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Bleach, Blood & Lies: A Look Back On The Death Of Kurt Cobain 20 Years Later – Part One

Shawn Helton
21st Century Wire

In the early hours of April 8th, 1994, the body of Kurt Cobain was discovered at his Lake Washington residence in Seattle by Veca Electric employee Gary Smith. 

The iconic singer and guitarist for the popular rock group Nirvana was said to have died from a ‘contact perforating shotgun wound to the head’ just three days earlier on April 5th. 

Was the well-known singer’s death a suicide – or a murder?

This is a question that we’ll explore in detail as we examine the various events leading up to Kurt’s final days – nearly 20 years later…


IMAGE:  ‘Bleached and Buried’ – contemplative Kurt Cobain performing at the height of his Nirvana fame.

Reports suggest that the 27 year-old’s heroin blood level indicated he had three times the lethal dose of heroin in his bloodstream prior to the shotgun being used. Expert accounts state that because of the amount of heroin in his system, he would’ve been incapacitated almost immediately and unable to perform the task of shooting himself. Kurt’s body was found six days after he was last seen alive at his Seattle residence. 

From Aberdeen to Hollywood Babylon

Kurt rose to fame out of the humble logging town called Aberdeen, which was once dubbed the “Port of Missing Men” in the early 1900’s because of its high murder rate. Kurt’s band Nirvana became known in a Pacific Northwest music scene that focused around acts such as the Melvins and Mudhoney.

While every band was different in the so-called ‘Seattle grunge’ movement, the scene’s style seemed born out of 60’s garage rock and punk while referencing bands like Black Sabbath – its heavily distorted sound and raw sensibility were undaunted by the overindulgent metal instrumentation of the late 80’s, creating an alluring musical landscape that crossed several genres.

The Pacific Northwest had a gritty music scene that seemed built on beer stained amps, dirty punks and backroom junkies. It was this setting that provided a seedy backdrop for one of the most shocking celebrity deaths in modern history – a death that has been shrouded in mystery to this day.


IMAGE: ‘Electra Complex’ – Courtney Love’s mother Linda Carroll was a psychotherapist and her father Hank Harrison, was a former manager for the Grateful Dead.

It wouldn’t be long before Kurt met his future wife Courtney Love, a drifter who latched on to the indie rock scenester stratosphere, who seemingly morphed into whatever might give her the best opportunity to climb within the entertainment world. Courtney performed in a series of defunct bands prior to starting her band Hole in 1989.

Along the way she was featured in the cult film Sid & Nancy, playing the part of Gretchen, Nancy’s best friend.

Courtney closed out the Reagan-Bush era gigging, stripping and modeling her way to marginal notoriety before capturing Kurt and his rock fame. Courtney’s band Hole was never a hit until Kurt’s death.

Hole released their second album Live Through This just four days after Kurt’s body was found on April 12th, 1994. The album subsequently launched Courtney into mainstream success as the record was showered with ‘best album of the year awards’ – appearing to piggyback off the death of Kurt and his band Nirvana.


IMAGE: ‘Nancy becomes Sid’ – Kurt & Courtney during a ‘Sassy’ magazine shoot in 1992 – It has been said that Nancy Spungen (February 27, 1958 – October 12, 1978) the girlfriend of Sex Pistols bassist Sid Vicious, was murdered under suspicious circumstances – even though Sid Vicious (John Ritchie) was charged in her death.

A cold case gets colder

In anticipation of the 20th anniversary of Kurt’s death, the Seattle police department’s cold case division unearthed some ‘four rolls’ of undeveloped film taken at the scene, claiming that this was definitive proof that the initial ruling in the case should stand.

After reviewing dozens of photographs of the scene at the Lake Washington home, the SPD initially only produced two previously unseen photos that depict some of Kurt’s belongings near his body, namely his wallet, a cigar box full of drug paraphernalia, crumpled cash, sunglasses, cigarettes, a lighter, a dirty cigarette burned towel and a winter cap.

While the objects themselves are not unusual, particularly given the fact that Kurt was a well-known heroin user who also smoked cigarettes, the feeling you get is somewhat uneasy as evidence of Kurt’s apparent suicide has been sitting dormant in the SPD’s file room for nearly two decades without being properly reviewed.

Why did the SPD not finish developing all the rolls film when Kurt’s case was still open and how could this be a reinvestigation when all the evidence couldn’t have been properly looked at in the first place?

The further you look into this case, the more unanswered questions seem to appear surrounding the death of the Nirvana singer, some of which seems to be due to the handling of forensic evidence and how the crime scene had been reported from the very beginning. 


IMAGE: ‘Searching for the truth’ – Tom Grant a noted private investigator and former detective for L.A. County. 

Cobain case outline

Kurt’s body was located in the greenhouse above the double garage at the family’s Lake Washington residence. Many have questioned whether it was possible for the Nirvana frontman to have killed himself by way of a shotgun due to the amount of drugs said to have been injected into his body.

This has prompted many theories in the wake of his death, some theories that have yet to be put to rest. Let’s take a closer look at the timeline leading up to the star’s death and the forensic evidence surrounding this case.

Much of the evidence and background we are about discuss in this article has been gleaned from Tom Grant, a veteran private investigator and former detective with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department who had intimate knowledge of the case.

Tom was initially hired by Courtney Love on April 3rd to locate Kurt after he had recently left a rehab facility in Marina Del Ray, California. Tom’s investigation led him to Seattle as Kurt was last seen at his residence on April 2nd.

Below are recent photograph’s released by the SPD regarding Kurt’s death. It was inaccurately reported that Kurt had left his license out so police could identify him, as it turns out, police on the scene had disturbed the crime scene, pulling Kurt’s ID partially out of his wallet prior to taking the photo.

In addition to the disturbed evidence at the scene, Authorities inaccurately reported that Kurt was barricaded in the greenhouse where his body as found.

Photos taken of the scene would later prove Kurt had not barricaded himself in the green house – but in the court of public opinion the damage was already done, as media outlets quickly spread this story without retraction.


IMAGE: ‘All the world is a stage’ – Kurt’s belongings seemingly arranged next to his lifeless body.


IMAGE: ‘Personal Effects’ – black tar heroin on a spoon with other drug paraphernalia and syringes contained in a Tom Moore cigar box found at the scene. 

When in Rome

On March 2, it was reported that Kurt had checked in at Rome’s Excelsior Hotel, as he was said to be recuperating from a grueling world tour in which he had lost his voice during what would turn out be Nirvana’s last show at Terminal One in Munich, Germany.

Nirvana subsequently cancelled the rest of their European tour due to Kurt’s illness, as he was advised to take at least a month off.

On March 3rd, Courtney and her close friend Michael DeWitt, (aka Cali) traveled to Rome with Frances Bean Cobain. Cali and Frances apparently stayed in the suite next to Kurt and Courtney, as Cali was the family nanny. There was said to have been a heated exchange between Cobain and Love resulting in talk of a divorce, this culminated in Love leaving the hotel for a while that night. 

Following the dispute earlier in the evening, Kurt was said to have written a letter informing Courtney that he would be leaving her. Courtney later returned to the hotel room, and the pair temporarily reconciled after she had read Kurt’s note.

It was then stated that champagne had been ordered as Kurt later fell into what would be a 20 hour coma in the morning hours of March 4th, after apparently ingesting some 50 Rohypnol pills while drinking. The incident was reported as an ‘accidental overdose’ as Courtney herself admitted to Select Magazine while fully made-up on the way to the hospital that Kurt’s overdose was “not a suicide thing.” 

Later through the dark magic of the entertainment industry and Courtney’s ever-changing comments to the press, many media outlets would inaccurately report this was Kurt’s previous suicide attempt following his death.

The Rome letter to Courtney was often referred to as a ‘suicide note’ in mainstream press without any evidence to substantiate that claim. 

Courtney was later told to get rid of the Rome letter by Sgt. Don Cameron of the SPD. This is a critical detail was never fully explained in this case.

One has to wonder why an officer of the law would advise Courtney to destroy ‘potential evidence’ in what should have been an ongoing investigation.


IMAGE: ‘Kurt & Courtney’ – in an ambulance following Kurt’s subsequent overdose from Rohypnol and champagne. It has been suggested that Courtney herself may have spiked Kurt’s drink without his knowledge.

Dr. Osvaldo Galleta was the attending doctor who treated Kurt in Rome following his ‘accidental overdose’. Dr. Galleta said he didn’t believe Kurt to be suicidal, here is an excerpt from his comments:

We can usually tell a suicide attempt,” adding: He did not seem like a young man who wanted to end it all.”

The drug  Rohypnol, also known as ‘Roffies’ is highly potent and has often been used to incapacitate unknowing victims before being raped or abducted in some way. Roffies render the victim unable to remember what happened to themselves under the influence of the drug, as it is odorless as well as tasteless, and cannot be detected when administered.

Setting the scene

It was stated that police arrived on the scene of a verbal domestic dispute at the Lake Washington property on March 18th, as Courtney had claimed Kurt had locked himself in a room and was looking to harm himself.

This was later proven be false when Kurt clearly stated that he did not want to hurt himself to authorities. 

On March 25th, an apparent “tough love intervention” was staged by Courtney and Geffen record executives looking to convince Kurt that he needed to kick his drug habit in order to be a better father and husband. The intervention was seemingly ironic in its tone because Courtney herself was said to be using drugs at the time.

Among those listed as being at Kurt’s staged intervention were Dylan Carson, Nirvana bass player Krist Novoselic, guitarist Pat Smear all of whom had their own bouts with drug addiction, as some were allegedly still abusing drugs at the time.

Strange behaviour 

Cobain’s intervention appeared to be hypocritical, as the family was caught in legal trouble following a revealing Vanity Fair piece called “Strange Love” by writer Lynn Hirschberg in 1992.

During the lengthy interview, it was suggested by Courtney that she used drugs while pregnant with her daughter Frances. The result was a media firestorm, and for a brief time, the ‘grunge’ couple had to fight for their daughter’s custody.

Also during the Hirschberg article, Courtney stated that their baby was likely to be due on the same day as the MTV awards and that Kurt should still play the awards show even if Courtney was to give birth, subsequently Frances Cobain was born a few weeks earlier prior to the show:

It’s the same day as the MTV Video Awards, I think it’s very important that Kurt play that, but he doesn’t think like I do. If I was him, I’d have to play the video awards. I appreciate money. Kurt doesn’t see it the same way.”

The interview with Hirschberg was wrought with statements like the one above, resulting in many threats levied against Hirschberg, eventually culminating in physical attack by Courtney at the Oscars in 1995. 


IMAGE: ‘The Peninsula Beverly Hills Hotel’ – Courtney Love stayed here in the days leading up to Kurt’s body being found.

Marina Del Ray, the Peninsula Hotel and a false police report

On March 26th, following the intervention with Kurt, Courtney made her way to the Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills. Later during Courtney’s stay at the hotel, it was revealed she subsequently phoned Kurt at Exodus Recovery Center – a total of 13 times on April 1st

The very next day on April 2nd, it was reported that Courtney had an overdose, it was later revealed that story was planted and was sent to the Associated Press by Courtney.

On April 3rd, Courtney hired private investigator Tom Grant. According to her, someone was attempting to use Kurt’s credit card and she needed to know who it was and what activity was on the card.

Bizarrely, Courtney stated that she had lied to Kurt’s credit card company and had the card cancelled, she also claimed he had no access to any other money without this card. Kurt’s credit company confirmed that there were attempted purchases by someone using his card after his death, but once his body was discovered the card use abruptly stopped.

Why would Courtney call a private investigator to find out the activity on Kurt’s credit card, and then lie to have it cancelled without Kurt’s consent and if she didn’t have contact with Kurt, how was it possible for her to know the card was missing and being used by someone else?

Missing the truth

As Courtney and Tom mulled over more details about Kurt’s access to money, she claimed she didn’t know where his location was. It was later revealed that earlier that morning she received a phone call from her friend and family nanny, Cali, stating that he had seen and spoken to Kurt at the Lake Washington property that same morning.

Cali is stated to be the last person to speak to Kurt that we know of. Tom has tried in vain to get him to take a polygraph over the years apparently with one excuse after another.

Courtney had then asked Tom to send a surveillance unit to watch other locations in Seattle.

Why did Courtney instruct Tom to send someone to watch other locations Seattle, other than the Lake Washington house – if that was the last place Kurt was seen alive?

On Monday April 4th, Courtney filed a missing persons report using the name Wendy O’Connor, Kurt’s mothers name, she also advised Tom to send the Seattle surveillance team to various luxury hotels in the area to try to locate Kurt, even though it was said that Kurt hated fancy hotels and other luxury residences.

Courtney also suggested she didn’t want to alert Kurt to anyone looking for him. However, she later called a hotel where they thought Kurt might be, leaving the Lake Washington house without surveillance once again. 

In the missing persons report filed by Courtney, Narcotics Detective Antonio Terry was listed as the point of contact for “further info,” in the case.


IMAGE: Drone Doom – Musician Dylan Carlson was tasked with helping Tom Grant look for Kurt in Seattle, as Kurt’s best friend, he never believed that Kurt was suicidal. An Interesting side note, his father was said to have worked at the Department of Defense.

A ‘light load’ for home defense

In the days leading up to his death, while still in Seattle and before his stint in rehab, Kurt was seen purchasing a 20 gauge Remington shotgun with his best friend Dylan Carlson on March 30th.

The shotgun was ‘setup for light load’ making it unlikely to go through walls or doors. It has been stated that Kurt was afraid of intruders coming into his Lake Washington home and wanted some kind of protection.

Kurt needed Carlson to make the purchase because police had recently confiscated his guns during a disturbance call on March 18th.

According to a police report made on April 12th by Sgt. Don Cameron, Carlson tried to dissuade Kurt from buying the shotgun until he came back from rehab. Kurt refused and took the shotgun to his residence, going against Carlson’s suggestion to leave it at his home.


IMAGE: ‘Home protection’ –  A photograph of Kurt’s shotgun purchased from Stan Baker Sports with Dylan.

The still image seen above, is from investigator Tom Grant’s case study manual about Kurt’s death

It’s important to remember that Kurt was in possession of the shotgun prior to going to rehab, this is a point that has often been missed by many media outlets following Kurt’s death, as they’ve stated inaccurately that he purchased the shotgun after leaving rehab.

According to Dylan’s statement to police, the last time would see or speak to Kurt, was when he accompanied him to the airport prior to rehab. Kurt was bound for a flight to Marina Del Ray for his stay at Exodus Recovery Center.

Before Dylan helped Kurt buy the shotgun, evidence suggests that Kurt wanted to walk away from the music industry, leaving a reported $9.5 million dollar contract on the table for a headline slot during Lollapalooza that year.

According to those close to the situation, this did not go over well with Courtney or Nirvana’s business managers at Gold Mountain. Courtney was apparently upset about leaving such large contract and in desperation, offered up her band Hole as a replacement.

The shotgun Kurt purchased was fully loaded with three shells prior to his death, which would indicate that it was bought for protection, not suicide.

There were no legible prints found on Kurt’s shotgun which could indicate an error when processing evidence, or that the prints themselves were deliberately wiped off the firearm by someone.

It wasn’t until one month after Kurt’s body was found that the shotgun was checked for prints on May 6th, 1994.

Friends on the force 

Another important detail to consider in the case, took place on May 2nd, 1993, following an accidental heroin overdose, Courtney subsequently injected Kurt with a host of drugs that would only intensify his ‘total opiate threshold,’ as she claimed she was trying to revive him before paramedics arrived.

Critics of the case suspect that the reason Courtney was not charged with administering illegal drug because of her close connection and friendship with Narcotics Detective Antonio Terry of the Seattle Police Department. 

Some have suggested that Courtney had an inside track on the SPD, as her friend on the force, Detective Terry had busted some local drug dealers at her behest, even though she herself obtained and used illegal drugs. 

Detective Terry would later turn up dead in the line of duty sometime after Kurt’s death, in what appeared to be an unrelated to the singer’s death. 

Did Courtney’s inside connections within the SPD, alter the way Kurt’s death was investigated?


IMAGE: ‘Till death do us part’ – Wendy O’Connor seen here with Kurt and Courtney.

Building a case

With all the seemingly contradictory stories from Courtney, along with missing person’s police report she filed, things were not adding up.

It appeared as if the investigation had been deliberately stalled and taken away from where Kurt was last seen – the couple’s Lake Washington property.

You have to wonder why attention was seemingly diverted away from the Lake Washington house, given that it was the last location where Kurt was seen alive.

Many friends and close associates of Kurt have stated publicly that they never thought he was suicidal, including Kurt’s best friend Dylan Carlson, along with Mark Lanegan of the band Screaming Trees and the Cobain’s attorney, Rosemary Carroll to name a few.

Five days after Kurt’s body was discovered Tom Grant had a conversation with Rosemary Carroll. Tom and Rosemary discussed the highly suspicious nature of Kurt’s death candidly. During the course of this discussion, Rosemary expressed concern over Kurt’s death stating that she did not believe the official ruling:

He wasn’t suicidal, Tom. Kurt wasn’t suicidal.” 

Rosemary is believed to have confided in Tom that Courtney wanted “the meanest, most vicious divorce lawyer,” that she could get.

Kurt had also contacted Rosemary prior to his death and wanted Courtney taken out of his will.

We would later learn that Kurt died on April 5th, 1994, but  his body wasn’t discovered until three days after his death

More than 60 children were said to have taken their own lives in the aftermath of Kurt’s death.

This is just Part One of 21Wire looking into the final days of one of the great artists of a generation – look for the next installment, as we’ll explore other damning evidence surrounding this case.

*Updated* Part Two of the Cobain case is below:

Death Is Not The End: Investigating The Kurt Cobain Case After 20 years – Part Two

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