True Crime Writing.COM

Pravin Varughese's Death Investigation


Update: On July 13, 2017, a grand jury indicated Gaege Bethune for two counts of first degree murder in the death of Pravin Varughese. 

A 19-year-old Southern Illinois University student was found dead in the woods on February 18, 2014. The official autopsy ruled his death was a result of "environmental hypothermia." However, Pravin had several injuries to his head and body. The family commissioned a second autopsy and the pathologist attributed the cause of death to "blunt force trauma to the head." The local police interviewed the last person to see Pravin alive, and he admitted to striking him in the head, prior to Pravin running into the woods with temperatures approaching zero degrees Fahrenheit. Was it an accident, murder, or some other criminal mischief that caused Pravin's death? 

The Tragic Death of Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn Monroe lived what most people considered the American Dream. She was a movie star with fame, wealth, and unparalleled beauty. Her friends and lovers were a who’s who in Hollywood and beyond. Yet, beneath the surface brewed a woman in turmoil. Marilyn suffered from severe depression that manifested through destructive behaviors such as sexual promiscuity, substance abuse, and emotional detachment. She had numerous failed relationships and marriages. Marilyn was unable to meet work deadlines, and at times, she failed to even go to work, which resulted in studios firing her several times. At the end of her life, Marilyn engaged in daily therapy sessions and had a live-in assistant at the request of her therapist.

Fame and fortune did little to mitigate her depression. Over the years, Marilyn attempted to take her life at least four times. Based on her unstable moods and erratic behavior, she was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. Though her public persona was one of glamour and success, the personal side, the real Norma Jean Mortenson, was sad, depressed, and struggled with inner demons. 

At Marilyn’s Brentwood, California residence in the early morning hours of August 5, 1962, Marilyn’s live-in assistant, Eunice Murray awoke unexpectedly. She was alarmed to find the light on in Marilyn’s bedroom with a phone cord running under the door. After receiving no response, she attempted to open the locked bedroom door. Unable to open the door, she called Marilyn’s psychiatrist, Dr. Ralph Greenson, who proceeded to Marilyn’s residence. 

Upon his arrival, Dr. Greenson and Eunice Murray walked around the outside of the house to Marilyn’s bedroom window. Marilyn was lying motionless, face down on her bed. Dr. Greenson broke the window and climbed into the room, but Marilyn was already dead at the age of 36. The coroner later declared her death a suicide resulting from an overdose of sleeping pills. 

 This was, and still is, the official record of how Marilyn died. However, many of the circumstances surrounding her death do not support this conclusion. Eunice Murray later acknowledged that light could not be seen from under Marilyn’s bedroom door due to the thick carpeting. Further, Marilyn’s bedroom door did not have a lock on it. 

When Officer Jack Clemmons of the Los Angeles Police Department arrived at 4:30 a.m., he found numerous prescription pill bottles next to Marilyn’s bed. Dr. Greenson confirmed Marilyn’s unstable condition and noted her past suicide attempts. Regardless, Officer Clemmons was immediately skeptical. He could not find a drinking glass in Marilyn’s bedroom, making the swallowing of dozens of pills quite difficult. Marilyn had not vomited, and her body lay perfectly straight, which was inconsistent with his experience. Most people who overdose from sleeping pills suffer convulsions and vomit. This violent reaction usually results in the person dying in a contorted position. 

The police interviewed witnesses, but they achieved little clarity. Though Dr. Greenson and Eunice Murray originally told the police that Marilyn died around midnight, in a second interview, they told the police she died at 3:40 a.m. The more the witnesses spoke, the more confusing and mysterious the previous night’s events became. 

Relying on information provided by the eyewitnesses, Dr. Thomas Noguchi, who conducted the autopsy, estimated the time of death as 3:40 a.m. on August 5, 1962. On the contrary, Marilyn’s primary physician, Dr. Hyman Engelberg who was present shortly after the police arrived, estimated her time of death many hours before he arrived, based on the level of rigor mortis. Further, Arthur Jacobs, Marilyn’s publicist, was notified of her death the night prior around 10:30 p.m.

Dr. Noguchi concluded that Marilyn died from barbiturate (sleeping pills) poisoning. He identified the cause of death as “probable suicide.” However, according to the autopsy report, no sleeping pills, or traces thereof, were found in her stomach or intestines, but were located in her blood and liver. If she died from swallowing these pills they would have been found in her stomach or intestines. Based on the dispersion of barbiturates throughout Marilyn’s body, ingestion likely occurred over a period of hours prior to her death. 

Chloral hydrate, commonly referred to as a “Mickey,” was also found during the autopsy. It was found in Marilyn’s blood, not in her stomach or intestines. As a result, it was likely either injected into her bloodstream or entered her body hours prior to her death, though, no needle marks were found during the autopsy. 

The autopsy report noted “faint lividity” on Marilyn’s back and the back of her arms and legs. Lividity occurs as a result of bruising associated with a pooling of blood at death. When a person dies, the blood stops circulating, and gravity drives it to the lowest point in the body. Dr. Greenson and Eunice Murray claimed they found Marilyn lying on her stomach, but the posterior lividity indicates that she was on her back at the time of death or shortly thereafter. 

 The two persons who held the key to understanding what happened to Marilyn, Dr. Greenson and Eunice Murray, held to the official record, shrugging off obvious discrepancies and contradictions. However, the story took on a new twist when Dr. Greenson made an interesting comment during a taped interview:

               I can’t explain or defend myself without revealing things I don’t want to reveal…You can’t draw a line and say I’ll                              tell you this but I won’t tell you that…it’s a terrible position to be in…I can’t tell the whole story…Listen…talk to                                Bobby Kennedy.

Without provocation, Dr. Greenson directed a reporter to then attorney general, Bobby Kennedy, for answers regarding Marilyn’s death.  Decades later, Eunice Murray stated, “Why, at my age, do I still have to cover this thing? It became so sticky that the protectors of Bobby Kennedy had to step in and protect him.” Bobby Kennedy was again mentioned regarding the death of Marilyn Monroe. However, neither witness conveyed this revelation in a manner that implicated Bobby Kennedy in Marilyn’s death, just that he could provide clarity. Further, several people reportedly saw Bobby Kennedy at Marilyn’s house during her last evening alive, though it was never part of the official record. Elizabeth Pollard, Marilyn’s neighbor, saw Bobby Kennedy and two other men enter Marilyn’s house around 6:30 p.m. on August 4. A maintenance man for Marilyn, Norman Jeffries, also claimed he saw Bobby Kennedy at the house that evening. 
 
Bobby Kennedy entered Marilyn’s life through his brother, President John Kennedy. Marilyn met John Kennedy through her friend and former lover, Peter Lawford. Lawford was married to Patricia Kennedy, sister to the president. The sexual liaisons between Marilyn Monroe and John, and later, Bobby Kennedy, were an open secret in Hollywood. 

In May of 1962, Marilyn sang “Happy Birthday” to the president in Madison Square Garden in front of thousands of attendees. Her sexual delivery thrust the rumored affair into the forefront. As a result, President Kennedy cut off all contact with Marilyn. 

Marilyn started regularly calling the White House. She reached out to anyone she thought could help her contact the president. In order to smooth the transition, the president tasked Bobby with calming Marilyn. Bobby’s role as babysitter quickly turned into an affair of its own. During their numerous encounters, Bobby often discussed his job as attorney general, and many of the topics were sensitive. Marilyn, not wanting to appear unsophisticated, captured the information in her diary so that she could later research and study the topics. 

Bobby learned of the diary and chose to end his relationship with Marilyn. On the day of her death, Bobby flew from Northern California to Los Angeles to speak with her. According to Marilyn's hairdresser, Sydney Guilaroff, Marilyn called him shortly after Bobby Kennedy and Peter Lawford left her house. She indicated that Bobby had threatened her.

Marilyn was hysterical, and someone most likely administered a sedative drug via syringe or enema to calm her. The person was probably unaware of the massive quantity of drugs Marilyn had already ingested, as she had been self-medicating throughout the day. As a result, Marilyn likely died almost instantly from the massive infusion of choral hydrate or barbiturates coupled with the existing drugs in her body. Marilyn’s death was followed by a poorly crafted concealment. Her body was moved, the time of death was changed, and the scene was staged to look like a suicide. Whoever administered the lethal dose of drugs was protected from embarrassment and possibly criminal charges. 

Since someone administered a lethal dose, the result could have been intentional. It is a possibility, but the behavior of the witnesses suggested an accident rather than murder. Dr. Greenson and Eunice Murray clearly deceived the authorities regarding the circumstances of Marilyn’s death, but they did not convey fear or nervousness. Instead, they were relaxed and calm. When the eyewitnesses were pressed, they casually pointed toward Bobby Kennedy as a source of information on the death of Marilyn. 

Marilyn Monroe was a deeply troubled and conflicted person who connected with society through her beautiful smile and projected magnetism.  Her death was no less complicated. How Marilyn died remains clouded, but we are left with a vision of Marilyn as a famous and glamorous movie star, though the truth is much darker. 
 
​​​​Jenna Nielsen’s Murder Eight Years Later

Eight years ago, a pregnant 22-year-old woman named Jenna Nielsen and her unborn son, Ethen, were murdered outside a gas station in Raleigh, North Carolina.  The case has never been solved.  While unloading newspapers from her car in the early morning hours of June 14, 2007, Jenna was attacked.  ​​A vicious fight ensued that resulted in the perpetrator stabbing Jenna to death.  She left behind two young children, her husband Tim, and many other family members and friends.  

During an era of entitlement, Jenna woke in the early morning while most people were still asleep, to deliver newspapers throughout Raleigh.  One of Jenna’s first stops on her route was a gas station/convenience store in South Raleigh.  The location was partially separated from residential areas on two sides by businesses and a farmer’s market.  The other two sides were flanked by a swampy, wooded area.  On the morning of June 14, the gas station was not yet open and neither were any of the surrounding businesses.  

Two individuals witnessed a young man running away from the gas station around the time of Jenna’s murder.  They described him as 5’3”, with a slight build (120 lbs.), and dark hair pulled back into a ponytail.  They described him as being in his late teens or early 20s, wearing a dark-colored sleeveless shirt and baggy denim shorts.  His ethnicity could not be determined.  Based on the individual’s proximity to the crime scene and timing, the police referred to this individual as a “person of interest” in Jenna’s murder.            

Based on the eyewitnesses’ descriptions, a police sketch artist created a composite drawing.  After the sketch was released to the public, the police placed less emphasis on it as they believed it was misleading people.  Some research suggests that hand-drawn composites, on average, exhibit less than a 10% likeness to the source.  In this case, eyewitnesses only saw the potential perpetrator for a few seconds and it was dark, while he was running.  Notwithstanding these limitations, the Raleigh Police Department released the composite sketches as a means to publicize the crime and generate leads. 

 Interestingly, the eyewitnesses’ description and corresponding sketch have more feminine than male traits. Five foot three, 120 pounds, and a ponytail, do not traditionally describe a man.  The drawing also has pronounced feminine characteristics.  However, the police specifically described the person of interest as male.  It is not clear if this is based on the eyewitnesses’ statements or if the police have other information identifying the person’s gender. 

Based on the autopsy, Jenna put up a considerable, lengthy fight, but ultimately succumbed to a stab wound to the neck.  The perpetrator was probably at least initially caught off guard by Jenna’s resistance.  Since such a lengthy struggle occurred without Jenna receiving any slash or cut marks, the perpetrator likely only utilized the knife at the end of the fight.  As a result, the primary motive was probably not murder.  The perpetrator most likely intended to either sexually assault or rob Jenna. 

Nothing about the crime or associated circumstances indicated the perpetrator knew Jenna.  The perpetrator may have seen Jenna at the gas station during a previous delivery.  He could have orchestrated an attack for the morning of June 14, but this is an unlikely scenario since Jenna spent very little time at the gas station during deliveries.  If the perpetrator did not know Jenna and it was not a planned attack, then it was a chance occurrence, which seems even less likely.  However, some sexual predators seek opportunity rather than a specific victim.

During the 1980s in a New York City office building, a sexual predator waited on an empty floor that was under renovation.  He wore a business suit to blend with the office environment.  The perpetrator pushed the elevator button and then waited for the door to open.  If there was a lone woman in the elevator, he dragged her to a remote part of the floor and sexually assaulted her.  It happened numerous times.  The perpetrator attacked within a five second window of opportunity.  Jenna’s ill-fated arrival may have resulted in her entering into another predator’s narrow opportunistic window. 

One of the most critical elements in this case is the location of the crime.  The perpetrator most likely lived near the crime scene.  There were homeless camps in the woods nearby and a shelter down the street, but neither generated any concrete leads.  However, there are other residential areas near the crime scene where the killer may have resided.  As most people are creatures of habit, it is reasonable to assume that the killer may still live near the crime scene, if he is not already incarcerated for another crime.  Though Jenna’s murder may have been the perpetrator’s first violent crime, it is definitely not his last. 

Anyone with information about Jenna Nielsen’s murder should contact the Raleigh Police Department at 919-834-4357.

The Words of Lee Harvey Oswald

The short, complicated life of Lee Harvey Oswald intersected with numerous and questionable elements of society, which positioned him as a prime candidate for a conspiracy in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.  Oswald had defected to the Soviet Union where he married a Russian woman whose uncle worked for the Russian National Police.  Oswald was a member of the “Fair Play for Cuba Committee.”  His uncle was an alleged associate of the mafia in New Orleans.  Oswald’s interests and associations put him into close proximity to Cuban revolutionaries, organized crime, and various government agencies, both that of the United States and foreign governments.

No one has established concrete information connecting Oswald to any of the above mentioned groups as anything more than that of an acquaintance or loose associate.  Oswald may have been working for the Russians, Cubans, Mafia, and/or the CIA, but that conclusion would be based more on coincidences and associated connections rather than on clear, tangible evidence.  Oswald’s proximity to these groups, coupled with the government’s poor investigation of the Kennedy assassination, has led to considerable speculation and discussion regarding his motives and backing.  Even if Oswald’s relationships with the various groups were stronger than originally believed by the Warren Commission, it does not mean that one or more of the groups was aware of or behind any of his actions. There is no specific evidence to suggest any external backing for Oswald. 

There has been significant speculation regarding the extent of Oswald’s role in the assassination of John F. Kennedy.  The theories have ranged from Oswald as the sole player in the assassination to his being completely unaware of what transpired, as well as innumerable theories in between.  All sides have valid reasoning for their respective positions; however, by evaluating Oswald’s verbal statements one can provide more definitive information regarding his role.  The very words he selected exposed his inner thinking.  Oswald’s words betrayed him. 

Once the Dallas Police arrested Oswald, he made several statements on national television.  He repeatedly stated he did not shoot the President and declared himself a patsy.  However, what did he actually say? Did the words he chose convey innocence?  When evaluated closely, Oswald offered weak denials, and, in some instances, partial admissions. 

In addition to Oswald’s televised statements, several law enforcement officers interviewed him, though no recordings were made.  Notes were taken, but there was no verbatim account of the questions asked nor the answers given.  Based on the inability to read or hear Oswald’s actual words, we cannot dissect his responses to the police interview questions.  For analytical purposes, only the words he conveyed on national television from the time of his arrest on the afternoon of November 22, 1963, to when Jack Ruby killed him on the morning of November 24, 1963, can be utilized.  

Oswald’s statements on national television covered various topics. He addressed the procedural and technical nature of his incarceration.  He requested someone provide him with legal representation.  Oswald also emphasized his apparent lack of knowledge regarding the situation in which he found himself.  During one of his appearances in front of the television cameras, Oswald made the following statement:

          Oswald: I don’t really know what the situation is about.  Nobody has told me anything, except I have been accused of, of                 ah, murdering a policeman. I know nothing more than that. I do request for someone to come forward to give me, ah,                     legal assistance.

Oswald’s first sentence indicated that he did not really know what was happening.  The use of the word really implied that he did know what the situation was about on some level.  He knew why the police arrested him and why he was subsequently being questioned.  He just did not know everything surrounding his arrest.  Why does Oswald believe there is more to his arrest than what he has been told?  Oswald’s statement revealed that he expected additional charges even though he tried to convey his innocence and ignorance of the situation.

Oswald went on to say that “nobody told him anything” with the exception of the accusation of killing a police officer.  Most people would feel that the accusation of murdering a policeman is fairly serious.  It is a capital offense.  There are few crimes that draw the attention of the authorities quite like killing a police officer, yet Oswald relegated it to a lower status.  Why would he downplay the murder of a police officer, unless he was aware of an even more serious offense?  And he was fully aware of a more serious crime, the killing of the President. 

During a televised movement of Oswald in the county jail, the following exchange took place:

            Reporter:  Did you shoot the President?

            Oswald:  I didn’t shoot anybody, no sir. 

Oswald seemed to deny shooting the President.  What at first appeared to be a strong denial was not as convincing under further analysis.  Oswald was not asked if he shot anybody; he was asked if he shot the President.  He claimed he did not shoot anybody, which should encompass the President; however, it is a weak denial.  It was easier for Oswald to say he did not shoot anybody rather than specifically identifying the person in question.  It was not a direct lie, since he did not name the person, or so he convinced himself. He also did not answer the question asked.  He used the word “no,” but he placed it at the end of his response, so it did not directly relate to the question asked.

Later, during a midnight press conference, the police paraded Oswald in front of the cameras.  He was given an opportunity to make a brief statement and answer questions.  Before departing the press conference, a reporter asked the following question:

             Reporter:  Did you kill the President?

             Oswald:  No, I have not been charged with that.  In fact, nobody has said that to me yet. The first thing I heard                                    about it was when the newspaper reporters in the hall, ah, asked me that question.

In front of the entire nation, Oswald issued what seemed like an emphatic denial. Initially, it appeared Oswald delivered another clear and convincing denial.  When asked if he killed the President, he responded, “No.”  Or did he respond to the question asked?  What sounded like a denial of killing the President, when reviewed closely, was not.  His use of the word no was not directed toward the question.  When asked whether or not he killed the President, he stated that he had not been charged with killing the President.  Oswald offered no denial.  He avoided answering the question asked.   

Oswald went on to say that no one had said anything to him about killing the President.  And he added the word yet onto the end of his comment.  The word yet implied that he expected to be charged with killing the President, but he had not at that point.  Why would he expect to be charged with killing the President unless he was involved?  The use of yet is a window into Oswald’s frame of mind.  He expected to be charged.  He knew what he did, and, most likely, he knew the potential evidence against him.  He utilized semantics with his answer to divert the discussion toward the technical, legal aspects of his incarceration rather than whether or not he killed the President.  Oswald’s responses demonstrate his above average intelligence and cunning, but also illustrate a person who was being evasive.

Upon analyzing Oswald’s words we find an individual who avoided answering direct questions.  His statements were misleading and deceptive.  When he actually delivered a denial, it was weak.  His statements failed to convey innocence.  Oswald’s word choice demonstrated that he was not a patsy, but one who was directly involved in killing President Kennedy.