Liam Gowing, The Author Of Spin Magazine’s Elliott Smith Article From 2004: ‘I Would Have Crucified Jennifer Chiba’

We have been writing about Elliott Smith’s death over and over again. Among the many things we’ve written on is the Spin Magazine article a year after Elliott’s death (see here). It seemed that the article was in the tank for Jennifer Chiba, but

Liam Gowing, author of the article, responded in our comments field and I am re-posting his comment here:

I’m “a good friend” of Jennifer Chiba’s? Huh??? I haven’t seen her in years! Sure, I knew her before I wrote the SPIN article–I knew her and all of Elliott’s close friends in LA–THROUGH ELLIOTT, whom I adored, adored, adored and had covered as a freelancer for LA Weekly. (As I said in my LA Weekly memorial contribution, he was my hero:  http://www.laweekly.com/2003-11-06/columns/elliott-smith-1969-2003/2 )
Let me be clear about this: I spent a full year on that SPIN article and I interviewed EVERYONE, not just Jennifer Chiba or people sympathetic to her. And believe me, if I’d discovered anything credible that proved she had had a hand in Elliott’s death, I would have crucified her with it in the article. I didn’t. 
Aside from the inconclusive coroner’s report–which was consistent with suicide but couldn’t rule out homicide, you’ll remember–which I addressed as well, all I uncovered pursuing the homicide angle were people, most of whom hadn’t seen Elliott in years, that blamed Chiba for getting Elliott into heroin and thought that she must have killed him because she’d been, in their estimation, such a bad influence on him in the past. That’s quite a leap–from codependent/enabler to murderer–and one that puts down Elliott since in his estimation, she was worthy of marrying (take heed conspiracy theorists, I was so thorough in scrutinizing Chiba’s statements that I even independently corroborated Elliott’s proposal of marriage). 
But all of the folks who were still close to Elliott at the time of his death–at least those who had the balls to go on record with me–said it was ridiculous to believe that Chiba had murdered him and pointed to the fact that he’d been going through psychological hell facing down his demons, both real (stepdad) and imagined (Dreamworks) after quitting drugs-particularly during the last month or so, during which time he had no talk therapist to discuss his very serious issues with. 
If that article felt biased to you, believe me I did my best to get a complete picture but in the end, I can’t quote people who tell me “this conversation never took place.” I can tell you that none of those folks had anything particularly substantive to say anyway.
As for Ellen Carpenter’s role (aside from years later writing a rather melodramatic post about it), all she did was double-check the facts mentioned and verify my quotes (every single one of which was ok’d by the interviewees, thank you very much). Everything I got on the record (as well as any inferences and insinuations I could follow up with others able and willing to corroborate or deny them) went into that article-nothing usable was held back or covered up. And anyway, I’m sure the things that haunted Ellen were the traumas Elliott endured as a kid and the injuries he subjected himself to as an adult.

Again, for the record, if anyone had offered up credible evidence that Chiba had murdered Elliott, it would have been included in the article. 

Liam Gowing

PS-A Facebook friend is a “close contact”? Shit, there are hundreds of people on my Facebook page, plenty of whom I’ve never even met.”

A definitive reply to our contention Gowings reporting article was pro-Chiba, which leaves us with the same old questions without an answer.

Originally published on Rock NYC (July 22 2010)

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