywood for a brief time. How do I know that? For some unknown reason, Hedda Hopper, like Liz Smith after her, was enamored with Ms Newcomb. She showed up in her column all the time. About two weeks after Marilyn’s funeral, in her column on August 22, 1962, Hedda Hopper has this to say: “New couple in town – Pat Newcomb and Pierre Salinger.” Newcomb did return to town and she came packing a big gun, the president’s press secretary. Do you suppose the two of them showing up in town had anything to do with the local press starting to ask questions about the strange circumstances surrounding Marilyn’s death? It was also right about this time that Lew Wasserman had made some kind of deal with the Kennedy brothers and the lawsuit against MCA just suddenly went mysteriously and quietly away. How many meetings and dinners with the big wigs of the local press were required to convince the local papers to just bury the connections between Monroe, the Kennedy brothers and the MCA case? History tells us that if that’s what they were doing, they were very effective.
But that’s not the only example of Newcomb’s fingerprints on how the Marilyn story was shaped and molded over the years. On her application to the USIA, under past experience, she said her job for Arthur Jacobs was to “write and plant” press releases. I wonder just how many ideas did she “plant” during interviews with Marilyn’s biographers? In 1963, while working for the USIA, it came to her attention that a man named Fred Lawrence Guiles was writing a screenplay for a filmed biography of Marilyn called Goodbye Norma Jean. Thanks to Newcomb’s “help and support” Norma Jean became a series of articles published in 1967 in the Ladies’ Home Journal magazine. These articles became the basis for Guiles’ 1969 biography, Norma Jean: The Life of Marilyn Monroe. For many years Newcomb had guided this work under the assumption that the relationship of Marilyn to the Kennedys was strictly off limits. However in his book Guiles refers to RFK as the “Easterner with few ties on the coast.” He goes on to say this married man who Marilyn was involved with “had come West mainly to work out the details of a film production of a literary property in which he had a hand and to escape the pressures of his work as a lawyer and public servant.” He didn’t call RFK by name but everyone knew who he was talking about and Newcomb never spoke to him again. She had helped manage the story for many years and was effective in not letting the details of the MCA case or the Cal-Neva weekend become exposed. But all that remained was the Monroe/RFK affair parts, and that’s what the conspiracy theorists grabbed on to and they have never let go. Even so, it would take four more years for the average America to take note of the cozy relationship between Marilyn and the Kennedys. It wouldn’t come to the public’s attention until 1973, when Norman Mailer penned his Marilyn biography. Because Mailer brought up the possibility of FBI and CIA, as well as Kennedy involvement in Marilyn’s death, he was roundly criticized. Maurice Zolotow, who wrote a 1960 biography of Monroe, publicly chastised Mailer in a six part series that appeared in the Chicago Tribune. Zolotow considers Mailer’s work the fourth biography of Marilyn to have been released after Monroe’s death. He criticizes Mailer, as well as the other three authors, for not speaking with Greenson, Murray and many of the other principals involved with Monroe on her last day. What’s interesting is the one person all the other authors had spoken to. Here’s what Zolotow writes in this 1973, Chicago Tribune article: “The curious fact is that except for Pat Newcomb, none of the other principals were interviewed by Mailer, Guiles, Hoyt, or Capell.” Curious indeed, only Newcomb was involved in ALL the major biographies of the 60’s and early 70’s. The “ever-present Pat Newcomb” continued to live up to that moniker.
Not that we’ve seen how Marilyn’s story was shaped in the decade following her death, let’s return to the last couple of days of her life. We’ve seen that Marilyn was trying to contact her old publicist, Rupert Allan the very weekend she died. It’s very possible Marilyn was going to talk to the press, and she was going to avoid Pat Newcomb to do it. The one thing, and possibly the only thing that all the conspiracy theorists got right, was that Marilyn had to be silenced. If any person knew how inflammatory Marilyn’s comments would be, that person is Pat Newcomb. She had worked with Pierre Salinger researching Dave Beck of the Teamster’s union in the very beginnings of the Racket Committee. Many commentators are convinced that she, or her father, is the one who introduced Salinger to Robert Kennedy. Newcomb’s father worked for the family of RFK’s wife. Newcomb, Salinger and the Kennedys would form close personal and professional bonds, even vacationing together. In her research, Newcomb must have become well aware of the many mob ties in Hollywood. She also new that if certain details were to come out about either the Dave Beck case or the MCA case, it would be very damaging for RFK’s career. A man she admired, looked up to, and according to Jeanne Martin, was in love with.
The Prescription Drugs. We’ve already talked at length about the Nembutal and chloral hydrate. I’d like you now to consider one more drug. The name of this drug is Phenergan. Until recently this drug received little attention and even now I believe it’s role in Marilyn’s death has gone undetected. Phenergan is commonly prescribed as an antihistamine or as sedative. I believe it was considered just one more sleep aid that was found on Monroe’s nightstand at time of her death. The prescription bottle found had been filled on August 3, the same day as Marilyn’s last Nembutal prescription. There were 24 of the original 25 pills left in the bottle. Because only one pill was missing I would guess that it wasn’t believed by the coroner to be a contributing factor in Monroe’s death. I assume that the one pill she did take didn’t show up in the autopsy because the toxicologist didn’t test for the drug. Why is it important?
If we look back to Monroe’s overdose at the Cal-Neva one week previously, we can see that what saved her life that weekend was that she threw up the drugs before she nearly overdosed. Our killer may have realized that this could happen again. Drinking large doses of Nembutal frequently results in vomiting. In doctor assisted suicide with large doses of barbiturates mixed with chloral hydrate, an anti-emetic drug is often required to prevent vomiting. It just so happens that another use of Phenergan is as an anti-emetic. In the Jonestown mass suicides I referenced earlier, Phenergan, in addition to a sedative and chloral hydrate, was included in the Flavor Aid ingredients. These three drugs combine to make a deadly concoction, whose intended use is to kill. Phenergan would be the perfect drug to hide a killers intent, it would be assumed that it was just another sedative, while it helped prevent the subject from throwing up the lethal mixture. The prescription for this drug has found it’s way to online auction sites just like the other questionable prescriptions, but this one is unique. First the doctors signature is signed by the same hand that signed the other bogus prescriptions, but the writing of the drug name, dosage and instructions for use are in a completely different handwriting. The prescription paper itself is also different. It looks very similar at first glance to the questionable prescriptions but there are subtle differences. It has a perforated edge and it’s clear that it doesn’t come from the same prescription pad as the other prescriptions that weren’t signed by Engelberg. The date, as previously said is August 3, the same day as Kilgallen’s column appeared and the time Marilyn started to make inquiries to locate Rupert Allan. This prescription could be an instrumental piece of evidence in proving premeditated murder.
In American courts, three aspects of a crime must be established before guilt can be established in a murder. They are means, the ability to commit the crime; motive, the reason the defendant committed the crime; and opportunity, whether the defendant had the chance to commit the crime. I’d like to end this chapter by exploring who had the means, motive, and opportunity to commit the crime. Once again, I’d like to remind the reader this is all hypothetical. This scenario is based on assumptions and theories that in the future may be proven to be incorrect. That being said, let’s examine the reasons for my belief that Pat Newcomb may have killed Marilyn Monroe.
Means. Only someone close to Marilyn, who she trusted, who saw her on an almost daily basis would have the ability to commit the crime. Pat Newcomb is the only person that meets all of these criteria. She was so close to Marilyn in her last months she surely had to know what was going on with the prescriptions. Newcomb has proven herself to be a smart, maybe even brilliant, capable women who maneuvered her way to the top of her profession. She graduated college with a degree in psychology. This training gave her the ability to read and manipulate people. She would have at least a rudimentary knowledge of medicine and the drugs used by psychiatrists. Dr Greenson’s daughter said that during his house visits to Marilyn he would confiscate pills if he felt that Marilyn had too many drugs on hand. Newcomb herself describes Murray as Greenson’s spy. Who else could have held the mystery prescriptions and hid them from both Murray and Greenson? Who saw Marilyn often enough to give her a daily supply of her medication?
Motive. Newcomb’s close personal and profession relationship with Robert Kennedy is beyond dispute. Official government files contain notes sent between the two complete with humorous pet names for each other. Her work with Salinger on the Dave Beck research must have filled the heart of this young woman with honor and pride, knowing she helped the man who would become the Attorney General of the United States. A secretary at the Arthur Jacobs agency stated the RFK would frequently call Newcomb, evening trying to reach her that last Saturday. Was Newcomb RFK’s eyes and ears in Hollywood? Did she consider herself one of Kennedy’s crime-fighters? How far would she go to protect her hero and mentor? What if Kennedy had told her, “Do what you have to do, just make sure Marilyn does not speak to the press about Giancana or the MCA case.” Marilyn probably wanted to clear the air about both. Surely she would want to tell Hollywood she was not responsible for a case that could have crippled TV and movie production in LA. Surely she would want to tell her fellow actors that she was not responsible for the turmoil that led to them being without agents. And what if she did go to the press? However minor her role in the case, it was inappropriate. The Justice Department has rules and procedures that need to be followed. Witness’s are supposed to come before a grand jury and give their testimony for the record. Marilyn’s agent had known about the suit before it became public. He said he knew because Marilyn had told him. As Anthony Summers pointed out in his book, “This is not the way government is supposed to work.” RFK was already getting a reputation as being an “end justifies the means” type of operator. Any type of impropriety would have been seized upon and exploited by his enemies. And where would that have led? Any type of metaphoric thread that Marilyn may have pulled by going to the press could have led to a disastrous unraveling. Three months before, keeping a lid on the rumors of an affair with the president had been difficult, now it might be impossible. And what of the Giancana can of worms? What kind of hurricane would that have unleashed. The potential political storm over Giancana’s efforts in the election would have been devastating for both RFK and the president. And if the scandal exposed the fact that Giancana was assisting the government in assassination attempts on Fidel Castro, it would have had horrendous implications for the security of the country in an already tense Cold War. There had to be a panic in high places. Newcomb probably didn’t know the full gravity of the situation but she knew enough. RFK wouldn’t have told her all the facts, but surely he conveyed the sense of urgency involved. So Newcomb knew enough to know that Marilyn couldn’t be allowed to go to the press.
One final piece of the puzzle concerning a motive for Marilyn’s murder can be found in Gus Russo’s book Supermob. He relates an anecdote told by Milt Ebbins, Peter Lawfords manager, that Marilyn contacted Sidney Korshak, but for what he didn’t know. As we saw earlier Korshak was the Chicago Outfit’s “fixer” in LA and Vegas. He was also good friends with Lew Wasserman, president of MCA. Why would Marilyn want to meet with Korshak? Probably the same reasons she wanted to talk with RFK, the Cal-Neva photo and the rumors Kennedy has started the case against MCA on her behalf. This contact with Korshak may be why we have never seen a full copy of Marilyn’s August phone calls.
Opportunity. Only someone who was with Marilyn the day she died would have had the chance to kill her. So here’s how it went down……allegedly. On Friday, August 3, 1962, Marilyn was receiving encouraging comments about her Life magazine interview that had just hit newsstands. But she was more concerned over an inflammatory Dorothy Kilgallen column that appeared the same day. She was angry, upset, frustrated and eager to set the record straight. For the next two days Lawford and Newcomb spearheaded an effort to calm her down and persuade her from doing something rash. Even her psychiatrist, who must have had some idea the gravity of the situation, was urging her to relax and let it go until things could be sorted out. Marilyn wouldn’t let it go and demanded to speak with Bobby immediately. She had already set in motion plans to make a statement about the rumors that RFK was attacking MCA at her urging. She couldn’t and wouldn’t put the fate of her career once again in the hands of Robert Kennedy. She spent the summer fighting Fox and their lawsuit, now MCA was threatening it’s own lawsuit, which is evident from the enormous bill it presented to Marilyn’s estate after her death. She was going to speak out. She made plans with her lawyer for Monday and was eager to speak with both Allan and Barris. Barris was already working with Marilyn on a biography, so who better to tell her side of the story. By the end of the day on Friday a decision was made. Marilyn had to be silenced. In this single murderer theory, Newcomb herself would have had to decide the only way to stop Marilyn from ruining everything Bobby had worked for was to have her die from an overdose. It had almost happened the previous last weekend. No one would be suspicious and everyone would assume Marilyn took too many pills. Newcomb probably convinced Marilyn to get another prescription of Nembutal from Engelberg by reminding her they were going out of town the next week and she would need a supply of medicine. Marilyn probably used the same logic on a distracted Engelberg to get him to give her another prescription. In addition to the Nembutal, another prescription was obtained that day, the one for Phenergan. Newcomb made sure she manipulated an invitation out of Marilyn to spend the night. She still probably hoped to get Marilyn to change her mind, but until that happened, she wasn’t going to let her out of her sight.
Saturday provided one last opportunity for Newcomb to talk Marilyn out of going public, but the discussions broke down, and turned into an argument. Events at the house that day left Newcomb no other options. She had to do something drastic. Greenson arrived to calm Marilyn down. Since Murray had been around all day, Newcomb was probably already holding Marilyn’s prescriptions in her overnight bag. If she had just left when Greenson arrived, Marilyn might have panicked watching her pills leave with her. Newcomb was forced to stay. When it became clear that Murray was going to spend the night she had to improvise. She waited until Greenson took a break from Marilyn to confer with Murray. While Greenson and Murray spoke, she then slipped into Marilyn’s bedroom with a can of soda and one Phenergan. She knew she didn’t have much time. She handed the pill to Marilyn and gave her the can to wash it down, telling her it was a new sedative she had just purchased. She then took the can from Marilyn and told her she was going to leave soon. She explained a plan that would ensure Greenson didn’t discover and confiscate her meds. She would hide the meds from Greenson and Murray by dissolving Marilyn’s night time dose in the can. Marilyn hadn’t sleep well Friday night and it had become an issue on Saturday. Maybe she felt Pat hadn’t given her enough meds the night before to get the job done. Newcomb probably had to assure Marilyn there would be enough meds mixed with the pop to insure she would sleep. Marilyn may have been unconvinced and asked Newcomb to also leave the remaining Nembutal. Later, when she couldn’t find these she called and asked Greenson if he took them.
Mixing barbiturates and chloral hydrate into a liquid was nothing new for Marilyn. The executive vice president of Fox studio had witnessed her do it with champagne in his presence. It was the perfect plan. Newcomb would only have to be one of the first people on the scene after Marilyn was discovered, so during the resulting confusion she could get the prescription bottles back into the house. Natalie Trundy, who would later marry Arthur Jacobs, said Newcomb had told her that she was the first on the scene after Marilyn’s death.
Newcomb told Marilyn she would leave the can in the phone room. Since Murray wasn’t much of a housekeeper she knew it would still be there in the evening. Before Greenson returned to the bedroom, Newcomb slipped out and into the guest bathroom, where she could mix the deadly cocktail undetected. Greenson had wanted Newcomb to leave, and now that Marilyn was sure she’d have her nightly meds, she let Greenson send her away. Greenson noticed the sedatives effects on Marilyn, but he may have given her a few Nembutal before he left. Marilyn had probably taken these and become drowsy before her conversation with Joe Jr. The excitement from the call reinvigorated her. She went outside for a game of catch with Maf.
Afterward she decided to turn in for the night. She entered the phone room, picked up the can and took it into the bathroom. While looking in the mirror she swirled the contents to make sure nothing had settled and it was well mixed. She drank the deadly cocktail down. The taste was bitter and she knew it was strong. Stronger than anything she had ever mixed herself. Knowing it was strong might have been a relief. At least now she would be able to sleep. When she finished drinking the lethal mix she threw the can into the wastebasket. Like almost every other night she grabbed the phone with the intent to makes some calls until the pills took effect. She left the phone room and walked towards her bedroom, stopping only long enough to wish Mrs Murray, “Good night.”