Houck said perhaps the biggest development for investigators to mine in a case similar to Monroe's is a star's digital footprints: their phone calls, emails, texts, tweets and other online activities. Those all now "play a huge role," he said.
Monroe's phone records were incomplete, showing her outgoing but not her incoming calls, according to the 1982 DA's report. "That's not going to happen today," Houck said.
Despite other advances, autopsy techniques have not changed dramatically since Monroe's death.
Aside from its dimensions (Monroe's autopsy report is printed on legal-size paper as opposed to current, 8 ½ by 11 inch reports), the contents are similar to those prepared after recent celebrity deaths: a description of how she was found, detailed descriptions of her body — surgical scars, organs and all — and an accounting of prescription medications found at the scene.
"We forensic pathologists do talk about how much we're clinging to an old method," Weedn said, noting that basic autopsy procedures have been the same for centuries.
New technologies are available, such as CT scans of bodies, but they are outside the budgets of most coroner and medical examiner's offices, Weedn said.
The DA's investigation generally credited medical examiner Dr. Thomas Noguchi with doing a thorough autopsy of Monroe, including examining her body with a magnifying glass to check for needle marks.
However toxicology testing, which has improved since 1962, was lacking in Monroe's case.
Samples from Monroe's stomach and intestines were destroyed before they were tested for drugs, Noguchi acknowledged in his 1983 memoir "Coroner," and he quickly realized that would prompt alternate theories about her death.
"A variety of murder theories would spring up almost instantly — and persist even today," Noguchi wrote.
Despite lingering questions, photographer Lawrence Schiller doesn't believe foul play was involved. Schiller knew Monroe in her final days and recently released the memoir, "Marilyn & Me: A Photographer's Memories."
"Was there a conspiracy to kill her? No. I don't think so," he said in a recent interview. He saw Monroe mixing champagne and pills and forgetting what she had taken several times, he said.
"Did she lose track of what she was taking that night, to me that's more than likely" than any of the conspiracy theories.
Schiller said it wasn't apparent to him at the time, when he was 23-years-old, but Monroe had reached a low point. "She was deeply a lonely person at the end of her life," he said.
The DA's office agreed. "Our inquiries and document examination uncovered no credible evidence supporting a murder theory," the report stated.
Weedn said that while death investigators around the country are better trained than they would have been in the early 1960s, their offices are often considered low budget Policy makers "should recognize that everything we do is for the living," he said.
In Monroe's case that is certainly true, with generations looking at how Monroe died and still finding questions and "What If" scenarios.
Anthony McCartney can be reached at http://twitter.com/mccartneyAP
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