It’s always the same story, or almost the same story, people start to talk to me and when I mention that I want to write about what I have learned about Elliott’s death, they withdraw and become silent… No exception this time! I had a conversation with a friend of Elliott’s, who will stay an anonymous source in this post, as this person told me he/she would feel uncomfortable being quoted… I got no answer when I asked him/her if I could use what he/she said without revealing his/her identity, but I don’t think this person is gonna feel uncomfortable if I refer to him/her as X?
The conversation went in many directions but I will try to sum up what X said. I first asked him/her what he/she thought happened to Elliott on October 21st, and the answer surprised me:
‘I don’t know that I’m a believer of the suicide theory and not sure of the Chiba murdering him theory either but there are some things leading up to his demise that were suspect but not sure really about any of it.’
I was curious of these ‘things leading up to Elliott’s demise’ and was suspecting X was talking about drugs, so I reminded X that Elliott had no drugs in his system at the time of his death:
‘I’m aware that his system tested clean by the time an autopsy was done but yeah there was some stuff in the weeks leading up to his death that sounded like he may have been hiding from some people that he used to buy drugs from in large quantities and they’re not the kind of people you want knowing we’re you live.’
I told X there was no evidence of any intrusion in the house and that I was finding very strange that Chiba would cover the murder as a suicide, if she knew he had been murdered? For me, it was hard to believe that Elliott could have been murdered by some drug dealer, while Chiba was in the house and did not see or hear what was happening,… even if she was locked in the bathroom.
‘If the Mexican mafia came into your house and murdered your dude and said you’re next unless you keep your mouth shut and there wouldn’t evidence of intrusion. They would’ve just come in like any other time. I saw the quantities he dealt in. If you just stop one day those people are gonna think you’re a narc. That’s how they think. There is nowhere you’d be safe from the Mexican mafia. He had asked a friend of ours to hide him just two weeks before saying they were after him and wanted to hurt him. I know Chiba and don’t think she did it. That’s my spider sense. He would buy 20k at a time. And often. You are dealing with scary people at that level. She left to NYC and stayed at a friends for months afterwards. everyone can believe what they will.’
The fact that she left Los Angeles a few weeks after Elliott’s death is well documented but does it prove she was hiding from the Mexican mafia? Still, the other part is troublesome, I had heard Elliott was afraid of something, in particular, Caroline, the owner of the studio next to Elliott’s in the valley, had told a similar story, that she posted on the Elliott Smith’s forum, Sweetaddy, in November 2003
‘What I do know for sure is that Elliott was afraid of someone in the last two weeks, I know he changed the locks, I know it wasn’t the person I described to you, he seemed to have complete faith in this person,…’
Despite all this, would the Mexican mafia come and murder him in the middle of the day? Remember, it happened around noon on a hot and sunny day. Would they come to murder him, just when he was fighting with his girlfriend, would they plunge the knife just when she was in the bathroom? So I continued talking with X, not satisfied by what I was hearing. Later on during the conversation, X didn’t talk about the Mexican mafia so much,… I asked X what he knew about their relationship and he confirmed me that Elliott wanted to leave:
‘Yeah he was gonna bail and they fought on a regular basis’… ‘Everyone seems to know that but second hand it seems ’.
X also told me he/she saw Elliott very shortly before he died, but contrarily to what Jerry Schoenkopf and another person had told me (that Chiba had entered Elliott’s life by providing him drugs) X didn’t believe that Chiba was providing drugs to Elliott:
‘I saw him two nights before he died and the week before. She wasn’t his dealer. That’s absurd. She may have gone down to the street for him but he was doing that himself. The drug folks were people that I had met before as well dealer wise and the episode two weeks before he died I doubt was paranoia. As for her removing the knife I don’t know why she would but she did.’ …
‘Elliott got his own drugs by doing it himself . He would go down to alleyways in the Pico union area with thousands in cash and buy up the whole corner. I told him he was insane and better figure a different way ’… ‘if she or anyone got him drugs it was because they wanted to protect him from the risk of the street’
I asked X more about Chiba and Valerie Deerin, the other girlfriend, and X had quite a strong opinion about both women:
‘I know Val and she like most girls with Elliott was very pushy and territorial with him and friends. Honestly both she and Chiba were total bitches to me and anyone Elliott was friends with. We were at a sushi spot two nights before he died. We say and talked and he seemed really quiet and in the darkest mood ever. I had some gear of his that needed to be returned and said I’d come over that week and return it.’
‘And when the album came out, no one had ever asked me about my performance and if they could use it. She [Valerie] tried to say I’d been paid and all this bullshit’ … ‘I’m talking about Val , But Chiba talked shit like a mutha ’
I want to insist on the first point, because, despite the fact that X saw Elliott just before the time of his death and noticed that he was in a dark mood, X doesn’t believe Elliott killed himself. X didn’t say much about the reasons of Elliott’s dark mood but X also told me Elliott was fed up with the LA life (nothing new, there, we heard it before):
‘The time before just a few days prior we had a can of beer and talked about how lame all the LA hip folks loved to shit talk about him and me was. He offered good advice and we laughed at the silliness that is the nosey community of jerks that stab you in the back and lick your ass in person.’
I don’t know how close to Elliott X was, but it seems that Chiba was trying to put some distance between the two… Does this ring a bell? Lots of people told me she repeatedly did this:
‘She said I was on drugs and he wasn’t allowed to be with me’… ‘I never got him nor had anything to do with anything but getting him treatment. And I resented Chiba for a longtime for painting me falsely.’
Then X told me this about Chiba, and suddenly there was no more question of the Mexican mafia:
‘To stab your breast plate twice seems impossible and she could be a borderline witch hyper calculating bitch and almost whorelike in her sexual way. Talking and whatnot. But killing him didn’t seem like she would do that and hold it together. She would have cracked.’
She may have cracked at the condition she had received some pressure? But where was the pressure? The police did not pursue the investigation, the family did not pursue anything, and people were not talking… Chiba has, slowly but surely. built a reputation based on posts about concern for mental disease and suicide prevention on her Facebook page.
I also asked X to remember that, when Elliott did take lots of drugs, he went through a painful detox…. so was he still taking these huge amounts of drugs after his stay at the Neurotransmitter Restoration Center? X said:
‘This is during the drug days. But I had heard he was chipping leading up to his death. I heard a lot of stuff that isn’t part of the story presented to the world. Dunno what’s true or not. Aside from what I know of first hand etc. Which is that he wanted to hide from a someone nasty. He got high a few weeks before his death. That’s about it.’
So the huge amounts of drugs happened during the infamous drug days when Elliott was recording with David McConnell, but he had (may be more) one relapse according to X.
X also said this about Elliott’s posthumous album:
‘I recorded about two weeks with him, 7 or 8 tunes, maybe more ’… ‘And the album was almost done and his mixes were way better than what came out.’… ‘I don’t know what happened to them. But I wish I did. Chiba has a copy.’
He/she also mentioned the name of someone who has heard the ‘the yelling that morning.’ But of course this person, who was very probably living in the neighborhood, is not talking… despite my attempt to communicate with this person.
So all this is once again very mysterious:
Elliott was in a dark mood a few days before he died, but X doesn’t buy the suicide theory.
X doesn’t think Chiba did it either because she would have cracked since.
However Elliott was hiding from dangerous people (drug dealers, possibly the Mexican Mafia) but the police didn’t find any evidence of this, and the neighbors have never said anything about it.
Elliott and Chiba were fighting, someone heard the yelling, but is not talking about it, I just wonder whether this person went to the house when the ambulance came, I know I would have!!
Chiba is saying it was a suicide because she is afraid of the Mexican mafia’ s retaliation, however Chiba is that ‘borderline witch hyper calculating bitch and almost whorelike in her sexual way’, whom Elliott wanted to leave and ‘everybody knows it’.
I will continue searching, this is not over, but I am convinced that, unless some people decide to talk one day, the pieces of the puzzle won’t never be put together.
Originally published on Rock NYC (September 17 2014)