Was there any sort of proper investigation into the death of Elvis that took place at Graceland, involving the Memphis Police Department, the Medical Examiner’s office, and/or the Attorney General’s office?
These are the people who went to Graceland just after the announcement of the death, ostensibly, at first glance, to investigate the death:
- Jerry Stauffer, Assistant District Attorney General, Attorney General’s office
- Lt. Samuel McCachren, Assistant Homicide Commander (interviewed 11-13-79)
- Dan Warlick, Medical Examiner’s Office Investigator
- Sgt. John Peel, Homicide Detective, Memphis Police Department
- Sgt. Roy Millican, Homicide Detective, Memphis Police Department
[McCachren states that he drove to Graceland with Jerry Stauffer, and that John Peel and Dan Warlick went in a different vehicle. No mention of Millican.]
[Dan Warlick states that he drove to Graceland with McCachren and “another police officer,” along with Joe Esposito and Charlie Hodge.]
[John Peel states that he drove to Graceland with Millican, along with Joe Esposito and Charlie Hodge. This is in agreement with McCachren’s account.]
So we have five men who went to Graceland shortly after 4:00pm to investigate the death. Let’s start with Jerry Stauffer:
According to McCachren: Jerry Stauffer from the Attorney General’s office accompanied McCachren as an “observer,” even though the AG’s office could possibly be involved in decisions re: procedure.
So, again, we have five men who went to Graceland shortly after 4:00pm to investigate the death, but one of them didn’t do anything, and was there just to observe. Fortunately, though, Mr. Stauffer provided some interesting information on the day’s events, so we’ll return to him later. Let’s start with Samuel McCachren instead:
A few brief notes:
Assistant Homicide Commander Samuel McCachren: 25 years with MPD, 13 years as homicide investigator; number of homicide investigations conducted or supervised over 25-year career with MPD: “in the thousands”; McCachren went to Graceland that day “as the commanding officer”…”supervising the investigation”; briefed upon his arrival at Graceland by Sgt. John Peel; no written statements were taken from persons on the scene, only notes by detectives; no confirmation or signature from persons interviewed; McCachren interviewed the same people that Sgt. Peel had interviewed; does not recall if crime scene investigator was called.
Let’s walk through several sections of Lt. McCachren’s 1979 deposition (for the ABC News case) and see what investigative actions were taken:
There are two keys points regarding this exchange:
First, the question above is initially asking whether McCachren “[went] through” Elvis’s private quarters. To “go through” a suite or a room could mean to walk through it and not disturb anything, or it could mean to actively seek evidence that could play a role in the investigation. But notice that the person asking the question interrupts himself and pivots to a question about the location where the body was discovered, which would certainly already have been known to him. (We can tell that this question wasn’t considered very important because “in his bath” is a very vague response.) McCachren was at Graceland approximately 90+ minutes after the body had been removed so he would not have had a first-person account of where the body was found. Does this topic get brought up again? No. And this is important because these detectives went to Graceland presumably to investigate the death, and yet their actions and behavior seem to show them very passively investigating, and not actually doing much in terms of seeking information and evidence beyond the very basics.
This line of questioning would have, I believe, led to a follow-up question as to the exact nature of the investigation, and what exactly they were doing onsite. But this question did not get asked.
Second, as mentioned above, this self-interruption led to a useless question about the location of the body, even though this information had already been presented/established in previous depositions. It is worth noting that McCachren is not asked if he searched the rooms in question, which would have led to a much more informative line of questioning than what we see here. Keep in mind that “seeing” drugs means they were out in the open and visible without an active search; “searching” for drugs means the officer actively searched for drugs beyond what was out in the open. This is a huge difference. (Note: We are not looking at the question of search warrants here.)
In the exchange above, the question of purpose comes up again, as we don’t really know why these detectives were at Graceland. Note the question about whether McCachren saw any drugs, medicines, or syringes. The word “see” is used (as mentioned previously), and we do not know if McCachren actively looked for these items, or whether McCachren walked into the room, looked around, didn’t see anything, then left the room. This might appear to be over-parsing the wording, but the official purpose for these investigators is important, and nowhere do we see this purpose firmly established. Sure, we see words like “investigation,” but we have yet to see that an investigation actually took place.
McCachren responds to one of the questions above by saying he did not “find” any drugs or medicines. Again, the wording is important: “find” suggests that McCachren was actively looking for these items, but in fact we see no indication that McCachren did that. Instead, McCachren appears to have been little more than a passive participant.
Also note that the question as initially posed refers to drugs, medicines, and syringes. But in the follow-up question to confirm what McCachren was saying, the questioner leaves out “syringes.” This is important because the interviewers in this case already knew about the syringes (the apparatus minus the ampule), and it is difficult to believe that McCachren didn’t already know about them, as well (more on that later), and yet the question is pared down to “drugs and medicines,” with the syringes being dropped. Why was this reference left out, and why wasn’t a specific question posed that would elicit more information and context pertaining to the two syringes? Think about this: two syringes are discovered in the general area where a man with a drug addiction has just died suddenly and unexpectedly, and the presence of these two syringes is barely even mentioned.
Let’s bring Mr. Stauffer back into this discussion: In Jerry Stauffer’s deposition, he states that Dan Warlick or one of the other detectives said to those present, “There’s a syringe over there.” McCachren was reportedly present at this time, and with (i.e., in close proximity to) Warlick during this time period, and we might assume that he heard Warlick’s statement. We might also assume that he saw the same things that Warlick saw. But note McCachren’s response, that there was nothing that “gave rise in [his] mind” to “the suspicion of drug abuse” in this case. If he heard Warlick’s statement, and saw these syringes, how did he then conclude that “drug abuse” was not under any sort of consideration? Two syringes…and no suspicion of drugs…?
It is also worth noting here that it was the Homicide office where the rumor/question of Elvis’s death originated that day in terms of the officials who would be involved. Someone from the Homicide office called the Medical Examiner’s office and spoke with Dr. Bell, Dr. Bell then gave a note to Warlick (ME’s office), and Warlick soon met up with McCachren at Baptist. While the question in the deposition asks specifically about what McCachren did or did not see in Elvis’s upstairs suite, it would be quite a stretch to believe that he had no idea that the use/abuse of drugs had become a question. Again, this sequence of communications began in McCachren’s office.
Dan Warlick said in his deposition that as he was being taken through the upstairs suite of rooms, he was accompanied “at all times” by Joe Esposito and Lt. McCachren:
Of these photographs, McCachren said:
So Warlick says McCachren was with him “at all times,” and Warlick took photos of the scene, and yet McCachren says that “to the best of [his] knowledge” no photographs were taken. Keep in mind that Warlick saw two syringes while McCachren saw no syringes, even though Warlick pointed one out. McCachren was a homicide detective.
Then, from Warlick’s deposition, we see that he [Warlick] spoke with Dr. Nichopoulos at Graceland:
And McCachren, who was supposedly with Warlick?
Huh? McCachren was at Graceland, with Warlick, which is where Nichopoulos was. They were all in the office/bedroom/bathroom area of the upstairs. How does a detective not notice the presence of a man with whom he wishes to speak, who is literally standing in the same area as he is standing?
McCachren one more time:
Nichopoulos was supposedly in the same building, on the same floor, in the same suite as McCachren. Why could McCachren not communicate with him, and why does he say he finally reached Nichopoulos by phone? Where did he reach Nichopoulos?
McCachren is asked if he called Dr. Francisco from Graceland, and McCachren responds that he did. We later learn from Warlick that he [Warlick] also called Francisco from Graceland. These two men were supposedly working side-by-side, and yet they both made separate calls to the same person.
During this time in the upstairs suite at Graceland, McCachren said he interviewed the same people that Sgt. Peel had interviewed. So we have Warlick and McCachren both calling Francisco from Graceland, and we have Peel and McCachren interviewing the same people at Graceland. Sounds like there was a lot of double work being done that afternoon.
McCachren is asked if he spoke with the “Fire Department Ambulance drivers,” and McCachren replies, “I didn’t that afternoon, no sir. I don’t remember that I did later, but I don’t think that I did.” Why not?
McCachren spoke to Dr. Francisco outside the autopsy room while the autopsy was in progress. McCachren is asked if Dr. Francisco made any suggestions as to what he thought should be investigated in this case. McCachren replied that Francisco made no suggestions. McCachren went on to say that at that time, he didn’t believe there was anything to be investigated. Asked if he and Dr. Francisco had a conversation at this time, McCachren replied, “We talked, such as, ‘How is it going?,’ or what have you.” Think about that: Elvis Presley dies, Assistant Homicide Commander (Detective) and Medical Examiner meet outside the autopsy room, and they can’t think of much to say. Nothing to discuss. Just a regular day at the office. “How is it going?”
McCachren is asked if Mr. Stauffer of the Attorney General’s office offered any investigative suggestions, or avenues to pursue. McCachren replies, “Not to my knowledge.” Any legal advice on how the investigation should be conducted? “No, sir.”
McCachren is asked if he recalls talking to Dr. Nichopous at Graceland. Here, going against everything he has said to this point, McCachren says that he doesn’t remember talking to Nichopoulos, but if he did talk to him at Graceland, “it was just briefly.” Recall that McCachren had earlier stated, in this same deposition, that he could not locate Nichopoulos, and that he got him and Francisco on the phone together.
This pretty much sums it up. No questions, no inquiry, no investigation. A lead homicide detective has gone to the home of Elvis Presley and has “investigated” the death by “looking around,” and interviewing the same people that another detective interviewed, even though we see nothing in this deposition about McCachren’s questioning of any witnesses. McCachren knew Elvis had seen the dentist and had received pain medication, yet there was no investigation into that. He knew Tish Henley had given drugs to Elvis, which she cited as, “two Valiums, five milligrams, and one other pill,” and yet McCachren did not know what that unidentified pill was, nor did he inquire. (A nurse cannot identify a pill she gave to her patient? More on this later.) Neither McCachren nor anyone from Homicide ever interviewed any of the medical personnel who worked on the body at Graceland (the paramedics), nor in the ER from 2:56pm to 3:30pm.
The only conclusion to be reached here is that McCachren’s investigation pretty much amounted to “looked around.” Or, perhaps, “Something is going on here, maybe I should investigate, but instead, I won’t.”
The MPD incident report was completed by Peel and Millican.
Let’s continue, and look at Sgt. John Peel’s investigative actions that afternoon.