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Marilyn Monroe Mystery Persists : 23 Years After Her Death, Questions Continue to Generate Controversy

September 29, 1985|ROBERT WELKOS and TED ROHRLICH | Times Staff Writers

Eunice Murray would say later that she was not sure what prompted her to awaken that night, step from her bedroom and notice a telephone cord leading under Marilyn Monroe's bedroom door.

The housekeeper, who said Monroe was a light sleeper who usually kept her phones under a pillow outside the room at night, found the door locked. She grabbed a fireplace poker, walked outside and pushed back the drapes on an open bedroom window that was protected by security bars. From there, she could see the blonde actress lying undressed on the bed with her hand on the phone.

Murray went back into the house and telephoned Monroe's psychiatrist, Dr. Ralph Greenson, who had hired Murray to care for Monroe. Then Murray telephoned the actress' personal physician, Dr. Hyman Engelberg, and asked him to come over.

When Greenson arrived at 3:40 a.m. on Aug. 5, 1962, he took the poker from Murray and broke open a bedroom window not protected by bars and climbed through. Murray waited for nearly two minutes by the bedroom door until the psychiatrist emerged saying: "We've lost her."

At 3:50 a.m., Engelberg arrived and pronounced the 36-year-old screen legend dead.

It would be another 35 minutes before Engelberg notified police.

Twenty-three years later, Marilyn Monroe's death continues to generate controversy and focus new attention on the events surrounding her death by drug overdose and on the thoroughness of the investigations that followed.

Through the years, questions have been raised about whether she was murdered because of her association with John and Robert Kennedy; the exact time the actress' body was discovered; where she got the pills that killed her, and why an ambulance was dispatched to the scene when official reports indicate that she was lifeless when found.

Today, however, new questions are being raised about the conduct of the late actor Peter Lawford and whether he, in an effort to protect the Kennedys, participated in a cover-up after Monroe's death. Lawford was married to Patricia Kennedy at the time.

The allegations come from Deborah Gould, the third of Lawford's four wives, and from Fred Otash, once known as Mr. O, the king of Hollywood private eyes, whose clients included Frank Sinatra, Errol Flynn, Lana Turner, Howard Hughes and Judy Garland.

Gould was married to the actor for only a few weeks in 1976. She said it was then that Lawford told her details about Monroe's death and her alleged romantic flings with John and Robert Kennedy.

Gould said Lawford broke down and told her that Monroe had been distraught over a love affair with Robert Kennedy. She said Lawford recalled telling Monroe on the phone on the night of her death: "My God, Marilyn, don't leave any note behind!"

She said Lawford went to Monroe's house that night and destroyed a note he had found. She said Lawford was to "cover up all the dirty work and take care of everything."

Gould's account is contained in a new book, "Goddess: The Secret Lives of Marilyn Monroe" by Anthony Summers, who spent several years investigating the case with members of an independent television documentary team. The documentary, produced by the British Broadcasting Corp., is to be released worldwide in early October. Gould was paid for her interview. She refused to be interviewed by The Times.

Asked by BBC interviewers why she was coming forward at this time, she replied, "I'm only doing it because I feel something good perhaps can come out of this."

In an emotional interview with The Times from his hospital bed months before his death last Christmas Eve, Lawford tearfully denied Gould's assertion, which had appeared in a German magazine.

"It's all a fabrication. You can put me on a lie detector right now and tell me about that and the needle won't move." The Times offered to provide a lie detector test for Lawford but later, on the advice of his attorney, he retracted the offer.

"It didn't happen the way she's talking," Lawford said. "Even if those things were true, I wouldn't talk about them. . . . That's just the way I am. Plus the fact, I have four children. I'm not going to embarrass them. I'm not going to embarrass the rest of the family."

Lawford's last wife, Patricia Seaton Lawford, said of Gould's assertion: "I think Deborah Gould is fantasizing about a lot of stuff. Her only credibility is that she was married to him a short time."

Story Buttressed

Recently, Gould's story has been buttressed by Fred Otash, who said that he had decided to break 23 years of silence on the case.

Otash said that shortly after midnight on Aug. 5, 1962--hours before police were notified of Monroe's death--Lawford called him to say that something traumatic had happened. Lawford and Otash agreed to meet at the detective's Laurel Avenue office. Otash said Lawford arrived about 2 a.m. looking "half crocked and half nervous."

Interviewed last week by telephone from his home in Cannes, France, Otash told The Times:

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