Nirvana's Kurt Cobain was high when he shot himself

April 15, 1994|By Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Rock singer Kurt Cobain was high on heroin and Valium when he killed himself April 5, three days before his body was discovered at his posh Seattle home.

In a strange twist to the drama surrounding the Nirvana singer's death, police in Beverly Hills, Calif., reported Wednesday that his wife, Courtney Love, was arrested on drug charges April 7 -- the day before his body was found.

Police and fire officials were called to the luxurious Peninsula Hotel early that morning and treated Ms. Love for a suspected heroin overdose.

She was charged with possession of a controlled substance, a felony, and possession of both drug paraphernalia and a hypodermic needle, misdemeanors, said Sgt. Robert Smith.

Ms. Love said she was unable to comment on the charges.

The 28-year-old lead singer of the band Hole had reported Mr. Cobain missing on April 4, three days after he walked away from a drug-treatment center in Marina Del Rey, Calif.

Mr. Cobain's suicide was undiscovered until Friday morning, when an electrician spotted the body in a guest house above the garage of the couple's home.

The level of heroin in Mr. Cobain's blood, as described by a source, was sufficient to cause intoxication when he pulled the trigger to end his life, medical authorities said.

While Mr. Cobain was missing, Ms. Love was frantically trying to find her husband. She had been in California to offer support during her husband's treatment.

But last Thursday, just a few hours before her husband's body was found, police and fire agencies were called to the Peninsula Hotel.

"She was transferred to Century City [Hospital] on the basis of a drug overdose," said SergeantSmith.

Three hours after charges were filed, Ms. Love posted $10,000 bail through a bond company and was released, Sergeant Smith said.

Arraignment was set for May 5.

A pathologist with the King County Medical Examiner's office in Seattle said the 27-year-old Mr. Cobain likely killed himself in the afternoon or evening of April 5. He declined to comment on the toxicologic findings.

The time of death is the best estimate based on the condition of the body and evidence at the scene, but Mr. Cobain could have killed himself several hours earlier or later, said Nikolas Hartshorne, the pathologist who conducted the autopsy.

"We feel confident that this was a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head," he said. "There's nothing suspicious about the scene or the circumstances that bothers me."

The tests conducted after Mr. Cobain's death determined that the level of heroin in his bloodstream was 1.52 milligrams per liter.

There was also evidence of diazapan, or Valium, in his blood, the source said.

The heroin dose found in Mr. Cobain was "a high concentration, by any account," said Dr. Randall Baselt, who heads the $H Chemical Toxicological Institute in Foster City, Calif.

But he said the strength of that dose would depend on many factors, including how habituated, or tolerant, Mr. Cobain was to the drug.

Dr. David Bailey, chairman of the Department of Pathology at the University of California, San Diego, called the dose "not insignificant."

"One could wonder about impairment of judgment," Dr. Bailey said.

Heroin levels as low as .05 mg --one-third the concentration in Mr. Cobain's blood -- have been fatal in certain cases.

"If a person was using more, they can tolerate more," said Glenn Case, an investigator with the Washington State Toxicology Lab.

Mr. Cobain had taken heroin, among other drugs, in the past. It was his continuing battle with drugs that led Ms. Love and many of his friends to persuade him to enter a drug-treatment facility in California in late March.

On March 4, Mr. Cobain was rushed to a hospital in Rome for treatment of an overdose of drugs and alcohol. Although that incident was initially described as an accident, Ms. Love said she now believes the troubled Mr. Cobain was trying to kill himself.

One longtime friend of Mr. Cobain's said that the rock star was driven to suicide by mysterious internal forces and that it was wrong to focus the blame on drugs.

"Just blaming it on smack [heroin] is stupid," said Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic. "People have been taking smack for a hundred years. You can get smack in any town. This is just a Tonya Harding thing -- all this talk about Seattle and smack. Smack was just a small part of his life."

Mr. Novoselic said he did not understand his friend's behavior.

0 "I don't have it all figured out right now."

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