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Elliott Smith Investigation Gets Curiouser

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As more details regarding the death of Elliott Smith emerge, the truth becomes murkier. Here are the facts so far: On October 21 at a few minutes past midnight, Smith's live-in girlfriend, Jennifer Chiba, called 911 to report that the maudlin indie singer was bleeding from two chest wounds. She stated she pulled a knife from his chest, claiming he had stabbed himself after the two argued.

Less than an hour after the 911 call, Smith, still alive, was transported by the LA fire department to the County Hospital at the University of Southern California. There, two cardiac lacerations were sewn up, but Smith died a few minutes later, at 1:36 am.

Given the singer's dreary lyrics and rumored suicide attempts, Smith's death was not an absolute shock to anyone familiar with him or his songs. But, over the past weeks, as the final coroner's report has been released and with LA detectives opening a homicide investigation, the idea that Smith committed suicide has become less than certain.

Based on the coroner's report, a detective working for LA's Silver Lake homicide unit stated they have a renewed interest in the case and put it back into active circulation as an on-going homicide investigation. However, he was unable to provide details about who is a suspect and who is being interviewed. So far, the coroner's report raises the most questions, as well as provides what insight there is into Smith's death.

"While his history of depression is compatible with suicide," reads the LA County coroner's report, "and the location and direction of the stab wounds are consistent with self-infliction, several aspects of the circumstances (as are known at this time) are atypical of suicide and raise the possibility of homicide."

Dated January 6, the summary from the autopsy report, written by Dr. Lisa Scheinin, goes on to list some of those suspicious circumstances: "The absence of hesitation wounds, stabbing through clothing, and the presence of small incised wounds on the right arm and left hand (possible defensive wounds)."

According to several reference documents for police investigations, stabbing is a rare form of suicide. Moreover, there are common patterns for these types of self-inflicted deaths: Rarely does the victim simply plunge a knife directly into himself, instead often pausing to position the knife. Also, as the coroner's report intones, in most stabbing suicides, the victim stabs directly into flesh, not through clothing. Usually the victim stabs himself in the neck or wrist.

Although detectives and the coroner's report have stopped short of directly implicating Chiba, Dr. Scheinin does write, "Additionally, the girlfriend's reported removal of the knife, and subsequent refusal to speak with the detectives are all of concern."

The released autopsy report also refers to a suicide note. According to witness statements recorded by Detective King (which seem to counter the coroner's report that Chiba refused to speak with detectives), Smith's girlfriend provided a suicide note for the detectives. "During this questioning, she was seated at the kitchen table and noted for the first time a 'Post-It' note that appeared to be a suicide note."

According to the coroner's report, the suicide note reads: "I'm so sorry-love, Elliot God forgive me." The misspelling of Smith's first name comes directly from the coroner's report. No one at the coroner's office has been able to elaborate whether the misspelling was a notation error by an investigator or a highly suspicious detail. Detective King, who interviewed Chiba and provided the note to the coroner, has not returned repeated phone calls.

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