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22 Year-Old Coroner’s Deputy Lionel Grandison spends Easter Sunday  at home with his son Lionel Jr. and daughter Crystal in April of 1962

The Case of Marilyn Monroe: Memoirs of a Deputy Coroner and Father

Most people grow up with an image of their parents that remains with them for a large part of their lives. It is imprinted upon us from the time of birth and quickly evolves into our own reality. Then suddenly, one day after our parents have gotten older and usually we have too, like magic, you begin to see them differently. Sometimes it may be good and sometimes not so much, but it’s always illuminating. 

In 2010, I decided to write a book about my father’s experiences with the case of Marilyn Monroe. For those of you who don’t know, my dad was the Los Angeles County Deputy Coroner, who signed her death certificate. During his investigation, he witnessed a cover-up of epic proportions and was forced to pay a huge price because of his discovery of Marilyn’s secret diary.


The decision to write this book was due to my father’s completion of his memoirs, which included every detail he had ever written or investigated regarding Marilyn Monroe’s case during the past 50 years. When he brought me his papers, I was stunned by the story he had told.


Although I’d grown up hearing about his ordeal and experienced some of its aftermath, many years had passed since the subject of Marilyn’s death resurfaced. By then, I had been married for 20 years had 2 children of my own. My daughter was already a junior in college with medical school in her sights, and my son was working with me in our family business. Neither of them knew the story of Marilyn Monroe, much less that their Grandfather had been involved. After reading my father's memoirs, I knew it was time for that to change. 


It is difficult to explain the impact his memoirs had on me. When I began to read his innermost thoughts about Marilyn’s case and how it impacted his life, almost inexplicably something changed. I began to see my father differently and understand the man he truly was.  His story was riveting, and when my reading was complete, I knew this information had to be published for the world to see. Before beginning to write the book, I shared the memoirs with some friends of mine who worked in the entertainment industry. They were floored just as I was. One of them, Cory Crismon, called and said he had a major Hollywood producer, named Anthony Rhulen, who wanted to do a film about my father’s life. Rhulen, whose producer credits included, “The Butterfly Effect” starring Ashton Kutcher and “Lucky Number Slevin” starring Bruce Willis, invited my dad and I to his house in the Hollywood hills, and presented us with an offer to purchase his life-story rights. 


At the time, he was in the middle of producing “The Rum Diaries” starring Johnny Depp, but we signed the deal and later did a huge story with Variety Magazine about our upcoming movie. Ultimately, the producer encountered some difficulties and the deal was cancelled. Meanwhile, I began writing this book, spending long hours going through my dad’s memoirs and talking to him about the case of Marilyn Monroe. (See Article)


His recollections and accounts about the people involved were mesmerizing.  He provided in-depth details about the days following Marilyn’s death and what transpired at the coroner’s office. He talked about his personal relationships in 1962, with Los Angeles County Chief Medical Examiner, Theodore Curphey and also the man who performed the autopsy, Dr. Thomas Noguchi.  My father personally knew nearly everybody involved with the official case. 


He talked about being only 22 years old when he walked into the office that Sunday morning and discovered her case was assigned to him. His memoirs thoroughly described the drama that followed including finding her diary in the property recovered in from her house.  Although I’d seen his diary notes before, subsequent years of his investigation made the information even more pertinent.


Interestingly enough, during my early twenties, I had encouraged my father to begin writing his memoirs.  In fact, with the help of my younger sister and brother, I began organizing all of his research papers, including the diary notes. We transferred nearly everything to floppy discs and gave it all to him for whenever he decided to begin writing.  That was the last time we talked about his memoirs. 


While writing the book, I was also reminded of all the drama our family endured during the historic 1982 District Attorney’s Inquiry into Marilyn Monroe’s death.  Most people have never experienced what it feels like when the news media decides you’re the hot story. During the 82’ Inquiry, our neighborhood was under siege with news trucks and reporters hounding our house like you’d never believe.  They persistently asked questions, harassing us and making life miserable for everyone.


To be honest, I really didn’t understand what was happening during that time. But after reading through the memoirs, my father explained details about that inquiry I never knew.  He wrote about how lead investigator, Assistant District Attorney Ronald Carroll, tried to intimidate him and what was said during his interview with my father. He painted a picture most people never understood about the investigation, revealing how the District Attorney’s office really wasn’t trying to discover the truth. Ronald Carroll died not long after my father completed his memoir. The Los Angeles Times wrote a very interesting obituary story about him, describing the 82’ inquiry and how my father’s statements were the primary reason for launching the District Attorney’s investigation. Although Carroll would eventually chose to agree with the evidence of Marilyn committing suicide, my father never waivered from his quest to discover truth.


Having investigated Marilyn’s case for half a century, my father has identified the facts surrounding her death like never before. The information is mind-boggling and connects the dots where other journalists have failed. I really believe readers will discover a Marilyn Monroe they never knew and gain a true understanding of what likely happened to her.


What is more important, now that our book is complete, is my understanding of what this amazing man went through. His struggles to reveal the truth about Marilyn Monroe’s death have led me to believe my father, Lionel Grandison, is an American hero. My only hope now is that by reading the book, more people will understand how he fought for Marilyn and the high price he paid.