Marilyn Monroe’s Autopsy Report and Cause of Death

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Marilyn Monroe's Autopsy Report
Learn about the circumstances surrounding Marilyn Monroe's death and the autopsy report.

About Marilyn Monroe

More than 50 years have passed since the world lost the beautiful, beloved sweetheart and sex symbol, Marilyn Monroe. Anyone who met her, watched her movies, or listened to her music, clearly remembers the wit, charm, and beauty that she brought to life on and off the silver screen. This article provides an overview of the circumstances surrounding her death. In addition, it provides information on the investigation that followed and the results of Marilyn Monroe’s autopsy report. How did she die? Was it a suicide? Was she murdered?

Born as Norma Jean Baker, this blonde-haired American actress struggled through many problems in her life. Deemed the first true sex symbol of Hollywood, Marilyn Monroe experienced tumultuous personal and professional relationships. Though she starred in many different movie roles, Marilyn Monroe often portrayed the role of a ditzy, innocent, and well-natured blonde.

Circumstances Surrounding Marilyn Monroe’s Death

During the last few weeks of her life, Marilyn showed some signs of trouble. Before her death, she was shooting for the film Something’s Got to Give with actors Dean Martin and George Cukor. Considered to be an ill-fated film from the very beginning, Marilyn often failed to show up on set because of sickness caused by mixing sleeping pills with alcohol. The film was never completed, and the production company eventually fired Marilyn.

On August 4, her manager recalled that she was facing problems with sleep and was acting annoyed and moody. During that time, she spent most of her with her friend and psychiatrist, Dr. Ralph Greenson. He noticed her mood and behavioral issues and prescribed a barbiturate to help her relax. The same evening, Joe DiMaggio, Marilyn’s fiance, visited her home to discuss their former relationship and possibly rekindle a new one. Reportedly, she spent that day in a great mood and even spoke to her close friends on the phone.

On August 5, 1962, Marilyn’s housekeeper, Eunice Murray, found her in the bedroom, nude and unresponsive. At 4:25 AM, the Los Angeles police department received a telephone call from her physician that she had committed suicide.

Upon arrival, the police detectives found her lying in her bed, along with an empty bottle of barbiturates. In many cases involving self-administered sleeping pills overdose, the victim will experience cramping in the legs and vomiting. As a result, their body ends up in a distorted position. However, the police found Marylin in a seemingly comfortable position on her stomach. Later this led to speculation that someone else administered the drugs.

Marilyn Monroe’s Autopsy Report – How did she die?

According to the certificate of death filed with the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder County Clerk, Marilyn Monroe’s autopsy report states that she died of acute barbiturate poisoning due to ingestion of overdose.

T. Noguchi, M.D., the Deputy Medical Examiner at the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Mortuary, performed the autopsy on August 5, 1962. In the report, he states that the official cause of death was a self-administered overdose of sedative drugs. In addition, he suggests that the mode of death is probable suicide.

The toxicologist determined that she had taken a lethal dose of Nembutal. Nembutal is a drug used to treat anxiety, nervousness, and tension. In addition, she took a hefty dose of chloral hydrate, a drug used as a sedative.

As part of the investigation into her death, the Psychiatric Investigative Team revealed their opinion about her life situation and why they thought it led her to take her own life. They revealed that Miss Monroe suffered from psychiatric disturbances such as:

  • Severe fear
  • Depression
  • Abrupt mood swings
  • Unpredictable behavior
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Suicidal thoughts (including several attempted suicides)

In the months before her death, she was under the supervision of a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist recommended that she reduce the number of drugs she was taking.

Was she Murdered?

Unfortunately, through the years, there was a lot of speculation about exactly how she died. Was it that she took too many sleeping pills? Did she commit suicide? Also, several conspiracy theories began to arise about her death. For example, there was speculation that someone murdered the actress. But who?

Due to her connection to the Kennedys, some suggested wild theories, such as someone in the CIA killing her.

In addition, there were ideas that someone administered the drugs rectally through an enema. However, the autopsy results proved that particular theory wrong.

Documentary Reveals New Insights

Also, a Netflix documentary, The Mystery of Marilyn Monroe: The Unheard Tapes, suggest that whatever the reason, the circumstance surrounding her case were covered up. In the documentary, an investigative reporter conducted more than 650 people connected to the case in some way. During his research, he encountered the family of Dr. Ralph Greenson, the Hollywood psychiatrist who treated Marilyn during her final years until she died. Interestingly, the family gave the reporter access to the doctor’s notes from his sessions with the sex symbol. Here are a few things he learned:

  • She tended to have paranoid reactions.
  • He thought her reactions were the type that he felt were masochistic
  • He didn’t think she was schizophrenic

He felt that she was extremely troubled by her childhood which involved spending time in an orphanage and foster homes. He thought she had been deprived of a normal childhood. Also, she desperately needed a family. Because she couldn’t be treated the usual way (from a psychiatric perspective), she began spending time with the doctor and his family. He had to conduct the sessions at his home. As a result, the family began to get to know her as a person.

Then, she revealed that she had a new man during an evening at the doctor’s home. The person was very important, and she only referred to him as “The General.”

Investigation Reopened

In 1982, 20 years after her death, the District Attorney in Los Angeles reopened the case.

FBI File

For more information, visit the FBI Vault to view their files on the well-known actress. The FBI compiled information on her before and after her death.

Questions and Comments

Dead at 36, her family, friends, and adoring fans worldwide will never forget her.

If you have any questions about Marilyn Monroe’s Autopsy Report, please leave a comment below. Get the scoop on more celebrity drama. Check out more Celebrity Investigations. You’ll find investigations related to Prince’s Autopsy, Michael Jackson’s Death, Robin William’s Suicide, and others.

Michael Kissiah is the owner of Brandy Lane Publishing, LLC, which owns and operates a small portfolio of websites, including eInvestigator.com. Michael created eInvestigator.com more than 20 years ago after working as a private investigator in the state of Florida. Since that time, he has become an expert at how to find information online and has written over 1000 articles on topics related to the investigation industry. In addition, he is the author of the "Private Investigator Licensing Handbook", available at Amazon.com.

9 COMMENTS

  1. From the day I heard of Marilyn Monroe’s death I immediately knew it was plain murder. Call it a gut feeling. I had been tracking her for awhile and of course knew she had a relationship with JFK and his brother Bobby Kennedy. She had been keeping a diary while having these relationships and outwardly told JFK she would release what she knew. I have no doubt she would have. She apparently had phoned Peter Lawford and she was upset, but that is basically hearsay although the mood change in Peter Lawford after her death was noticed by many (he knew too much and knew what happened.) At one time his wife even said that Peter Lawford had confided in her, but she skimmed around what he’d told her and it was dropped.

    The way Marilyn’s body was found just looked staged. The bed sheets looked ruffled more than it should have been and yes, she did have bruises, but I believe she was struggling to save her life from whoever (more than one person I do believe was in on this) gave her a shot in the hip. There were still pills in the bottles by her bedside and it looked like someone had placed a pill bottle in her hand. Someone obviously covered her up just leaving the upper part of her body exposed. It took hours before her death was reported. That’s a puzzle. It was basically ‘clean up time’ and to be sure anyone involved and even the housekeeper kept their mouths shut and got their stories straight. When the ambulance came to take her away one of the attendance said he could hear her breathing, but that too was being neglected and kept underwraps. Her diary had been placed on the top of of her body when she was put into the ambulance, but mysteriously disappeared.

    What better way to get rid of Marilyn knowing she did have depression and other psychological problems so they could deem her death a possible suicide, which I believe was later changed to suicide.

    Thank you Michael for continuing to investigate this case as this lovely lady even through her worse days deserved better. The lie has to be unraveled.

  2. I am a private investigator who has been investigating Marilyn Monroe’s death for two years, and my investigation continues. I also have a petition out there demanding that Marilyn’s death certificate be changed to homicide. I have over 3,500 signatures so far.

    Pat Newcomb said the night before her death, “she was getting things done inside the house-she loved it. This was the first home she ever owned herself. She was as excited about it as a little girl with a new toy when I last saw her at 6:30 pm. Nothing about her mood or manner had changed. She said to me, ‘I’ll see you tomorrow. Toodle-loo’.”

    Physicians have questioned that, while rigor mortis could set in in as few as three hours, taking into consideration the time of the year, temperature, etc., it would be more likely to occur in a minimum of five or six hours from the time of death. It would be more likely than that the death occurred sometime between 8:00 pm and 10:00 pm on Saturday, August 4, 1962.

    Why did the coroner put probable suicide and not suicide if that is what it was? There was a bruise on her left hip, a common location for injection. There was no vomit found, which is common in overdose victims. The toxicology report found that MM had 4.5 mg percentage Pentobarbital and 8 mg percent chloral hydrate, which means she would have had to swallow 30 to 40 pentobarbital pills.

    I spoke to medical professionals who told me that no one would have died with such high blood concentrations as a result of orally ingesting these drugs. There was no evidence of these drugs in her stomach, kidneys, urine, or intestines – only her blood.

    The pathologist, Theodore Curphey, who performed the initial autopsy, wanted to do additional testing but was told Marilyn’s organs and photos of the unusual bruising had “disappeared.”

    I have spoken to Pat Newcomb a few times, and she stated Marilyn died in the cottage around 1:00 am. I asked her if she thought Robert Kennedy had a part in killing Marilyn. She hesitated for a little while and said, “I hope not.” Not no – only, I hope not.

    Dr. Greenson said talk to Robert Kennedy about what happened. Pat Lawford fell apart, crying, and Ms. Murray said, “why does she have to keep this secret.”There is more proof of homicide than suicide.

    It’s a good thing we live in a country where everyone has the right to their opinion and to find the truth.

    • and although it’s a small detail, I would like to share that the glass outside of her window (bedroom) was not from repairs; the window had not been fixed at that point; wood was used to put on the window until it was repaired *but* why would the doctor need to: go inside to the housekeeper that called him there, pick up a poker, go outside and out to the bedroom window, to knock it out? Logically, wouldn’t he had just knocked in the locked door (a habit by the way I read was not Marilyn’s usual habit) in? Anyone else would have probably done it that way, no?

  3. What’s the antidepressant drug Marilyn took that sounds something like “parneg”? I only heard it mentioned, so I don’t know the correct spelling.

  4. I took a look at the coroners report, and my conclusion is that she was severly beaten and a made up lie to cover it up was that her heart condition cause massive blood pooling thruoghout the body. No. Those are massive hemotomas from extreme bludgening force all at once as if two people slammed her face first into a wall.

      • there were bruises on her hips that did not end up being on the official autopsy report. the examiner that signed it admitted to signing it under the threat of losing his job, and that information, as well as actual pieces of evidence, ended up missing. the examiner and others have maintained that they were made to write the reason for death was probable suicide. keep in mind that there were three reports made; the first two were sent back as not acceptable and so were left with the third as being acceptable and the one put out to the public.

    • they held her down on the left side pillow over her face and did what they did with the drugs back and front you can see bruising

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