Because this is the moment of the year when we acknowledge to be thankful for good things happening to us, I would like to say I am grateful for people who had the courage to speak to me about Elliott Smith’s death and his relationship with Jennifer Chiba. I know how bad it can be perceived, it’s gossipy, it’s hearsay, and it doesn’t look admirable, so it is understandable that people don’t want to speak badly of another person, especially in circumstances like these, simply because people are very reluctant to say anything that may be a step leading to the conclusion that his death may have been a murder.
But I am writing this to encourage more people to speak up… I have only printed the names of the persons who have accepted to go on the record, and of course I respect the decision of the other ones who have preferred to stay anonymous.
So I am grateful….
– For the few people (and I heard it from several different sources) who told me that Jennifer Chiba was a ‘knife freak’…. one of them even said that a member of a band quit associating with her for this reason.
– For Abigail Russell who knew Chiba very well since 1999 and who talked to me about her strange friendship with a woman she called many times a ‘starfucker’ … Especially, Abigail said that, 6-8 months before Elliott’s death, Chiba told her she didn’t know what to do to keep Elliott with her. Chiba said she wanted to hook up with her ex boyfriend, a musician of a locally famous band, in order get pregnant,… and make Elliott believe it was his child? Sadly, Abigail passed away a few months after talking to me.
– For studio owner Caroline, who was one of the first persons to describe Chiba’s arrogant behavior. She called her ‘the force’ and posted a very long narrative about her several encounters with Chiba. She was also the first one to reveal that Chiba came at the studio one night after Elliott’s death: ‘I knew the force would come before the family, I just knew it and the second night after Elliott’s death at about 12:00 am in the morning the force came, in a jeep with two guys [….] I sat in the car with my partner, directly facing their car and finally the force came out and put many boxes into the car with the help of the guys.’
– For Jerry Schoenkopf, Elliott’s drug counselor, who told me right away that he believed Elliott had been murdered. He didn’t know Chiba very well but knew she started things as Elliott’s drug dealer. ‘She was one of his connections, and this is how their relationship started’, he said to me.
– For Serena Williams (who went to Hampshire College with Elliott), who let me know about her meeting with Jennifer Chiba backstage, after a show in NYC. She told me Jennifer Chiba was a liar, as she witnessed her lying about Elliott’s ex-girlfriend Valerie Deerin (who was with Serena) very loudly and aggressively. Serena also said that last time she saw Elliott he was excited to be sober, ready to embark on new things, but that the only problem in his life seemed to be ‘this horrible girlfriend’ who ‘basically yanked him away in the middle of a conversation’ to bring him downstairs and scream at him. Serena was 100 percent positive that the story Chiba gave was not the whole truth and that anything Jennifer Chiba has to say was not to be trusted.
– For this professional nurse who kindly accepted to review the whole autopsy report and concluded: ‘in my professional opinion, Elliott was murdered and I think it was Jennifer Chiba who caused his death’.
– For this professional forensic behavior psychologist who also reviewed the autopsy report and expressed her doubt about the suicide conclusion: ‘from a forensic behavior perspective I have significant doubts that Elliott Smith stabbed himself, because in the very few forensics known cases where subjects committed suicide via stabbing him or herself in the heart, there are two things in the Smith case that are completely dissimilar to the ‘norm’ […] ‘There are enough uncharacteristic elements of this “suicide” for me to be more willing to consider this a potential homicide.’ […] ‘The absence of evidentiary information makes me hesitant to say with any certainty what happened, but I CAN tell you that, based on the info I do have at hand, my personal impression would be that suicide is highly questionable.’
– For this female fan who had her boyfriend ‘stolen’ by Chiba but was still communicating with him while he was living with Chiba. He told her stories about Chiba getting drunk, screaming at him, throwing bottles and glasses and threatening to kill herself,… on a weekly occurrence. She also said Chiba was manipulative and made him feel guilty as if it was his fault.
– For this Silverlake musician who told me some second hand information about Jennifer Chiba that he had heard from famous musicians: ‘that bitch was getting physical with him in fights’…. ‘Seriously! She was like a domestic abuser!’. According to him, a guy from a very famous band allegedly witnessed Chiba hit Elliott once.
– For this other musician who knew Elliott and told me about Jennifer Chiba’s strange behavior after his death: She wanted to hire him ‘to drive her around Silverlake so she could hide in the backseat and not be seen’, ‘to run her around to her attorneys offices’, ‘all being paid for by her ex boyfriend Rivers Cuomo’s management’. He also said she brought Cuomo to Elliott’s memorial concert, which took place very shortly after he died. Abigail and the female fan also confirmed Cuomo has supported Chiba financially for years.
– For this sound engineer who wrote in the Justice for Elliott Smith page that Elliott told him this horrific story: Chiba had chased him around with a knife during an argument, about a year before he died…
– For all the people who told me she was’ a nutcase’ or simply ‘batshit crazy’
I understand that people are very cautious about involving themselves in homicide investigations, and this is true for many reasons. They don’t want to look like bad gossipers, but the main reason people don’t want to get involved is that they are often unsure whether what they know is truly relevant to an investigation, they often think that other people, who know better than them, will come forward and reveal the information if they judge it to be relevant enough. In other words, very few people want to be responsible for implicating someone in a violent murder when they aren’t sure this person is really guilty. However, these people don’t realize that every little piece of information can be useful to build the big picture necessary in any investigation. Without all these persons above, Jennifer Chiba would be forever the ‘sweet and watchful’ person who ‘wouldn’t hurt a fly’, as Liam Gowing wrote in his Spin articlein 2004, and the idea she may have something to do in his death would be ‘totally retarded’ as W.T. Schultz wrote in his book ‘Torment Saint’. So I am grateful for all these people who trusted me and said what they had witnessed without caring about how they would look and sound. Thank you.
Originally published on Rock NYC (November 27 2015)