VISALIA — An alleged sex film of Marilyn Monroe cavorting with John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy was pulled from the auction block at the last minute in Tulare County, leaving firmly in place the mystery of where it came from and what it shows.
A canister that supposedly contained the film was seized by the Tulare County Sheriff's Department last month in a civil case but was returned Monday to its owner, Tulare County Sheriff's Lt. John Weller said.
Weller said he never looked inside the canister and doesn't know if the purported sex tape exists.
The canister and dozens of other items were to be sold at auction Tuesday to pay a judgment of about $200,000 owed by movie and sports memorabilia collector William Castleberry of Visalia. But the auction was canceled after the debt was paid Monday.
The story of the alleged sex film involving some of the biggest names of the 20th century was picked up by entertainment media and the tabloids last week, putting a sudden spotlight on Tulare County.
Lawyer Ryan Sullivan, representing a group of investors who had won the $200,000 judgment, said Castleberry called RadarOnline and told the entertainment media website that a sex film he owned showing Monroe with the Kennedy brothers was being put up for auction by the sheriff's department.
The story was soon followed by TMZ, the New York Daily News and The Daily Mail in London, England.
Castleberry, 56, could not be reached for comment.
The saga began April 1, 2011, when Castleberry sold a statue that he said was an imperial jade dragon crafted around 1860 to 1870 to a group of Visalia investors for $150,000.
The dragon turned out to be a fake made of serpentine, a less valuable mineral, so the investors sued Castleberry and won a judgment. But he only made a few payments totaling $6,000, court records show.
Last month, a judge gave permission to the sheriff's department to seize property from Castleberry's home, and deputies went into the home and took away boxes of memorabilia on Feb. 20 and 21.
Sullivan said he joined the deputies in the search and found in a drawer a canister holding what he believes is the alleged sex tape.
"I held it. I shook it," he said. "It felt like there was film in it." He gave it to a deputy.
Sullivan said he was aware of the tape and what it allegedly shows because he was a guest in Castleberry's home about two years ago, and the host showed the cannister to him and others.
"He said it was a three-way tape, with two of the Kennedy brothers and Marilyn," Sullivan said. "I've never seen the film, it's all his claim."
RadarOnline reported that the film is said to be 8mm and has never been seen by the public, and that an adult film company planned to take a pass on the auction because the tape's authenticity could not be determined ahead of time.
RadarOnline said it interviewed Castleberry, who told the reporter "the tape is real."
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