Thinking Again About The Fight Leading to The Tragedy

When I interviewed Dr Scheinin, the deputy medical examiner with the county coroner’s office who conducted Elliott Smith’s autopsy, I asked her to tell me how many suicides by stabbing she was aware of which had occurred in the middle of a fight. But Dr. Scheinin corrected me right away: ‘they were not in the middle of a fight, they had fought and she had locked herself in the bathroom’, she said almost authoritatively.

But how do we know that for sure? This is Chiba’s narrative, and as usual, people take it for the truth. Had they really stopped fighting? And in this case for how long? At the time of Elliott’s death, I was able to find a few snippets of feedback from neighbors or people who had heard some rumors about the fight… I know these would never be accepted as proof in a courtroom, I know that they are just hearsay posted on some corners of the internet, corners that have probably now disappeared, but they existed at one point. First this one posted by a certain Dave, on a personal page when MySpace used to be the thing:

‘I haven’t heard anything about her at all since Elliott Smith died, she seems to have disappeared completely, not saying anything at all about what happened that last day at their place.

He stabbed himself in the chest while arguing with her, according to a neighbor she’d stormed out of the house briefly after a loud screaming match, but then she turned around and went inside and found Elliott all bleeding. Did she drive him to the hospital? I want to think I remember it that way. He survived for a short while before the bleeding was too much. Did she kill him personally? With her own hands? If she did, Elliott didn’t say so, and he had at least some opportunity to explain such a thing.’

If she stormed out of the house after a loud screaming match, she wasn’t locked in the bathroom! This guy was asking the right questions, and you have probably noticed the ‘He stabbed himself in the chest while arguing with her’! In the mind of neighbors, there was no pause in the fight, they were fighting and the incident occurred.

On another website, I did find this text below, coming from someone whose wife pretended to know Chiba, whom he described as ‘a fucking manic nutball’:

She and elliott have had this emotional, dramatic table turning, door slamming, screaming “i hate you” type of relationship. typical for a manic and a depressed individual right? the wife has witnessed it herself in a bar one night.

well. they were having one of those episodes. he had been making strides as of late, was off the depression pills and really on the upswing. during this episode she was really pressing him, for one reason or another. she, in her manic fury locked herself in the bathroom. he, went to the kitchen, got a steak knife. KAPUT!

I know how dangerous it can be to trust something written on some random message board but I have to say that this was written on October 23rd, just 2 days after it happened, and for what it’s worth, it is some glimpse of what happened that fatidic day. It is at least as valid as what Chiba wants to tell Schultz and Reyes 10 years later…

Chiba herself described the scene like this in Gil Reyes’ documentary;

After locking herself in the bathroom, because she was ‘going crazy herself’, Elliott was knocking on the door, saying he was sorry and loved her, but after she stayed there for 5 or 10 minutes, she heard a terrible noise coming from the kitchen…

According to all this, allow me to doubt about Scheinin’s belief that the fight was over, they were still in a middle of a drama when she was in the bathroom, and she didn’t stay there for long, 5-10 minutes from what she said. My point is that they were fighting and not much time did pass between the fight and the stabbing. Scheinin was very fast at correcting me during the interview for one important reason: this has a huge impact on the interpretation of the event…. It is very different whether the stabbing occurred when they were in the middle of a huge fight or an hour after they had fought!  Now, people do commit suicide after a fight with a significant other, but how many people commit suicide during a fight?

Originally published on Rock NYC (November 29 2014)

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