Members of the Seattle Police Department discovered the body of 27-year-old Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain on April 8, 1994. Through forensic analysis, it was determined that Cobain died on April 5; three days prior. It was further determined by the office of the medical examiner that Cobain died as a result of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
However, as news of Cobain’s death spread, his devastated fans and private investigators began asking questions about certain aspects of Cobain’s death. Many speculated that foul play might have been involved and that Cobain’s wife, Courtney Love, might have played a role in planning her late husband’s death; after all, Love stood to benefit the most from Cobain’s death. Of course, this accusation is based on nothing more than a general dislike for Love expressed by some, conjecture and speculation. People wanted someone to blame for Cobain’s death, and Love was the most obvious target. Love has long proclaimed her innocence, and the conspiracy theories that imply Love was somehow involved in Cobain’s death have never been proven, substantiated or corroborated. Further, no forensic evidence has ever been presented to implicate Love.
Some conspiracy theorists point to the amount of heroin in Cobain’s system when he died, arguing that he could not possibly have put his drug kit away and fired a shotgun with such a high amount of the drug in his system (as well as other substances which would have made it difficult for him to get up off of the floor, let alone shoot himself). Additionally, Cobain’s suicide note raises red flags for some. The handwriting appears to change dramatically toward the end of the note. For some, this is an indication that someone else wrote the note, in whole or in part.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. Background: Cobain Had Many Personal Struggles, From Addiction to Chronic Pain
For some fans, it is impossible to accept that someone with such a successful music career who fronted a band that consistently topped the billboard charts and had more money than he know what to do with could ever consider taking his own life. However, Cobain’s personal struggles were well documented and severe.
Cobain suffered from chronic stomach pain since his youth. As a result, he self-medicated, eventually selecting heroin as his drug of choice. His wife, Courtney Love, also struggled with addiction. Cobain spent multiple stints in rehab with varying degrees of success in his pursuit of sobriety. The birth of the couple’s daughter, Frances Bean Cobain, seemed to be a great motivator for Cobain and Love to get clean. That said, overcoming a severe heroin addiction has been described by those who have done it as nearly impossible to do. Over the years, heroin has claimed the lives of many young musicians; members of the 27 club and beyond. This is not to say that heroin killed Kurt Cobain; it is undisputed that it was a shotgun wound that took his life. But heroin arguably destroyed him, along with countless others.
Love stated on multiple occasions that Cobain was suicidal after leaving rehab for the last time. Despite all of the forensic evidence and other factors pointing toward Cobain’s death being a suicide, rumors began to swirl that there was something much more sinister at play. Some were adamant that Cobain was the victim of a cold-blooded murder orchestrated by those closest to him. To reiterate, Love has always maintained her innocence and denies any involvement in Cobain’s death. For years, Love has fought to maintain privacy surrounding Cobain’s death, including blocking the release of newly uncovered photos of Cobain’s body. Rather than interpreting this as Love trying to prevent some kernel of truth from being released to the public about her so-called involvement in her husband’s death, the much more likely explanation is that she is trying to keep her personal tragedy private, and to prevent Cobain’s death from being further exploited. Additionally, Love is undoubtedly trying to protect Frances Bean from the trauma of seeing photographs of her father’s dead body. Arguably, the public has been unfair to Love, reluctant to give her the benefit of the doubt, and quick to villainize her.
2. Licensed Private Investigator Tom Grant Outlined a Case Pointing to Murder
Cobain was seeking treatment at a rehab facility in Marina Del Rey, California in the spring of 1994. On April 1, 1994, Cobain left the facility. His whereabouts unknown, on April 3, 1994, Love hired Tom Grant, LPI to track Cobain down and confirm his safety. Grant traveled to the Cobain residence in Seattle, accompanied by Cobain’s best friend, Dylan Carson. Meanwhile, Love remained in Los Angeles.
Grant stated that he had been in the Cobain residence the night before Cobain’s body was discovered above the garage, and that there was no sign of him, nor was there any sign of anything being out of the ordinary. On April 8, 1994, Cobain’s body was discovered; as previously stated, his death was ultimately ruled a suicide.
For Grant, something seemed terribly off about Cobain’s death, and he did not believe Cobain had taken his own life. Grant completed an independent investigation and came to the conclusion that there was an elaborate conspiracy between Love and the male nanny who lived at the Cobain residence, Michael Dewitt.
Grant began to speak publicly about his findings toward the end of 1994.
3. Tom Grant Laid Out The Most Compelling Elements of His Case
Taking a closer look at LPI Tom Grant’s investigation into Cobain’s death, he highlighted the following factors (as reported and stated by Tom Grant and not corroborated by any official reports):
1) Cobain was planning on leaving Love and moving away from Seattle at the time of his death;
2) Love was aware that Cobain was seeking a divorce and was angry about it;
3) One of Cobain’s credit cards was missing at the time of his death, and it was used subsequent to his death by persons unknown, until his body was discovered by the authorities;
4) Cobain believed his life was in danger;
5) The shotgun was purchased before Cobain left for rehab, not after, and was kept for protection;
6) There were no identifiable fingerprints found on the shotgun;
7) The note found at the scene was misidentified as a suicide note – it was actually about Cobain’s desire to leave Nirvana;
8) The note contained portions that appeared to be written by someone other than Cobain based on an analysis of his handwriting;
9) Love was in possession of a second note that did not point to suicide; and
10) Cobain had a lethal amount of heroin in his system and would have been physically unable to shoot himself. This remains one of the most controversial points of Grant’s case. Cobain was a long-time heroin user with a high tolerance. It is difficult to definitively say whether Cobain had too much heroin in his system to shoot himself or not. While the amount of heroin in his system might have rendered the average person incapacitated, Cobain was not the average user; he spent years building up a tolerance to the drug.
Grant still stands behind his investigation conducted 24 years ago and believes that Cobain’s death was the result of a conspiracy orchestrated by Love. Grant published a book along with Matthew Richer on his findings called The Mysterious Death of Kurt Cobain: Suicide or Murder: You Decide.
The question of Tom Grant’s credibility and personal motives are unclear. It would be unfair to ignore the fact that Grant is trying to promote his story, his involvement in the investigation, and to sell copies of his book. Grant could be committed to simply getting the truth of what actually happened to Cobain out there, or he could be trying to profit off of a tragedy.
4. El Duce Took Credit For Orchestrating Cobain’s Death
In 1996, conspiracy theories began to circulate again when Eldon “El Duce” Hoke, singer of Seattle band The Mentors, said that Love offered to pay him $50,000 to kill Cobain. El Duce told his rather difficult to believe version of events to High Times magazine, stating that Love approached him at a record store and attempted to hire him as a hitman.
El Duce actively promoted his story to the media, even going so far as to appear on Jerry Springer. El Duce denied actually killing Cobain himself; he stated that he subcontracted the job to an acquaintance known only as “Allen,” also known as Allen Wrench. El Duce declined to give any further identifying information about Allen, stating that he would let the FBI track him down.
It is unknown whether there was any truth to El Duce’s story. He filmed an interview for the film Kurt & Courtney in 1997 and was run over by a train two days later, leading some to wonder if his death was accidental, or if someone pushed him onto the tracks. It is possible that El Duce may have been an acquaintance of Love’s through the Seattle music scene, though any connection between the two is largely unsubstantiated. El Duce was known for pulling shocking, disgusting stunts in order to get time in the spotlight, and was known for his misogynistic music style known as “rape rock,” which was deemed to break obscenity laws. All of this put together makes El Duce’s credibility questionable at best, though that is not to say that he was not telling the truth; his story is yet another piece of an increasingly bizarre and twisted puzzle.
5. Theories Presented By Love’s Biological Father
Courtney Love’s biological father, Hank Harrison, apparently, is one of the biggest Courtney Love critics of all, and he seems hell-bent on proving her guilt. Harrison even went so far as to publish a book stating his case against Love entitled Love Kills: The Assassination Of Kurt Cobain.
However, Harrison’s justification for blaming Love is somewhat unclear. His entire theory hinges on a note that was apparently located in Cobain’s wallet that called Love a “bitch with zits.” Harrison interpreted the note to mean that something was very wrong in Cobain and Love’s marriage, so wrong in fact that Love resorted to having Cobain killed.
While Harrison has plenty of unflattering things to say about Love’s behavior growing up as a child into an adolescent and a teenager, their dysfunctional relationship hardly gives him particular insight into the death of Cobain. Harrison is not among the most convincing conspiracy theorists, despite what he himself may think. Harrison claims to have additional evidence against Love which bolsters his case against her, but, Love’s legal team has been able to successfully block him from releasing whatever damning information he may have, according to Harrison.
Love responded to her father’s story about the note found in Cobain’s wallet, and stated that she wrote the note herself. She wholly denies her biological father’s accusations, stating that she wishes he would keep quiet already.
6. Theories Presented In Soaked In Bleach
Soaked In Bleach is a docudrama that highlights 15 key points about Cobain’s death that don’t quite make sense. Nothing addressed in Soaked In Bleach is a smoking gun, per se, but it is a well put together, thoroughly researched film that does raise several important questions about Cobain’s death. Certain pieces of the puzzle simply do not fit together.
However, unanswered questions about Cobain’s death do not make Love guilty of conspiring against her husband, and for 24 years, she has fought to clear her name in the court of public opinion. As such, it has been 24 years of nonstop legal battles for Love, including sending a cease and desist letter against the producers of Soaked in Bleach.
Soaked In Bleach may not provide definitive, concrete answers about Cobain’s death, but it does convincingly poke holes in the official story of Cobain taking his own life. It’s unknown if we will ever know what exactly happened that afternoon in Seattle 24 years ago, but what is certain is that we will never stop trying to solve the mystery.