The goings-on at Graceland on the morning and afternoon of August 16, 1977, leave a lot of questions unanswered. Assuming the questions are asked, of course. Below, I’d like to look at a few of these questions as they pertain to the clean-up and removal of medications from the upstairs suite, and then in Part III I’ll take a closer look at one specific aspect of the clean-up that day, one that clearly illustrates the serious informational problem we have in Elvis World.
Elvis on August 16, 1977: While at Graceland on August 16, 1977, Elvis was reportedly in the following locations: upstairs in his bedroom (very early morning), out at the racquetball court (mid-morning), upstairs in the bathroom after racquetball (around 6:00am, with Billy Smith), in the bedroom (for 1-2 hours), then back in the bathroom (9:00am or so, alone, to read).
David Stanley: Came on duty at 12:00pm (noon). States that he cleaned up the drugs in Elvis’s bathroom after Elvis was taken to Baptist Memorial Hospital (BMH). Also notes that he saw syringes next to the body on the floor, and pills “all around.”
Rick Stanley: Was on duty from early morning until 12:00pm (noon). Picked up prescription from Dr. Nick around 3:00am-4:00am and had it filled at the BMH pharmacy. Pharmacist W. S. Nash stated that this prescription was for 6 Dilaudid tablets (4mg each). This runs counter to every other claim as to the number of pills (usually 2 or 4, or “a couple”).
Joe Esposito: Said the maids had cleaned the rooms but had not removed the drugs. (Why clean the rooms but *not* remove the drugs? “The drugs” was the reason the rooms were cleaned in the first place.) He stated that he, Billy Smith, and Al Strada collected the prescription medications and syringes. The items filled two grocery bags, and when they were finished Esposito said that the room was “absolutely clean, suspiciously so.”
Nancy Rooks: Claims that she and Aunt Delta cleaned up Elvis’s bedroom and bathroom, at Delta’s direction, and removed all prescription bottles and medications, filling two small plastic bags. Rooks also states that she picked up “a few syringes.”
Al Strada: Helped gather up and remove evidence of drug use.
Dr. Nichopoulos: Was at Doctors Hospital when he received the emergency call, then arrived at at Graceland at 2:46pm. From there, he went to BMH in the ambulance with Elvis, returned to Graceland around 4:00pm, then went back to BMH. Nichopoulos told Dan Warlick at Graceland (shortly after 4:00pm) that Elvis was being treated for a chronic colon condition, and an Upper Respiratory Infection (URI), and that he had received pain medication from his dentist late the prior evening. Nichopoulos said that all medications were “kept by a nurse downstairs and were brought upstairs to Elvis on a schedule by her; that he did not keep the medicines up in his suite.” [Warlick] Nichopoulos apparently did not mention the Dilaudid he provided for Elvis early that morning, and stated to Warlick that he did not believe that Elvis’s death was drug-related. (Warlick stated that Nichopoulos said he gave Elvis a prescription for Percodan that morning, not Dilaudid.) It is curious that so many people cleaned out drugs from the bathroom given Nichopoulos’s admonition that no drugs were kept upstairs in the suite. (Nichopoulos was being very literal here, saying that all of Elvis’s medications were held by a nurse, but Nichopoulos was obviously trying to protect himself by suggesting that Elvis didn’t have any drugs upstairs.)
NOTE: Dan Warlick was the investigator for the Shelby County Medical Examiner’s office, reporting to M.E. Dr. Jerry Francisco.
The Black Bag: On the counter in the bathroom, at 2:33pm the compartments were full of packets and other items; by 4:00pm, all the compartments were empty.
The Medicine Cabinet: By 4:00pm, the medicine cabinet was empty. Perhaps the only empty medicine cabinet on Earth.
Tish Henley: Stated that Elvis had taken 3 pills just before his death: 2 Valium (5mg each) and one other pill. The 3rd pill is not named in most accounts referencing Henley’s statements. (Official documentation indicates that Henley named the 3rd pill as a Placidyl placebo.) Henley did not mention to Warlick the “packets” provided to Elvis throughout the morning. According to Dr. Nichopoulos, Henley was “sent out” to Graceland by Nichopoulos due to the health conditions of Vernon and Minnie Mae Presley; he wanted someone onsite in case of a medical emergency (due to an adverse reaction to the confirmation of Elvis’s death). A few questions on this:
Question: Dr. Nichopoulos specifically arranged to personally inform Vernon of Elvis’s death, meaning the confirmation of the death would not come until Nichopoulos himself was onsite at Graceland. So why was Nurse Henley needed there *before* Nichopoulos arrived? Without Nichopoulos, there was not yet any news for Vernon to react to.
Question: Why does Dr. Nichopoulos not mention in his book nor in any of his statements when exactly he “sent out” Henley to Graceland, since there were no cell phones, and he was very busy during this stretch of time? When and from where did he call Henley?
Question: In his book, Dr. Nichopoulos says he checked Vernon’s condition after giving him the news of Elvis’s death, and he found that Vernon was suffering no immediate ill effects. If Dr. Nichopoulos could examine Vernon, which he did, then why did he call Henley and send her to Graceland for this very reason?
Question: Why did Nichopoulos think Henley was needed at Graceland as a precaution when Sandy Miller, Vernon’s nurse and partner/girlfriend, was already onsite? Wouldn’t Nichopoulos have known this, that Miller was a nurse?
More broadly, did Dr. Nichopoulos in fact call Tish Henley and send her out to Graceland? Doesn’t seem likely.
Tommy Henley: Delivered at least one packet of medication to Delta as instructed by Tish Henley. Delta then delivered this packet to Elvis. This packet appears to have been outside the “normal” protocol of scheduled packets given to Elvis, and was comprised of the medications requested by Elvis via Tish Henley sometime after 6:30am.
Aunt Delta: Delivered at least one packet of medication to Elvis, which was given to her by Tommy Henley at the instruction of Tish Henley.
The Cleaners: Here is the list of people who reportedly cleaned up the bathroom and bedroom areas during the critical time-frame (2:47pm-4:00pm+/-), this effort focusing on syringes, prescription bottles, loose pills, and other medications: Joe Esposito, David Stanley, Al Strada, Billy Smith, Aunt Delta, Nancy Rooks.
Here are the people who said they saw syringes on the floor next to the body between 2:33pm and 2:46pm: David Stanley and Ulysses Jones. Additionally, Nancy Rooks has mentioned seeing syringes during the clean-up.
Now, how did SIX people work feverishly to remove evidence of prescription drug (ab)use and yet still miss two devices used for injecting medications (see below)? Two of these devices…right out in plain sight? How is this possible?
And then after 4:00pm:
Dan Warlick: Shortly after 4:00pm Warlick arrived at Graceland and found two older-style syringes, one in Elvis’s office, another in Elvis’s bedroom. These syringes were not the standard syringes we would think of now, but were the metal devices that hold the glass medication ampules and the needles. Warlick also saw and inspected an empty black bag in the bathroom. This bag resembled a doctor’s medical bag.
No medications of any kind were seen anywhere in the bathroom.
Neither Nichopoulos nor Henley mentioned to Warlick the 6 Dilaudid tablets provided for Elvis early that morning (4:00am+/-). Did Nichopoulos inform Henley of this prescription? If so, why did she provide Valium for sleep several hours later? If Henley did not know of this prescription, why did Nichopoulos fail to keep Elvis’s onsite medical caregivers in the loop?
Ulysses Jones: When paramedic Jones arrived in the upstairs bathroom at Graceland at 2:33pm, he saw two standard syringes next to Elvis’s body on the floor and various items in the black bag, but when he returned to the upstairs bathroom to collect some of his gear just after 4:00pm, he noted that the rooms had been completely cleaned.
The Cleaners: A number of the people named above, all intimates of Elvis’s and in close proximity to him on a regular basis, have stated over the past four decades that Elvis didn’t have a drug problem, or the drugs were not an issue because a doctor prescribed them, or Elvis knew what he was doing with his “medication” use, or whatever myriad bits and pieces of excuses and explanations we have read over the years. But think about it: A man is found dead on his bathroom floor, there are two syringes seen next to the body and there are prescription drugs strewn literally all over the room, these drugs are seen by outside and unbiased persons, and then over the course of 75 minutes or so, after the body has been removed, at least six people…possibly as many as 10 or 12…go into full-on panic cleaning mode and scrub the counters, scrub the surfaces, clean/vacuum the carpets and rugs, gather up everything relating to medications, change the sheets, replace the towels, straighten the bedroom, empty the medicine cabinet, empty the black doctor’s bag, and dump 2 or possibly 4 bags of medications (or bury them in the yard), and then expect the public and the fans to say, “Yeah, nothing to see here, this is all completely normal.”
They knew the police might be coming, so they got rid of the evidence.
There’s only one reason to hide evidence from the police.
Seriously, there were syringes on the bathroom floor. Syringes on the bathroom floor.
How did they get there? If Elvis was sitting in the bathroom reading, why were there any syringes anywhere around the room? If Elvis was using these syringes, what was the explicit purpose? Was Elvis injecting himself with medications? Was someone else injecting him? Is this why he went into the bathroom?
Unless leaving syringes on the floor was something Elvis did regularly, these two syringes would not have been on the floor when he entered the bathroom five or six hours earlier. But they were there at 2:33pm, in plain view.
If these syringes were used for legitimate purposes, why not just set them on the counter when they are no longer needed? Syringes on the floor indicates something else was going on. Think about it.
I am not arguing whether Elvis had a drug problem, and I am not arguing the cause of Elvis’s death. I am asking, why were there multiple syringes on the bathroom floor?
At 2:33pm on August 16, 1977, two trained paramedics entered Elvis’s bathroom in response to an emergency call. One of the paramedics, Ulysses Jones, stated that he saw pills around the bathroom, and what looked like a doctor’s bag on the counter. The doctor’s bag had packets and various items in the compartments. Jones also saw two syringes on the floor next to Elvis’s body. When he was there attending to Elvis, he noted that the room was a mess.
When Ulysses Jones returned to the room about 90 minutes later, it was clear to him that someone (or multiple persons) had cleaned the room and had removed (or tried to remove) any and all traces of drugs/medications.
Dan Warlick arrived at the scene around the same time Jones returned to the property. Warlick was there as an investigator for the Shelby County Medical Examiner’s office. He was informed of the facts pertaining to the discovery of the body, and was also told that the room had been cleaned. Warlick also saw the black doctor’s bag, which was then empty, and was told about the syringes on the floor. He was also told of the medications Elvis was currently taking as part of a treatment protocol set by Dr. Nichopoulos. He was also told about the onsite nurse who stored prescription medications in her trailer, and who provided these medications to Elvis. (It is unclear, based on the Valium medication provided that morning, whether Henley was required to get permission from Nichopoulos when Elvis requested medications, or whether seeking permission was required but for some reason Henley did not check with Nichopoulos at this particular time.)
Warlick was also told that at least two people in the bathroom area had blurted out, “We think he OD’d!” when the paramedics arrived. People do not suggest an overdose unless they know the victim was susceptible to an overdose.
So, the sum total of the evidence, direct or otherwise, presented to Warlick was as follows:
Evidence: Assertions from two people that Elvis may have overdosed.
Evidence: Knowledge of drugs in the bathroom at the time of the emergency call.
Evidence: Knowledge of suspected drugs in a doctor’s bag that was empty when he arrived later.
Evidence: Knowledge that the room had been cleaned by the maids (and/or others) and that all drugs had been removed, including everything from the medicine cabinet. Even with this knowledge, the maids were not interviewed.
Evidence: Knowledge that drugs were kept on the premises for the express purpose of dispensing to Elvis, which was very possibly illegal.
Evidence: Knowledge that syringes were found next to the victim’s body, and that these syringes disappeared sometime before his arrival.
Evidence: The discovery of two metal syringe devices in two other rooms (which Warlick did not ask anyone about).
Evidence: Information indicating a sudden death.
Evidence: An interview with Ginger Alden during which Warlick did not ask her about the use of drugs, nor the syringes.
Evidence: An interview with Dr. Nichopoulos during which Warlick did not ask him about the use of drugs, nor the syringes.
All these pieces of evidence and clues and leads (plus all the missed evidence and clues and leads), and what did Warlick then do?
And what did Dr. Francisco do after learning of all this evidence from Warlick?
He instructed Warlick to terminate his investigation.