Liam Gowing’s answer to our post about his Spin Magazine article was a surprise to me though I appreciate somebody going on the record for us even if it is all a little contradictory. I guess the story isn’t finished for him, and I guess this says how touchy Elliott Smiths baffling “suicide” is even after almost 7 years.
So yeah, I believe Liam wasn’t shilling for Jennifer Chiba and I believe Liam when he says there wasn’t a shred of evidence pointing to Chiba. However, when Liam says he spent a year on the story and interviewed EVERYONE -there I have my doubts.
I doubt this because many close friends of Elliott never talked about his death, and were not interviewed for Liam’s article. Rather, he is talking to the same circle of people who have been outspoken after Elliott’s death, without looking for other sources; Robin Peringer, David McConnell, Steve Hanft… or Dorien Gary and Christopher Cooper who knew Elliott in the 90’s but were not around him later on.
Where are his really close friends? Jon Brion? Sam Coomes? Aaron Espinoza (Earlimart)? Elliott had been pretty isolated from them because of his drug addiction, but he was trying to renew with them.
Liam Gowing did not interview Valerie Deerin, Elliott’s previous girlfriend before Chiba, who would have had something to say about J. Chiba’s violent behavior from what I have heard.
Everyone? He did not talk to the family, to his parents who, he said, declined to be interviewed.
He did not talk to Dr. Scheinen who did the autopsy, he just quoted what she wrote in the report.
And, most importantly, he did not talk to the police, did not even try to see how the investigation had been handled, or mishandled by them, did not question the investigation itself. The only thing is this declaration of LAPD detective James King :’ The case is still an open investigation’
Why are there no questions about the job done by the police? What kind of evidence they have collected if any? Were the blood patterns examined? There is not a clear idea of what exactly did the police this day. Why the neighbors were not questioned by the police as we know they heard the violent fight the two were having.
The point here isn’t whether Liam Gowing’s intentions are pure. Having read his comments I readily concede they were pure. Perhaps the point is what was needed was an investigative report and not a member of LA’s incestuous inner circle of rock musicians passing the same stories around like a girl in High School everybody has slept with me: it is a litany in a concentric circle: there is no dissenting voice because they are all moving from the same starting point. Liam needed to go further and he didn’t.
Instead, he independently corroborated Elliott’s proposal of marriage. Which proves…? I have another source (who never went on record) who said that J. Chiba told him, at Elliott’s funerals, that Elliott wanted to leave her. I think Liam is the only person who believed Smith’s relationship with Chiba wasn’t on the precipice and about to fall.
And I’m sure Elliott was still going through psychological hell after quitting drugs, but the fact he had no talk therapist to discuss with was because of J. Chiba who had discouraged him to see his doctor and was trying to convince him to see her doctor. Their fight on October 21st was about seeing a doctor, although nobody knows exactly what it was about.
All the stories in the Spin article about Elliott being a cutter and carving deep wounds in his arm (from David McConnell and R. Peringer: ‘Peringer remembers the incident well: He had three really tremendous knife wounds on his left arm. They were deep, like he had to go across a couple of times or have the sharpest, biggest knife to do it.’) are misleading because if he had done this just a month before he died, deep wounds would had appeared on the autopsy report and they don’t, and because the wounds he had (the possible defensive wounds of the autopsy reports) are not on his left arm , but under his right arm and his palm. Gowing could have questioned Dr Scheinen about these!
And there is no conspiracy theory as Dr Scheinen said to me in a personal email:
‘In the Smith case, there were certain things — both anatomic findings and circumstances — that were suggestive of suicidal death and pointed down that road, while there were other things that were less consistently associated with suicide and suggested the possibility of homicide. There was nothing that tipped the scales one way or other.’
So saying it was a murder is no more a conspiracy theory than saying it was a suicide, as she added later in this same email:’ In this case, there was truly no clearcut way to assign the mode of death’.
I agree that being on a facebook friend list does not mean being a close friend, but before the publication of the article Jennifer Chiba said to someone I knew and who was exchanging emails with her, that A FRIEND was about to write an article about her with good and bad things.
Of course nobody can tell what happened, because there were only two people there, and one is dead, but in the end the Spin article does not ask let alone answer that question.
Originally published on Rock NYC (July 23 2010)