On April 8, 1994, a talented young musician, father, husband, and son was found dead in a greenhouse on a property on Lake Washington in Seattle. His death, classified as a suicide, was mourned by millions and even copied by some.
Who really killed Kurt Cobain is a question with more than one answer. It has two. Courtney. Love.
For 20 years now, the question has been asked: Who killed Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain? Did he really shoot a handicapped busload of heroin into his arm, following that fatal dose with a gunshot to the face? Or was it all a setup, either by angry fellow bandmates; greedy management; his wife, Courtney Love; his sketchy male nanny; or perhaps an unknown serial killer stalking only 27-year-old rock stars?
The answer, it seems, is as complicated as the man himself. Perhaps his death was a legitimate suicide: That’s what the Seattle Police Department has again concluded, despite new evidence found recently in its possession. The funny thing about the truth is, sometimes it’s colored greatly by who you ask. The funny thing about evidence is, it usually takes far fewer than two decades to process it.
Who really killed Kurt Cobain is a question with more than one answer. It has two. Courtney. Love.
Regardless of any opinions on the quality of 1990s music, in September 1991, pop music’s landscape changed in a markedly measurable way with the debut of Seattle rock band Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” video on MTV. It was lead singer and guitarist Cobain’s idea of a joke: Make the world’s greatest pop song by stealing the bass riff from Boston’s “More Than a Feeling,” while simultaneously completely ripping off a band he very much admired, the Pixies. It was an angry yet apathetic anthem with a perfect video to match.
Just like that, before the fictional pep rally was over, Nirvana was the biggest band in the world. Their album Nevermind was a phenomenon. American teens, hungry for someone to understand them, voted Cobain their angry but sensitive prom king. After almost a decade of Whitesnake and Bon Jovi and Winger, and that one time freaking Billy Squier almost killed music videos forever, they were all ripe for the picking. This guy in seven layers of clothing, hiding behind his dirty, long hair, was now the chosen spokesman for a generation’s collective angst. And as Cobain himself later sang, “Teenage angst … paid off well.”
About two years before Cobain and Nirvana hit the big time, he met the gonorrheal succubus whom he’d later marry, musician and singer Courtney Love, who was a mainstay in the Seattle music scene with Nirvana and many other so-called grunge bands.
By all accounts, including her own, Love is a huge cunt. However, the pair bonded quickly over their mutual adoration of music, drugs, and (naturally) Courtney Love – they most likely bathed together in the warm, romantic glow of a lighter held beneath a spoon.
In late 1991, Love became pregnant with Cobain’s child, and they were wed in Hawaii in February 1992. On their wedding day, the bride wore a dress that had belonged to tragic Seattle actress Frances Farmer, presumably because 101 Dalmatians would have been so hard to find on short notice; the groom donned a pair of green pajamas.
About two years before Cobain and Nirvana hit the big time, he met the gonorrheal succubus whom he’d later marry.
While Love was pregnant, she gave an unfortunately accurate interview to Vanity Fair magazine where she let it slip that she used heroin while pregnant, an interview that directly resulted in the Department of Social Services taking Love and Cobain’s daughter Frances Bean when she was born in August 1992. After an investigation lasting several weeks, Frances was returned to her parents, but that wasn’t the end of the couple’s turmoil.
Courtney Michelle Love was born, likely kicking and screaming in a pair of ripped-up pantyhose and shitty makeup, Courtney Michelle Harrison in San Francisco in 1964 to a child psychologist mother and a father who once managed The Grateful Dead. Her parents divorced in 1969, with her mother granted full custody of her daughter, due to claims that Love’s father had given her LSD as a toddler.
In 1970, Love and her mother moved to a commune in Oregon, where her mother remarried, eventually having three more children and adopting one. Love, too, was adopted by her stepfather, but ultimately, her mother divorced him and moved to New Zealand, taking Love along but shortly thereafter sending the rebellious teen back to the States to live with her stepfather.
Ever willful, Love, who was diagnosed with autism at age 9, spent ages 14 to 16 alternating between foster homes and correctional facilities. At 16, she was emancipated and began supporting herself by stripping illegally. At about 18, she spent time as a student in Ireland, financed by a trust fund from her grandparents, and she spent a period of time erotic dancing in both Japan and Alaska, in between moves from Oregon and California.
Courtney Michelle Love was born, likely kicking and screaming in a pair of ripped-up pantyhose and shitty makeup, Courtney Michelle Harrison in San Francisco.
By 1982, Love, who had already put together one band, talked Faith No More into hiring her as their lead singer, but this arrangement did not last long, and in the end, Love was let go on amicable terms. In 1989, she moved to Los Angeles and learned how to play guitar; by 1990, she and guitarist Eric Erlandson had come together to form their, or rather her, band Hole, and in January of that same year, she met Cobain, most appropriately, at the Satyricon nightclub in Portland, OR, during a Butthole Surfers show.
Love may have had the more rough and tumble early years of the two, but life wasn’t much sunnier for Cobain. Born in 1967 to a waitress and an auto mechanic in the lumber town of Aberdeen, WA, he grew up with a list of ailments, from bronchitis to depression to ingrown toenails, and he was deeply scarred by the divorce of his parents in 1973. Cobain was a talented artist and interested from a very early age in music, a passion that was encouraged by his aunt and uncle, who were musicians, as well.
Cobain spent his childhood shuttled back and forth between his parents, who both later remarried. By most accounts, he became angry and withdrawn and started acting out at home and in school after his parents split. He also probably had a pet he was close to who died of rabies, and had to be home when the streetlights came on, because didn’t everyone in the ’70s?
By 1979, his mother signed over full custody to his father, who then signed him over to family friends, the Reeds, who were a devoutly Christian family. In his sophomore year of high school, Cobain moved back in with his mother. When Cobain dropped out of school two weeks before his high school graduation and then refused to find work, she quickly booted him out again.
He probably had a pet he was close to who died of rabies, and had to be home when the streetlights came on, because didn’t everyone in the ’70s?
The years from that time up until his mainstream success with Nirvana would be a series of periods of homelessness, couch surfing, and living off the generosity of various girlfriends. In 1987, just before dropping out, high school friend Krist Novoselic and Cobain came together to form Nirvana. They released a debut album Bleach in 1989 to little fanfare. Dave Grohl joined them on drums in 1990, and in 1991, the band released their follow-up, Nevermind, an album that would change them and rock history forever, and be the first time many people remember seeing a baby’s penis.
The stirrings of much more serious trouble for the now-married Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love (meaning homicide rather than simple child endangerment and the whole “hooked on heroin” thing) began in March 1994. Nirvana had to cancel a European tour in early March due to Cobain’s increasingly problematic stomach issues – the same issues he claimed led him to become addicted to heroin – along with a bad case of bronchitis and laryngitis. And, oh yeah, did I mention the heroin?
In the early hours of March 4, Love found Cobain in bed in their Rome hotel, unresponsive and bleeding from the nose. Rushed to the hospital, doctors believed he had accidentally overdosed on Rohypnol, the infamous “date rape drug,” a sedative notorious for the side effect of memory loss. Love claimed after Cobain’s death that he had ingested more than 50 pills in a botched suicide attempt that morning.
Cobain’s doctor in Rome still disputes both her claim of attempted suicide and the amount of drugs Cobain actually ingested, which he asserted was much smaller. Gold Mountain, Cobain’s management company, also has always denied that what occurred in Rome was a suicide attempt. It alleges a note found in Love and Cobain’s hotel room, indicated by Love to be a suicide note, actually said Cobain was leaving Love and planned on taking all their money and disappearing.
Hardcore Courtney Love murder plot conspiracists point to this incident as Love’s first attempt to murder her husband. If that was the plan, though a good one, it ultimately failed solely because Love herself called an ambulance in time to save him, likely so she could later have him shot in the face or perhaps drop a large piano on him as he walked outside her window.
During the second week of March, after recovering from his overdose in Rome, Cobain contacted Rosemary Carroll, both his and Love’s entertainment attorney, to change his will to exclude the ol’ ball and chain, who in kind requested Carroll find her the toughest divorce lawyer possible. It seemed a divorce was inevitable.
Six days later, back at home in Seattle, Love called police to her and Cobain’s home, indicating Cobain was threatening suicide. He denied this and Love revoked the claim, prompting the police to both warn Love against filing false reports and to err on the side of caution by confiscating the guns Cobain had in their residence for his own safety.
A note found in Love and Cobain’s hotel room, indicated by Love to be a suicide note, allegedly said Cobain was leaving Love and planned on taking all their money and disappearing.
The following week, on March 25, irony got paid overtime: Love, herself a chronic drug abuser, and many of Cobain’s drug-using friends got together to surprise him with an intervention that was likely finely catered by the Zeta cartel. Despite his misgivings about going, Cobain agreed to check into rehab in California, but first asked his best friend, Dylan Carson, to help buy him a shotgun to keep on hand at home until he began rehab, since the police had taken his. He, like a lot of Ammuricans, said he did not feel safe without a weapon in the house.
Plus, he lived with Courtney Love, who was really trying to kill him at the time.
Despite the fact that his wife was telling anyone who’d listen that he was suicidal, Carson obliged and bought the gun for his friend. In the meantime, Love was now in California, ostensibly preparing for the release of Hole’s new album Live Through This, which is the most critically acclaimed post-Courtney-killing-Kurt Hole record.
Cobain spent two days in detox before busting out. At about 7 p.m. on April 1, he escaped by jumping a fence at his substance abuse treatment center (not an uncommon occurrence at rehab, where they do allow you to check out any time you like, but you can never leave … just kidding, addicts love them some dramatic, attention-seeking getaways) and caught a cab to the airport. He booked a Delta flight to Seattle, arriving back home at his and Love’s place on Lake Washington in Seattle via cab in the early morning hours of April 2.
A few hours later, he called another driver to pick him up and take him to purchase bullets (“Yo homes! To the bullet store!”). When he was unable to locate any, Cobain had the driver drop him off in the city.
Love soon found out that her much, much, much, much better half had left rehab, and she decided, she later said, to plant a fake news story that she had overdosed to make Cobain come back to her. By the next day, April 3, she hired a private investigator, Tom Grant, to find her missing, supposedly suicidal husband. This is also the date of the last verified sighting of Cobain, who was seen by two witnesses, one of whom was his manager John Silva.
For several days, P.I. Grant worked with Love and Cobain’s various staff and friends to locate Cobain, to no avail. On April 4, Love filed an official missing person’s report with the Seattle PD, but strangely, did so while impersonating Cobain’s mother, Wendy O’Connell, rather than filing the report as herself. She also cancelled the U.K. leg of her Live Through This tour, citing her family as being her priority. She then likely triple-winked and crossed her fingers behind her back and whispered, “Psych!”
Love filed an official missing person’s report with the Seattle PD, but strangely, did so while impersonating Cobain’s mother.
On April 5, while still in the Los Angeles/Beverly Hills area, not in Seattle where she suspected Cobain was, Love had an electrical crew called to her and Cobain’s home to work on the security system. In the days leading up to when Cobain was found dead, this crew and Frances Cobain’s nanny, a man named Michael Dewitt, were in and out of the home and property. On April 6, Love specifically instructed the workers to turn off the security and motion sensors.
Meanwhile, her investigator, Grant, and Cobain’s best friend, Carlson, who had journeyed to Seattle to assist Grant in his search for the wayward rock star, made their initial check of the Lake Washington property, entering through an unlocked kitchen window. They found nothing of note in the home, but the nanny Dewitt was not there. Unbeknownst to the two, he had flown back to L.A. to be with Love.
Despite Love’s specific instructions to Carlson, overheard by Love’s own attorney, neither he nor Grant checked the property’s greenhouse. Later that night, they returned to check the house again, then finding a strange note left by Dewitt to Cobain, berating him for avoiding Courtney and his loved ones. Cobain still was MIA, and he was again not located at his home or any of the other properties he owned. Not alive, at least.
At about 9 a.m. on Friday, April 8, Kurt Donald Cobain, reluctantly famous musician adored by millions of Doc Marten-loving youngsters, was found dead by an electrician working in a storage room above his greenhouse. Cobain’s body bore a gunshot wound and a fatal dose of heroin was in his system.
Almost immediately, there were rumblings that perhaps it was not the open-and-shut suicide it was purported and obviously appeared to be. Fingers instantly pointed to Cobain’s wife, eventually even including those of the very P.I. she hired to find Kurt, Tom Grant.
Grant is a veteran Los Angeles County sheriff’s investigator who opened a private investigation firm in Beverly Hills specializing in criminal investigations in the late 1970s. He’s also worked on high-profile investigations for Paula Jones (Bill Clinton’s paramour) and for Michael Jackson’s mother, Katherine.
After Cobain was found dead, Grant began having major misgivings about how quickly police sewed up the case, and especially about the honesty of Love and nanny Dewitt’s stories. Much of his initial suspicion began due to conversations Grant had with Rosemary Carroll, Cobain and Love’s entertainment attorney and wife of Gold Mountain Entertainment President Danny Goldberg.
Gold Mountain was Nirvana’s management company, and according to journalist and noted Cobain conspiracy theorist Richard Lee, Carroll as recently as 2009 still represented both Love and Gold Mountain. When Cobain was reported missing, Carroll told Grant that Cobain was not suicidal; he just wanted to divorce Love and had already begun changing his will to exclude her.
She also claimed that Love had no real business to attend to in California in April 1994, which meant there was no reason for her not to leave California and go to Seattle to search for Cobain, who, in her own telling, was suicidal and bent on destruction. Unless she needed to be away from Seattle for her alibi.
After Cobain was found dead, Carroll even told Grant that she suspected his death was not a suicide, and also said she’d overheard Love tell Carson specifically to look in the greenhouse for Kurt during his first trip to Lake Washington with Grant. When Grant later refused to sign a confidentiality agreement from Love regarding his investigation for her of Kurt Cobain, an agreement similar to ones Dewitt, Carroll and many others had signed, Grant cut off contact.
Why, you ask, would she do such a thing? Mostly, it’s a foregone conclusion due to the fact that Love is as crazy as a toddler on LSD.
Once Grant took his accusations and questions about Cobain’s death public, Carroll threatened to sue him but never pursued litigation, though she continued her professional relationship with Love. Grant and many others, including Love’s own father (!!!), who have looked into Cobain’s suicide believe he did not, in fact, kill himself, but that Love had him killed.
Why, you ask, would she do such a thing? Mostly, it’s a foregone conclusion due to the fact that Love is as crazy as a toddler on LSD. Let’s look at the facts of the police investigation, though.
Authorities determined Cobain’s time of death to be approximately sometime on the night of April 5 or the morning of April 6.
Frances Bean’s “manny,” Michael Dewitt, and Cobain were the only people at the place where he died in the time period from April 1 until his body was discovered, other than the electrical workers and the two men actively searching for Kurt on Love’s behalf, yet Dewitt was never questioned by police. He also had coincidentally (or not) been in Rome with Love during Cobain’s earlier overdose.
In the crime scene itself, there are also a few as yet unexplained discrepancies. The shell casing of the bullet that struck Cobain ejected to the left. As a right-handed man, physics (and copious hours of CSI: Miami) would inevitably lead you to expect it to be on his right if he had fired the weapon himself. Police never tested Cobain’ hands for gunshot residue to verify that he had, in fact, fired the shotgun or any firearm. Nor does anyone but the police know if trajectories were measured to see if it was possible that his injury was actually a self-inflicted wound.
However, the major plot hole in this “suicide” is the fact that Cobain tested positive after death for three times the lethal limit of heroin and benzodiazepine, which is a level high enough to be lethal even in very chronic users. The shot of heroin administered to him would have almost instantly incapacitated him, rendering him unable to fire a 20 gauge or any other gun.
With Cobain dead, Love gets 100%, not a pre-nup bullshit amount. And seriously, what junkie loads up a needle and then shoots himself with a gun on purpose? Answer: none. They know you can bang enough heroin and just nod out forever quite peacefully. There’s no need for the pellet facial.
What junkie loads up a needle and then shoots himself with a gun on purpose? Answer: none.
In fact, in a study of 3,586 suicides in Washington state around this time period, none, including 760 violent suicides, involved both a drug overdose and a fatal gunshot. None.
There are also claims that Love solicited Cobain’s murder months before his eventual death. The man who claimed this was killed by a goddamn train only shortly after passing a lie detector test in which he indicated that Love had offered him 50 grand to shoot her old man.
There is also the fact that Love never sues anyone for libel who calls her murderin’ out, which if she were innocent, by all rights, she should. But that is a moot point, really, because she’s not innocent. We’re talking about batshit crazy cakes Courtney Love here. She probably goes through manny assassins faster than Valtrex. Edward Norton is lucky to be alive.
On the bright side: There is no statute of limitations for murder. In the meantime, however, while the 20-year anniversary of Cobain’s untimely passing is marked and Nirvana’s Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall of Fame induction is celebrated, brace yourselves: The “What Nirvana meant to rock music” essays are coming.