Tag Archives: Accident

WAS PRINCESS DIANA REALLY A HOMICIDE VICTIM?

It’s been 20 years since Diana, the Princess of Wales, was killed in a horrific car crash. This tragic event ended of one of the world’s most famous people’s life. It shocked everyone. Millions lined London streets paying respect to her funeral procession. Over 2 billion watched her funeral on TV. But Princess Diana’s death was far more than a loss to the world. It left her two young boys without a mother.

Circumstances surrounding Diana’s death are exhaustively investigated. Everyone knows basic facts that Diana and her new boyfriend, Dodi al-Fayed, were leaving a Paris hotel for a private apartment and trying to avoid the ever-present Paparazzi. They got in the back seat of a Mercedes sedan driven by Henri Paul—a hotel security agent. Diana’s bodyguard, Trevor Rees-Jones, rode shotgun in the passenger front.

But exactly what happened next is still cloudy. To escape prying eyes and cameras out front of the Ritz Hotel, the four used a rear escape route—sneaking away to the apartment. Several Paparazzi members clued in. They raced to follow. As the Mercedes entered the Pont de l’Alma road tunnel along the Seine River in central Paris, Henri Paul somehow lost control and smashed head-on into a solid concrete column.

The car was destroyed. Henri Paul and Dodi al-Fayed were dead at the scene. Princess Diana passed away from massive internal injuries two hours later. Only Rees-Jones survived. However, he had no recollection of what happened.

Those are the bare case facts. There were two extensive investigations. One by the French police and one by the British authorities who held a public inquest. Both inquiries concluded Diana’s death was from her fatal injuries—the result of a drunk-driving, motor vehicle incident with excessive speed a contributing factor. So was Diana’s neglect to wear her seat belt.

And both inquiries viewed the pursuing Paparazzi as a non-direct, contributing factor despite five photographers charged with manslaughter and three others prosecuted for obstructing justice and violating human rights. No one was convicted. But that didn’t end speculation that Princess Diana was murdered. In fact, Lord Stevens who oversaw the British inquest stated, “This case is substantially more complicated than once thought.”

Rumors ran rampant. There were stories of Paparazzi intentionally overtaking the Mercedes and cutting it off into the column. There’s an unresolved issue of a notorious white Fiat that’s never been found. The Royal Family were accused of masterminding Diana’s murder because she’d been impregnated by a Muslim foreigner. Even the British SAS and MI6 were implicated. And most accusatory was Dodi’s father, Egyptian billionaire Mohammed al-Fayed.

But where was proof the Peoples’ Princess was really a homicide victim? Well, two decades later it turns out that the homicide declaration was right all along. And the evidence—the undisputed truth that Princess Diana really was a homicide victim—is absolutely clear.

Facts Surrounding Diana’s Car Crash

Although Princess Diana and Dodi al-Fayed were officially an item, they’d only been seeing each other just over a month. That’s hardly enough time to get engaged let alone planning a pregnancy. Diana was far too smart than getting accidentally knocked-up never mind rashly getting married. Both of those stories are blatantly false.

They rendezvoused on Mohammed al-Fayed’s yacht before arriving by private jet into Paris on August 31, 1997. Then dined at a popular restaurant before dropping by the Ritz Hotel where the Paparazzi laid in wait. Diana and Dodi had a nightcap. Rees-Jones was nearby. Henri Paul made a plan to bring the staff Mercedes around to the rear door where the celebrity couple could quietly slip out. Then, Paul would chauffeur the group to a private apartment that Mohammed al-Fayed kept in the heart of Paris.

The plan almost worked. Unfortunately, the Paparazzi were crafty. They set several sentries out back. Diana and her entourage were spotted as they sped away. The time was approximately 12:20 am Paris time. Three minutes later, at 12:23, the Mercedes entered the Alma tunnel. Henri lost control and the Mercedes swerved to the left or driver’s side. It hit a concrete column support with such force the engine was shattered and the radiator shoved through to the front seat.

The Mercedes rotated 90 degrees counterclockwise and rocketed backward into the right tunnel wall. It came to rest but was so severely damaged that emergency responders had to cut off the roof in order to extract the crash victims. It was 20 minutes before Diana was freed.

By this time, the Paparazzi were present in full force. Some were arrested. Some had their cameras confiscated after taking gruesome victim death photos. The scene was nearly impossible to control, especially as word spread about who the famous victims were.

Emergency personnel reported that Princess Diana was semi-conscious when they arrived. She softly cried “Oh my God”—repeatedly—and said, “Leave me alone.” By the time Diana was pulled from the wreckage, she’d gone unconscious. Then she suffered acute cardiac arrest when laid on a stretcher. Her heart was restarted by manual resuscitation however her blood pressure severely dropped on route to the hospital.

Diana arrived at the emergency department approximately 2:06 am. That was an hour and a half after impact. She was still breathing and displayed a weak pulse. X-rays immediately determined she had massive internal bleeding. A thoracic surgeon incised her interior to drain the blood then found her heart’s left ventricle was lacerated. While suturing this main blood vessel, Diana went into full cardiac arrest. Extensive resuscitation efforts by the trauma team failed to revive her.

Diana—the Peoples’ Princess—was Declared Dead at 4:00 am.

The bodies of Henri Paul and Dodi al-Fayed were taken to the city morgue. It was a separate building adjacent to Diana’s emergency ward. Because of the massive crowd now assembling outside the hospital, the Paris coroner felt disrespectful removing Diana’s body past the crowd. He conducted an external examination in a private hospital room but didn’t order a full autopsy. The medical cause of Diana’s death was abundantly clear.

This left the problem of keeping Diana’s now-decomposing body in a warm room. The ER had no cooler. Pursuant to French law, the coroner legally authorized Diana’s embalming to retard decomposition while transportation arrangements were made to take her body to England. This was the right thing to do but led to fuel conspiracy theories, some which abound today.

Full autopsies were conducted on Dodi al-Fayed and Henri Paul. Both clearly died of internal injuries—both suffering severed aortic arteries which are immediately fatal. They had both been on the driver’s side which absorbed more of the impact. This explains why Diana was not killed instantly and why Rees-Jones walked away. His front airbag deployed but there was none in the back to protect the Princess.

Toxicology Testing on Henri Paul Found Interesting Results.

These are Henri Paul’s official and reliable toxicology results. They were later confirmed to be his through DNA testing to dispell accusations of evidence tampering.

Blood Alcohol Count (BAC) — 174 milligrams per 100 milliliters of blood or commonly termed a BAC of 0.174% (This was corroborated by his vitreous humor or eye fluid count being 0.173%, his urine being 0.218% and his stomach BAC being 0.191%.)

The legal BAC limit for impaired driving in France is 0.05% making Henri Paul 3 times over the drunk driving tolerance limit.

Small traces of the anti-anxiety medication fluoxetine were noted but were well within the therapeutic range. So was the medication tiapride. Carboxyhemoglobin and nicotine levels proved Paul was a heavy smoker.

Examination of the Wrecked Mercedes

Although the Mercedes was a total write-off, it was sufficiently sound to inspect. There were no mechanical defects found mechanically contributing to the crash. One tire was punctured but wasn’t a blowout. It happened because of impact. The brakes and steering were sound and the car was only two years old with low mileage.

Thorough testing was done on the seatbelts. All were in perfect operation. It was obvious none of the occupants were wearing their restraints, however, it’s questionable if Paul or al-Fayed would have been saved given the massive force of the left side impact. Overall, there was nothing mechanically wrong with this vehicle that made it veer hard so hard to the left.

So what caused the Mercedes to spin out of control? Did the Paparazzi cut it off? Did the mysterious white Fiat force it into the column? Why did a perfectly good car fail and, by the way, just how fast was the Mercedes traveling?

Totally fraudulent information circulated for years about the Mercedes traveling at 120 mph (190 kph) when it hit the column. Proof of this—they said—was the car’s speedometer sticking at that measurement. That’s rubbish. Total bullshit, like so many myths surrounding Princess Diana’s death. Truth is the Mercedes was doing 65 mph (120 kph), +/- 5 mph, when it hit the column. This was established by a meticulous accident reconstruction conducted by the French police.

Still, this is a significant velocity given the Mercedes’ gross vehicle weight with 4 passengers being over 4,000 lbs (1815 kg). The kinetic energy transfer of this weight multiplied by high speed resulted in Diana’s heart being—literally—ripped inside her chest. It’s surprising Diana lived as long as she did.

The real reason Henri Paul lost control is hidden in the details of the accident reconstruction report. It’s written in technical jargon but clearly understandable. There were no skid marks indicating pre-braking. No out of control swerve. One moment the car was going fast and straight. The next it cut sideways.

The Answer is in Tunnel Design and Vehicle Dynamics.

The Alma tunnel has a posted speed of 20 mph (30 kph). That’s for a good reason. The tunnel is low and narrow. It also sharply dips at the entry and is protected by a perpendicular drainage grate to keep the flat area from flooding with water.

The collision reconstruction analyst deduced when Paul declined the entry ramp and struck the bumpy metal grate at 65 mph, the Mercedes reacted by going slightly airborne. This reduced the road surface friction adhered by the tires, effectively causing a dry hydroplane incident. The analyst surmised that Paul, in his impaired state, never braked but misjudged an overcorrection and simply steered the fast-moving Mercedes into the column.

The Operation Paget Report

Many people who followed Princess Diana’s death story don’t know about Operation Paget and its incredibly detailed 871-page report. Operation Paget was a London Metropolitan Police special task force detailed to investigate conspiracy and murder allegations involving the Princess’ tragic end. They also addressed cover-ups. You can download it here.

The British inquest overseen by Lord Stevens relied heavily on the brilliant work uncovered in Project Paget. The police went to amazing lengths dealing with every listed allegation. They fairly answered with truth. They dispelled insinuations of government plots and sinister cover ups.

They established a fact—there were no credible eye witnesses to the crash and pursuing Paparazzi were nowhere in sight when the impact occurred. They even dealt with the white Fiat nonsense by pointing out white paint on the Mercedes door was probably from a previous parking lot incident.

As much as everyone wants to blame the Paparazzi for killing Princess Diana—well, that’s just plain wrong. Certainly, Paparazzi presence was a contributing factor as Paul was no doubt driving this speed to evade them. One can’t blame the Spencer family and Diana’s two sons, Princes William and Harry, holding the Paparazzi responsible for essentially murdering their beloved Diana. That’s a natural emotional response. But the Paparazzi, as individuals or as a  group, are innocent.

The truth is Diana, the Princess of Wales, was no accident victim. Her death was clearly a homicide. Let me explain.

On April 7, 2008 Lord Stevens’ inquest returned a verdict. They ruled Princess Diana was the “victim of an unlawful killing by the grossly negligent chauffeur, Henri Paul, who’s driving ability and judgment were severely impaired by alcohol”. The secondary contributor to Diana’s death was her failure to buckle up. Not the Paparazzi.

The jury made no mention of Diana’s death being an accident. That’s because they couldn’t rule it an accident. Death classifications are universal throughout the civilized world. Coroners and their juries have only five classifications to choose from: Natural, Accidental, Suicide, Homicide and Undetermined.

You can immediately rule out Princess Diana’s death as natural, suicide and undetermined. The cause and means of Diana’s death are clear. She died because of internal bleeding and hypovolemic shock resulting from injuries received in her car crash. That’s clear. What’s not clear to most people is why this can’t be classified as an accidental death. It’s because of the legal definition of homicide.

Homicide means a person dies because of direct actions by another person. A homicide classification doesn’t necessarily mean a culpable or intentional killing of one person by another. It includes lesser degrees of acts like manslaughter and criminal negligence that cause death. Homicide also includes deaths that result from any form of a criminal act including impaired driving. Henri Paul was criminally drunk and grossly negligent. He directly caused Princess Diana’s death.

That makes the Peoples’ Princess a homicide victim.

*   *   *

MOUNT EVEREST — WORLD’S HIGHEST AND MOST DEADLY OPEN GRAVEYARD

Mount Everest is the world’s tallest peak. At 29,029 feet—8,848 meters—Everest looms in the Himalayan sky at the border of Tibet and Nepal. Its massive height makes Everest the holy grail of mountaineering. Since conquered by humans in 1953, Mount Everest has been summited over 7,000 times by nearly 4,000 adventurers. But 292 died during this treacherous climb and 200 of their bodies can’t be recovered. They still remain—lying open on the rocks, ice and snow of this high, deadly graveyard.

Most climbers killed on Mount Everest perish in the Death Zone. It’s that dangerous place in the stratosphere above 8,000 meters (26,247 feet) where the air is so thin that oxygen levels are insufficient to support human life. In the Death Zone, there’s less than one-third of life-sustaining oxygen than at sea level. Human beings simply aren’t designed to go where an Airbus A380 cruises. That prolonged oxygen deficiency quickly guarantees death.

Every mountaineer prepares for high-altitude climbs knowing the perils associated with a lack of oxygen. But they still go there. We’ll discuss their motivation but first, let’s examine what physiologically happens when a climber suffers Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS). Several things occur.

Without sufficient oxygen, your lungs can’t oxygenate red blood cells. That’s vital for delivering hemoglobin-rich blood through pulmonary and tissue capillaries. This supports mitochondria in your cells. Without oxygenated blood, your cells slowly die and complications set in. You’ll develop High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE) as well as High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE). Your lungs and brain will bleed and fill with fluid. It’s like suffocating and suffering a traumatic brain injury at the same time.

Some climbers experience HAPE and HACE quickly. In others, it comes on slowly. But the symptoms and effects are the same with all. First to come are a shortage of breath accompanied by nausea and a headache. Vision blurs. Judgment is impaired. Extremities become cold and painful. Confusion and disorientation follow. Finally, the climber becomes exhausted and lays down to die.

Although HACE and HAPE are primary contributors to death, the actual mechanism is the cessation of brain function due to cerebral hemorrhage or cardiac arrest. It might be a chicken or egg situation but one thing’s for sure—AMS is impossible to treat without restoring oxygen. That means taking the ill climber to lower elevations or supplying them with an artificial oxygen supply.

This is far more difficult than it sounds. The Death Zone on Everest sits in that 2,782 foot (848 meters) range between Camp IV—the last point of human habitation—and the summit. In the Death Zone, you’re on your own if something goes wrong. There’s simply no way to pack an unconscious or disoriented climber down. It’s not at all practical to rescue them with auxiliary oxygen. That’s why nearly all the deaths occur in that small stretch on that big mountain. And that’s why their bodies stay exposed in that deadly zone.

There are so many open dead bodies in the high reaches of Mount Everest—they’ve taken on names of their own. Ghoulishly, active climbers pass by frozen and mummified corpses of fallen comrades. They step around them and over them in tight places like the Hillary Step and the Lhotse face. They look down on the open graveyard called Rainbow Valley named for brightly-colored mountaineering suits still cladding dozens of dead strewn about the crevasse.

Certain bodies are assigned names—gruesome as it seems. Green Boots is a landmark. He’s called that because of neon green climbing boots still on his outstretched feet while the rest of him lays frozen in the fetal position under a limestone outcrop. The area is so narrow anyone summiting Everest on the northeast route must step over his green boots on their way up. And on their way down.

Sitting Man is another famous corpse. There’s a sad story behind him. This unfortunate soul fell ill to AMS after courageously making the top. On his way down, this British climber progressively fell into the fate of HACE and HAPE. He was with fellow climbers who left him alone to succumb from a lack of oxygen and exposure to elements. Mountaineers from other international parties passed up and down beside Sitting Man. Everyone saw this man sitting in peril as he slowly passed on. But no one assisted because on Everest—in the Death Zone—you’re on your own when something goes wrong.

A woman climber from America became known as Sleeping Beauty from her immortal climbing accident. She’d separated from her climbing partner during a descent in bad weather. Disoriented, she stopped in the Death Zone, waiting too long. Her body stays stretched on her back alongside the trail where her brown hair waves in the wind and her lifeless eyes stare openly up at the heavens.

The most famous dead body still lying open in Everest’s lofty graveyard is George Mallory. He’s been there since 1924 when Mallory and Andrew Irvine died in the Death Zone. History records that Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa guide, Tenzing Norgay, are officially credited with being the first people to reach Everest’s summit in 1953 but there’s good reason to believe that 29 years earlier, Mallory and Irvine beat them to it.

Unfortunately, neither Irvine nor Mallory returned to tell the tale. They stayed near the summit and perished into eternity until one day in 1999, a group of experienced mountain adventurers stumbled upon George Mallory’s mummified cadaver lying face down on an open rock slide near the Death Zone. It appears he fell during his descent. Mallory was still in recognizable condition and his effects were mostly intact. His camera was never found. That might have contained confirming summit photos but something else was missing. Mallory promised he’d leave his wife’s photo on top of Mount Everest. His wallet was in his pocket and contained all documents except for the photo of his wife.

Since Hillary and Norgay summited in 1953, Everest has been a Mecca for mountaineers. There is so much demand for climbing positions that the governments of China (representing Tibet) and Nepal restrict permits. Still, there’s an overcrowding of space in this lucrative business. Climbers come from all over the world to compete for conditions on Mount Everest. And yearly, about 7.6 percent of them die. That figure grows each year.

Although most Everest climbing deaths happen in the Death Zone, there are many fatal accidents in the lower reaches. It’s partly due that assaults on Everest normally take place in 5 stages. This is a proven strategy. Practically every guided group follows this pattern.

  • Stage 1 is Basecamp. It’s at 5,270 meters (17,290 feet) and groups spend days if not weeks here preparing to ascend. Part of the reason is to acclimatize their bodies to compensate for the lower oxygen levels already found at this height. Acclimatization is hugely effective in delaying the effects of acute mountain sickness.
  • Stage 2 reaches Camp I. This elevation is 6,035 meters (19,799 feet). Climbers sometimes spend a few days further acclimatizing at Camp I before pushing on.
  • Stage 3 is called Camp II. Now they’re at 6,474 meters (21,240 feet) where the air is really starting to thin. Most climbers bivouac overnight and move up.
  • Stage 4 is Camp III at 7,158 meters (23,484 feet). There’s no time to waste in this oxygen depleted place. It’s a spot to rest, eat and hydrate.
  • Stage 5 is the last stop before summiting. Camp IV is at 7906 meters (25,938 feet). It’s just 94 meters (309 feet) short of the Death Zone. Here climbers spend little time as possible. They’re waiting for a weather or time window—making a break for the top.

 

Descending Everest doesn’t take the same stops. Depending on climate conditions as well as the climber’s physical state, they make multiple descent camps in one day. But descending has problems with pressurization. Descents made too fast brings on physical symptoms similar to acute mountain sickness. Quick, uncontrolled descents cause bad judgment leading to accidental death.

Despite the perils of AMS, HACE and HAPE, these contributors only account for a small amount of direct causes of death on Mount Everest. Statistics indicate accidents are by far the leading cause of Everest’s climbing deaths.

  • 29 percent are due to avalanches.
  • 27 percent are other causes like wind shear and equipment failure.
  • 23 percent are from falls.
  • 11 percent are the result of exposure and freezing.
  • 10 percent are directly related to acute mountain sickness.

So with the high odds of being killed on Mount Everest and bodies being left exposed in this high and open graveyard, why do so many adventurers want to risk their lives taking chances in the Death Zone?

That’s tough to answer. Each climber has personal reasons. Some are natural risk takers and thrill seekers. They want to push their envelope. For some, it’s all about ego and bragging rights. Some might be naïve. They simply don’t know what they’re getting into. If you have the money, you can buy a ticket up Everest.

Some dedicated climbers are motivated by business. Local Sherpas depend on guiding novice Everest guests. They’re well-paid, their local economy thrives on the mountain and they’ve been doing it for years. That’s why the greatest percentage—by far—of victim nationality is Nepalese. Most of them die in accidents, not AMS, as their physiology makes them much better suited to functioning in high-altitude environments.

Then some mountaineers are motivated by a macabre sense of brushing the face of death. They may have personal fears to conquer—something to prove to themselves or others. Perhaps they don’t think it’ll happen to them. Being surrounded by danger is a fix. It’s something an adrenaline junkie craves. Maybe for a few, they enjoy being suicidal. Climbing Everest is like loading one round in a revolver, spinning the cylinder, putting the barrel in your mouth and pulling the trigger. If you survive, then climbing Mount Everest was probably a good idea.

But maybe the real reason why people climb mountains like Everest was best summed by George Mallory himself. Asked why he wanted to do it, Mallory said, “Because it’s there.”

WAS MARILYN MONROE MURDERED?

A1No movie star lived on after death like Marilyn Monroe. She was far more than a bleached-blonde bombshell with a voluptuous frame and a lusty voice—she intuitively knew her craft. Born in poverty as Norma Jean Mortenson (aka Baker) to a mentally unstable mother, Marilyn Monroe rose to Hollywood glamor, fame, and idolization beyond what few ever reached. Tragically, by the time she died at age thirty-six, her performing career had spiraled into the same abyss her personal relationships and head space were already in.

MM10Marilyn Monroe was found dead in her Beverly Hills bed at 3 a.m. on Sunday, August 5, 1962. The scene suggested nothing suspicious—no foul play, that is—and the toxicology results from her autopsy proved she’d succumbed to a lethal dose of prescription drugs. The coroner ruled her death as “probable suicide” but, like the deaths of other uber-celebrities, many mumbled murder. Monroe’s death was reinvestigated in 1992 by the Los Angeles District Attorney who came to the same conclusion—“probable suicide”.

In today’s coroner-speak, “probable” is not in the official vocabulary. Neither is “possibly”. Everywhere in the civilized world, coroners are mandated by legislation to rule a manner of death as being in one of five categories: natural, homicide, accidental, suicide, or undetermined. Now, fifty-four years later, an impartial look at Monroe’s case facts indicate her manner of death should not be ruled as a suicide.

But was Marilyn Munroe actually murdered?

A7On the day of her death, Marilyn Monroe was in the company of many people, none of who reported any immediately implied threat or perceived action from Monroe that suggested an imminent danger of suicide, nor any behavior that was outside of her already troubled mental state of manic highs and depressive lows. She’d a history of emotional instability that, today, would likely be classified as Bipolar II Disorder and she was under the continual care of a general physician and a psychiatrist. Monroe was no stranger to prescription pharmaceuticals, specifically anti-depressants and sleeping pills, but she was a relatively light alcohol drinker.

Marilyn Monroe had a difficult year in 1961. She worked very little due to health issues. Besides her emotional imbalance and substance dependency, she underwent surgery for endometriosis (uterus ailment) and a cholecystectomy (gall bladder removal), then suffered a painful attack of sinusitis. Her stress level soared from a lawsuit with 20th Century Fox where they sued Monroe for breach of contract—her erratic behavior led to delays in filming, disputes with cast and crew, then finally a stop of production.

A14On Saturday morning, August 4, Marilyn Monroe met with her official photographer and discussed an upcoming Playboy deal, then kept a massage appointment, a meeting with her publicist, talked with friends on the phone, and signed for deliveries for her house renovation. She was visited by her psychiatrist, Dr. Ralph Greenson, in the late afternoon for a scheduled therapy session. Greenson left around 7 p.m. and reported no alarming behavior, however he ensured that Monroe’s housekeeper, Eunice Murray, would be staying overnight.

Marilyn Monroe retired to her bedroom around 8 p.m. The last person to have contact with Monroe was actor Peter Lawford who invited her to a Hollywood party. He reported that in their phone conversation Monroe sounded tired—sleepy—as under the influence of drugs. After their call, Lawford became alarmed and phoned back to the house where he got Murray. She assured him everything was fine with Monroe.

A22At 3 a.m. on Sunday morning, Eunice Murray woke and noticed light coming from under Monroe’s bedroom door. Sensing something not right, Murray tapped on the door. There was no response so she tried the handle and found it locked, which she stated was unusual.

Now alarmed, Murray phoned Dr. Greenson who instructed her to go outside and look through the bedroom window. She did and observed Marilyn Monroe lying facedown on the bed, covered in a sheet, and clutching a telephone receiver in her right hand.

Greenson arrived at approximately 3:20 a.m., broke the window with a fireplace poker, and climbed in. Immediately he could tell Monroe had been dead for some time and it was pointless to call an ambulance or attempt resuscitation. Greenson phoned Monroe’s physician, Dr. Hyman Engelberg, who arrived at around 3:50 a.m. Engelberg examined Monroe by removing the phone receiver and rolling her over, officially pronouncing death. At 4:25 a.m. they notified the LAPD.

MM2The attending detective agreed with the two doctors that there was nothing to indicate foul play and the death was most likely a drug overdose. The detective photographed the scene and recorded the “pill count” of the pharmaceutical vials on Monroe’s nightstand. Dr. Engelberg noted a vial containing twenty-five capsules of the barbiturate Nembutal that he’d prescribed two days earlier was empty. Vials with other prescriptions appeared in order including one containing the sleeping sedative Chloral Hydrate.

Marilyn Monroe was autopsied on the morning of August 6 by pathologist Dr. Thomas Noguchi who would later be known as “Coroner To The Stars” for his many postmortem exams on celebrities. His original autopsy report is on the public record and can be downloaded. Click Here.

A20Noguchi is very clear in his report and many subsequent interviews that he found no evidence of physical trauma—specifically needle marks—on Monroe’s body. Based on his observations and those of Drs. Greenson and Engelberg regarding Monroe’s rigor, livor, algor, and palor mortis conditions, he felt reasonable to estimate her time of death between 8 and no later than 10 p.m. the previous night. Noguchi found no natural cause of death and waited for the toxicology report before forming his final conclusions.

The tox screen was done by the LA County Coroner’s laboratory and released on August 13. The results concluded  Monroe’s blood contained 4.5 milligrams (percent) of Nembutal and 8.0 milligrams (percent) of Chloral Hydrate. Her liver contained 13.0 milligrams (percent) of Pentobarbital. Blood ethanol (alcohol) was absent.

MM8

 

Noguchi was satisfied the combination of Nembutal and Chloral Hydrate levels in Monroe was sufficiently high to cause her death through respiratory and central nervous system failure and he knew the Pentobarbital stored in her liver was simply indicative of someone who had long exposure to barbiturates and developed a “tolerance”. Noguchi certified the cause as “acute barbiturate poisoning due to ingestion of overdose” but he was reluctant to rule the classification as “suicide”. Though Noguchi was certain no evidence existed to suggest the death was an intentional homicide, he was uncomfortable with there being no clear evidence that Monroe intended to take her own life.

There were no immediate threats, no suicide note, no warning behavior, and not all the Chloral Hydrate pills were consumed, not like the Nembutal.

A23It might be an accidental OD, Noguchi thought, and he was troubled by the fact Monroe had been prescribed the amounts of Nembutal and Chloral Hydrate at the same time—her physician had to have known they’d be lethal if mixed a large quantity.

Noguchi was under pressure—political pressure, if you will—from the elected Chief Coroner of Los Angeles County to shut down media speculation that there might be more to Monroe’s death than a sad case of a despondent star intentionally extinguishing her light. The Chief and Noguchi reached a temporary compromise that they’d say Monroe’s death was a “probable” suicide.

A21Noguchi didn’t go so far as to insinuate negligence by Monroe’s caregivers might be the smoking gun, yet he requested a “psychological autopsy” to investigate Marilyn Monroe’s mental state leading to her death. Without clear evidence of an intentional suicide, the pattern of Monroe’s behavior was crucial in corroborating a suicide rule.

This statement was issued by LA County Chief Coroner Theodore J. Curphey. It’s an addendum to Noguchi’s final autopsy report:

“Following is the summary report by the Psychiatric Investigative Team which assisted me in collecting information in this case. The team was headed by Robert Litman, M.D., Norman Farberow. Ph. D., and Norman Tabachnick, M.D.:

‘Marilyn Monroe died on the night of August 4th or the early morning of August 5th, 1962. Examination by the toxicology laboratory indicates that death was due to a self-administered overdose of sedative drugs. We have been asked, as consultants, to examine the life situation of the deceased and to give an opinion of the intent of Miss Monroe when she ingested the sedative drugs which caused her death. From the data obtained, the following points are the most important and relevant:
Miss Monroe suffered from psychiatric disturbance for a long time. She experienced severe fears and frequent depressions. Mood changes were abrupt and unpredictable. Among symptoms of disorganization, sleep disturbance was prominent, for which she had been taking sedative drugs for many years. She was thus familiar with and experienced in the use of sedative drugs and well aware of their dangers.
Recently, one of the main objectives of her psychiatric treatment had been the reduction of her intake of drugs. This has been partly successful during the last two months. She was reported to be following doctor’s orders in her use of drugs; and the amount of drugs found in her home at the time of her death was not unusual.
In our investigation, we have learned that Miss Monroe had often expressed wishes to give up, to withdraw, and even to die. On more than one occasion in the past, when disappointed and depressed, she made a suicide attempt using sedative drugs. On these occasions, she had called for help and had been rescued.
From the information collected about the events on the evening of August 4th, it is our opinion that the same pattern was repeated except for the rescue. It has been our practice with similar information collected in other cases in the past to recommend a certification for such deaths as a probable suicide.
Additional clues for suicide provided by the physical evidence are:
(1) the high level of barbiturates and chloral hydrate in the blood, which, with other evidence from the autopsy, indicate the probable ingestion of a large amount of drugs in a short period of time;
(2) the completely empty bottle of Nembutal, the prescription for which was filled the day before the ingestion of drugs; and
(3) the locked door which was unusual.’

MM7

Now that the final toxicological report and that of the psychiatric consultants have been received and considered, it is my conclusion that the death of Marilyn Monroe was caused by a self-administered overdose of sedative drugs and that the mode of death is probable suicide.

– Theodore J. Curphey, M.D. Chief Medical Examiner-Coroner for the County of Los Angeles, August 13, 1962.”

There’s that word “probable” again.

A24In my time as a police officer and coroner, I’ve attended many drug overdose deaths. Some were clearly suicides, backed-up by threats and notes. Some were accidents by misadventure, usually mixed with alcohol. And some were undetermined—not shown to have a definite intent by the decedent to take their own life.

I’d say some of the undetermined deaths were probably suicides—if I could say it. But a coroner doesn’t have the legal option to say “probably”. There’s a long-held  court ruling called the Beckon Test that states a death can only be classified as a suicide if it can be determined that the individual knew the consequences of their actions would end in death and intentionally carried them out. There is a high standard of proof required for a finding of suicide as the ruling states:

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“In most legal cases the test to be satisfied is a balance of probability. But a determination of suicide can only be made where there is clear and convincing evidence. There is to be a presumption against suicide at the outset and one must be certain beyond a high degree of probability that the death was a suicide. Where one cannot be absolutely certain, the death must be classified as undetermined.”

Based on my death investigation experience, there are three points about Marilyn Monroe’s suicide ruling that bother me.

First, in all the polypharmacy overdoses I’ve seen where suicide was obvious, the deceased downed the whole darned stash.

A30In Monroe’s case, Dr. Engelberg prescribed her 50 caps of 500 mg Chloral Hydrate on July 31 as a refill for a previous Chloral Hydrate order on July 25. She was taking 10 per day. At her death scene, there were still 10 Chloral Hydrate caps left in her bedside vial. 40 were gone and, at a rate of 10 per day from July 31 till August 4, the pill count is right in order.

In the toxicology world, the effects of drugs are rated on a range scale of Therapeutic, Toxic, and Lethal. In the Lethal range, the substance is given a value called LD50 where it’s expected that 50 percent of the population would be expected to die from the drug’s effect at a certain point based upon the drug’s milligram blood content per the kilogram weight of the person.

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Marilyn Monroe’s autopsy report recorded her weight at 117 pounds or 53.2 kilograms. The Chloral Hydrate level in her blood was determined to be 8.0 milligrams (percent) based on her weight or 80 parts per million (ppm). Looking at my toxicology scale from my coroner days, I see that Chloral Hydrate has a Therapeutic range to 30 ppm and an LD50 value at 100 ppm, so Monroe was 20% under the Chloral Hydrate lethal bar.

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Looking at her barbiturate blood content from the Nembutal, it’s recorded to be 4.5 mg (percent) or 45 ppm. My chart says the barbiturate Pentobarbital, which is what’s in Nembutal, has a Therapeutic range to 12 ppm and an LD50 at 40 ppm. So Monroe was only 12.5 % over the average barbiturate lethal threshold, not taking into account that she was a very “tolerant” user.

However, the combination of Chloral Hydrate and Nembutal was deadly and this had to be known by Dr. Engelberg when he ordered Monroe’s prescription. This brings me to my second point.

A29A physician has a professional duty of care to their patient, especially when prescribing medication to a person with Monroe’s mental history. I find it irresponsible, actually negligent, that Dr. Engelberg failed to ensure Monroe no longer had Chloral Hydrate in her possession when he issued her a prescription for 25, 1500 mg caps of Nembutal four days later, knowing her supply of Chloral Hydrate wasn’t exhausted based on her prescribed consumption.

My third point deals with the “rescue” issue.

This very much applies to the Beckon Test. Intentional overdoses as attention-getting devices are common and always rely on the person’s backup plan that someone will intervene. This was part of Monroe’s previous overdose episodes as noted in the “psychological autopsy” report. And they referenced Monroe’s locked door as being unusual.

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I think the locked door issue is completely negated by the fact that Monroe was found with her telephone receiver in hand. This was stated by Eunice Murray, Dr. Greenson, Dr. Engelberg, and corroborated by the investigating detective who verified they reported this to him and suggested she was phoning for rescue—which was her pattern—but was overcome.

If I were the coroner ruling on the manner of Marilyn Monroe’s death, I’d be legally bound to consider how the facts apply to the parameter of categories.

MM1A natural cause determination is completely eliminated by the autopsy and toxicology evidence. Monroe clearly died as the result of a drug overdose.

Despite kooky conspiracy theories that Bobby Kennedy snuck in and injected Marilyn Monroe to cover up her alleged affair with President Jack or that mobsters Jimmy Hoffa and Sam Giancana knocked her off to keep from ratting them out, no sensible person can make a case that Monroe was intentionally murdered. But a homicide ruling doesn’t just apply to murder. The definition of homicide is “the killing of a human being due to the act or omission of another”.

I believe Dr. Engelberg was professionally negligent in his duty of care to Marilyn Monroe. He had to know—certainly ought to have known—that he was treating an emotionally unstable patient with a history of suicide attempts through polypharmacy. By giving Monroe a potentially lethal amount of barbiturates and not ensuring her chloral hydrate was gone, Engelberg effectively signed her death warrant.

However negligent Engelberg may have been, though, my suspicion falls far short of the burden necessary for establishing a homicide conclusion.

A3That Monroe accidently died from a self-administered overdose is a distinct probability but, again, the Coroners Act and court precedents won’t allow me the liberty to rely on probabilities regarding suicide. I have to come to a clear conclusion based on facts.

Setting aside the locked door and phone receiver in hand—these two negate each other—I must defer to one other glaring fact. There were still 10 caps of Chloral Hydrate left in her pill vial. Marilyn Monroe was a very experienced and tolerant prescription pill user. She knew exactly what she was taking, what their effects were, and she failed to down her whole darned stash which is always proof of a polypharmacy overdose suicide.

A4So deferring to the Beckon Test, I have to presume against Marilyn Monroe’s suicide from the outset and must be satisfied beyond a high degree of probability that her death was a suicide—I must be certain—and I can’t—because no clear evidence exists that Monroe’s death was an intentional act to end her own life. It may well have been an unfortunate, unrescued accident.

Therefore, I find Marilyn Monroe’s manner of death as Undetermined.