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Kurt Cobain’s death was ruled suicide, but some believe he was murdered.

Kurt Cobain

His body was found in the greenhouse


Diagram of death scene

On April 8, 1994, music fans around the world were devastated to learn of the death of rock star Kurt Cobain, lead guitarist and singer-songwriter for the grunge band, Nirvana.  Cobain apparently died of a shotgun blast to the head. An autopsy later revealed a near-lethal dose of heroin in his bloodstream.  The official ruling:  suicide.

Private investigator Tom Grant has come to doubt that ruling:

“I don’t believe Kurt Cobain committed suicide. I believe there was someone with him in that room.  I believe it was someone that he knew.  They were doing heroin together. I believe at a certain point, more heroin was injected into Kurt Cobain than what he wanted injected into himself.  And after that point, he was shot with a shotgun once he had become totally incapacitated.”

Sean T. O’Donnell of the Seattle Police Department disagreed:

“There was a very thorough, comprehensive investigation done from the very beginning.  And everything that the detectives encountered indicated to them that this was a suicide.  We actually found nothing to indicate that this was anything but a suicide.”

This was not Kurt Cobain’s first brush with death. A month earlier, a photograph was taken of Cobain being rushed to a hospital in Rome, Italy.  He had overdosed on sedatives and alcohol and nearly died.  His family and friends persuaded him to check into drug rehab. After two days, he walked out and disappeared.   The next day, Cobain’s wife, fellow rock musician Courtney Love, is said to have contacted private investigator Tom Grant and asked him to find her husband.  Tom Grant recalled:

“Courtney asked us, of course, not to contact him, not to make any contact with him, just to report back where he was and what was going on.”

Was the letter also a suicide note?

But Grant didn’t find Cobain soon enough.  His lifeless body was discovered by an electrician working at Cobain’s Seattle home three days after he died.  Tom Grant said that the police told him that the death was a suicide:

“I contacted the police the day the body was found. They basically told me on the phone, ‘Hey, we know a suicide when we see a suicide.’

But the more Tom Grant discovered, the more he became convinced that the official cause of death was wrong.  Grant believes that he found important inconsistencies in the case.  For instance, Grant said Cobain’s credit card appeared to have been used after his death:

“There was an attempt made on April 6, there was another attempt made on April 8th.  Kurt had died sometime on April 5, the previous Tuesday. Who was using the credit card?”

Two credit cards were found in his wallet

The police were never able to find out.  According to Grant, that credit card was never found:

After the body was discovered, two other cards were found in the wallet, but the same card that someone was attempting to use after, we now know Kurt was already dead, was not found in Kurt’s property.”

The autopsy showed Kurt Cobain’s blood contained 1.52 milligrams per liter of the tranquilizer diazepam and heroin.  Some medical experts said that much heroin could kill a person three times over, which Grant sited as further evidence against suicide:

“With that much heroin and diazepam in his system, could he even pick up that shotgun? Wouldn’t he be incapacitated within seconds?”

Dr. Donald Reay inspected Cobain’s body at the scene:

“It’s really an issue of tolerance. How much is this person used to?  If a person has gradually, over months or years, increased the dose, a person could function with that amount of drugs, narcotics, whatever it is present in the system. Again, so much of it depends upon individual tolerance over a period of time.”

No fingerprints were found on the shotgun

Police found no legible fingerprints on the shotgun, the shotgun shells, or the pen used to write the suicide note. Could they have been wiped clean?  Sean T. O’Donnell of the Seattle Police Department didn’t think so:

“I think it’s clear that anyone who is familiar with firearms and their use would know that as they hold a weapon, that frequently that weapon will move in their hand.  Additionally, when that weapon is discharged, that causes a jerking motion, which causes the hands to move over the surface of the weapon.  And all of those factors could cause any fingerprints that may have been left on the weapon to be unusable.”

The alleged suicide note also raised questions. Tom Grant believed it was actually a retirement letter to Cobain’s fans. There were rumors that Cobain was feeling burned out, and was planning to adopt a lower profile.  He had recently pulled out of the annual Lollapalooza tour.

Grant suggested that only the last four lines of the note indicated suicide.  They read:

“Please keep going, Courtney.  For Frances, for her life which will be so much happier without me.  I love you, I love you.”

Unsolved Mysteries asked handwriting expert Marcel Matley to compare a copy of Cobain’s alleged suicide note with two pages of lyrics handwritten by Cobain:

“As to the last four lines, there are more than a dozen differences that should give us pause.  And we would have to reasonably explain these differences before we can conclude that the same person wrote the four lines that wrote the body of it.”

Handwriting expert, Reginald Alton, also compared copies of Cobain’s handwriting to a copy of the note.  In a five-page written report, Alton pointed out more than a dozen discrepancies.

He believed the bulk of the suicide note was written by Cobain, but raised questions about the first line and the last four lines. His report stated:

“There are many indications that there may have been a second hand at work.”

Sean T. O’Donnell of the Seattle Police responded:

“We did take the note from the scene and have it examined at the Washington State crime lab.  And their handwriting analyst has indicated that it is her belief that this note was written by Mr. Cobain.”

Tom Grant offered his take on a possible motive:

“Kurt Cobain had made an important decision in his life.  He wanted out of the entertainment business.  He didn’t want to tour anymore.  He didn’t want to perform anymore. He wanted to be left alone.  He never liked that aspect of being a performer.  This decision that he had made was going to affect a lot of other people.  He was no longer the money machine that he once was.  Now Cobain was worth more dead than he was alive.”

But who would have wanted Kurt Cobain dead?  Could it have been the mysterious user of his credit card?  Did that same person add critical lines to Cobain’s alleged suicide note?  Those questions remain unanswered.  The Seattle Police consider the case closed.  Tom Grant does not.  He believes the investigation should be reopened and the inconsistencies resolved once and for all.

Watch this case now on Amazon Prime in season nine with Robert Stack and in season one with Dennis Farina. Also available on YouTube with Dennis Farina. Various seasons available now on Hulu.

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  1. Molly

    Soaked in Bleach
    Love and Death
    Queen of noise
    Love Kills the Assassination of Kurt Cobain by Hank Harrison. Courtney’s father.


  2. pamela

    maybe Kurt isn’t dead,


  3. carl george

    yes I believe that Courtney was definitely involved in Kurt’s murder. she wanted to be the “Go-getter in the whole situation once she married Kurt for his money and that she 100 percent used his credit card during the supposed murder/suicide incident. Seattle police need to blow this case open again for more clues.


  4. Crystal

    Dylan got him the gun he could have stolen his card as well as his pin number Cally and Eric was involved and Eric told Kristen she split with him he told court that he told her court and Eric had to finish Kirsten Pfaff of too


  5. Crystal

    Dylan got him the gun he could have stolen his card as well as his pin number Cally and Eric was involved and Eric told Kristen Pfaff she split wiv him+he’s told her everything so Eric and court finish her of the same way but without a. Gun as it would b to suspicious thats wat I think


  6. Believer

    Reopen the case… more evidence is there. Someone just needs to make it a priority and look at it… the truth will always prevail


  7. Anonymous

    Don’t know, don’t care.


  8. Anonymous

    i don’t think it was suicide, sure there was someone with him be4 he died,a lot of evidence assure that, no fingerprints on the shotgun what is he wiped his fingerprints after he killed him self, who use his credit card someone close to him,handwriting is confusing how some lines differs from the others, who killed him someone knows his place & injected him 2 look like suicide,the victim knows him ’cause there’s no breaking in signs, i think the reason was all about money


  9. daniel landrum

    to yong a


  10. anonymous

    kurt wasnt killed by his wife but someone should really look at dylan or michael or people shes given money to for no reason. i believe threw all i read that she had the motive and the means what she was waiting on was opportunity. look at all the people that crossed her and knew the truth ended up disappering or dead. ya truly think she had something to do with it.


  11. Ryan

    If I may draw your attention to the three instances in the main body of the suicide note where Kurt writes “for” : notice that in each of the three occurances he connects the “f” and “o” with a small transition line.

    Juxtapose this fact with the two occurances of the word “for” contained in the lower portion and notice there is no connection whatsoever.


  12. Brittany Bell

    His wife killed him no doubt… They should really reopen the case.


  13. f.b.cobain

    just as well…nirvana sucked anyway. wash your hair and put a clean shirt on once in a while, jeez.


  14. john smith

    cops…pppffftttt…clearly another case of “well, if we call it suicide, despite all the indications that it was murder, we can go home and eat donuts…but if we call it murder, then oh my god we have real WORK to do…screw it, it was suicide.” cops are idiots.


  15. Johnny

    I was a teenager when Kurt Cobain died. It shocked the music world in 1994 when he was found dead. Loved Nirvana and their music. It looked like an open and shut case of suicide. The missing credit card and the lack of shotgun prints makes me think though. You could see Kurt ending the cycle of pain and depression but with a new baby and wife…He had much to live for. I don’t think the record company would kill him off since groups will sometimes take a year off. They have a hiatus or write a new record or whatever. I’m thankful for Kurt and his music. You would think after 22 years a drifter or a friend would have been captured now if they killed Kurt.


    • Kelrebec

      Thanks Johnny for such a heartfelt reply. I was not a teenager, but the music impacted my life
      at the same time and I do miss his wit, style and grace. I enjoy seeing Dave Grohl’s success because, in my mind, he kept Kurt alive longer.


  16. AK

    He was severely bipolar. He left rehab early and started using again. He might have thought he would never be free of the addiction, and that he was better off dead.


  17. Mr

    Kurt Cobain was not worth unsolved mysteries time and only the most idiotic just want someone to blame other than the man himself


  18. I Wish Kurt Cobain Wasn't Dead

    I’m convinced this was a murder. Courtney Love is prime suspect, obviously. But I have no say in this. I’m only 13, and I was not alive to see the day Cobain died. I do wish he hadn’t passed on, though. He’s probably my favorite singer/guitarist of all time.


  19. annistaisa

    Many people blame Courtny Love for Kurt Cobain’s death. She was supicious, but i think his death was a little more complex then that. Kurt was about to leave his record lable. he thought Nirvana was becomming to comercialized, something he never wanted. The record lable was making millions off of Nirvana. Musicans who have tried to leave record lables have always “disappeared”. A lot of their deaths become questionable suicides, just like Marylin Monroe’s death. Kurt’s death was very questionable. It does deserve to be reopened and investigated again. As long as the ones who did it are still alive, it will never be. If it was Courtny who did it on her own, the case would have been reopened and she would have been convicted. No one favored her. I would look in the direction of the record lable and the powers at be. They know what happened.


  20. Anonymous

    The case should be reopened I feel. Like grant says how could he have pulled the trigger to the gun with that much drugs in his system. It just doesn’t make any sense.


  21. ??

    She(Courtney)killed Curt or she knows who killed him…Submitted Sun 02/15/15


  22. owlsarenotwhattheyseem

    it was courtney. had to be. nothing will ever change my mind about that. Justice should be done and that horrible woman who is now feasting on Kurts money should be locked up for good.


  23. Anonymous

    Courtney had him killed. No doubt in my mind!


  24. josephene

    hello friends