Written by Renee Young DeCamillis
The voice of a generation, an artist for all time.
The death of the rock legend Chris Cornell has hit me hard, harder than I thought the death of a rock star or celebrity could ever affect me. Ever since I first discovered Soundgarden and Chris’s amazing talent during their Badmotorfinger tour in the 90’s, Chris has been my musical inspiration. His voice has been the shining start that I’ve reached for with my own voice for so long. Now he’s gone, and my heart is bleeding. There is a whole left in the world and left in my heart that will forever be empty. Since I got the news around 5 AM the morning following the horrific event, I’ve been writing a piece about depression and anxiety and the dangerous mix of drugs and medication so often used to self-medicate—and clinically-medicate—those who suffer with these mental illnesses. I am one who has also suffered with these issues my whole life, so it is a subject that is very near and dear to my heart, and even more so now that Chris is gone and said to have been a sufferer like me. But after working on the fourth draft of that piece a couple days ago, the details surrounding Chris’s death leave me unsatisfied with the definitive ruling of suicide.
Yes, maybe my discomfort is because it is too devastating for me to accept that Chris felt so low in those last moments that he took it upon himself to take his own life. Many, such as his wife Vicky Cornell, say that he was taking the prescription drug Ativan for his anxiety, and that he may have taken too many which could in turn have skewed his thinking in those final moments, and that is what made him do the dreaded deed. Maybe that is the case. But the more I think about the entire story that is in the media, the more questions I have. There are too many holes in this story for me to accept any definitive ruling about his death. It all seems premature to me. Ruling Chris’s death a suicide seems too easy, too cut-and-dry. And then bringing drugs into the mix is too cliché. Chris is an original, and tagging a cliché ruling of suicide and over-intoxication onto his death just leaves a sour taste in my mouth. Maybe the cops are working on solving all the many questions that I have, but I’m still yet to read anywhere that they are indeed asking the right questions. So my small self in my small way am going to voice all of my big questions with the hope that someone out there, someone with the power and authority can get to the bottom of every last detail surrounding the death of my musical inspiration—Chris Cornell. I will not rest until all the dots are connected.
I’ve read many articles about Chris’s death, many of which I’ve shared on my social media sites ( https://twitter.com/Phantom_1333 https://www.facebook.com/renee.youngdecamillis ), but I’m sure I haven’t read everything that’s out there, and maybe not everything I’ve read up to this point is %100 accurate, but here is what I’ve learned:
- Chris had just arrived in Detroit midday for the Soundgarden concert later that evening, and he had come back from spending time with his wife and children for Mother’s Day.
- A sound engineer for Soundgarden’s Detroit performance on May 17, 2017 states that Chris seemed high and was off from note-1. He was having control issues that were uncharacteristic for him. (Watch the performance to see and hear for yourself. And, please, read the article from USA Today. http://www.spin.com/2017/05/watch-soundgardens-final-performance-chris-cornells-death & https://www.usatoday.com/story/life/music/2017/05/18/chris-cornells-final-performance-something-clearly-wasnt-right/101842)
- After the show, Chris’s bodyguard, Martin Kirsten, gave him two Ativan from Chris’s prescription.
- At 11:35 PM, Chris’s bodyguard went to Chris’s hotel room to help him with his computer.
- At some point after Chris’s bodyguard left his room, Chris spoke to his wife Vicky Cornell on the phone.
- After the phone call with Chris, Vicky is said to have called his bodyguard with concerns that Chris was slurring his words and didn’t sound like himself. She is said to have asked the bodyguard to go check on him to make sure he was all right.
- Some sources state that Chris hung up the phone abruptly on his wife.
- At 12:15 AM Chris’s bodyguard Martin Kirsten knocked on Chris’s hotel room door but he didn’t answer. The bodyguard tried to unlock the door with his room key, but the door was manually locked from the inside. He then called security to let him in the room because he was worried for his boss’s well-being.
- Hotel security refused to let Chris’s bodyguard into the room.
- The bodyguard then kicked in Chris’s hotel room door.
- Then the bodyguard found the bathroom door was locked and he kicked that door in as well.
- The bodyguard is said to have found Chris unresponsive on the bathroom floor with a red exercise band secured around his neck with a clip.
- The bodyguard then called hotel security again and reported what he’d found.
- At 12:56 AM the hotel medic arrived, and the medic then removed the band from Chris’s neck and performed CPR.
- Homicide was ruled out after authorities watched the hotel surveillance and saw that no one entered Chris’s hotel room between the time the bodyguard left after tending to Chris’s computer and the time the bodyguard kicked in Chris’s hotel room door and found him on the bathroom floor with the band around his neck. And in between that time, Chris spoke to his wife, Vicky Cornell, on the phone.
Now, these are all the details that I’ve been able to find. Like I said above, I’m not sure if they are %100 accurate or not—though the same details can be found in a number of different articles—and I’m not sure if there are other details known that I haven’t heard about yet. (If anyone has more information, I’d love to hear about it and know your sources.) I have read some articles with more information and different information, but if I didn’t find that information repeated anywhere else I chalked it up to false news. Now, with the information that I do have, I’m left with many pressing questions that could entirely change the verdict of suicide, or at least give all who loved him a little more closure and acceptance for the ruling of suicide.
My questions and concerns:
- If Chris was visibly intoxicated during the concert, why did his bodyguard give him more narcotics (Ativan) after the show? (This detail pisses me off AND it makes Martin Kirsten, the bodyguard, look guilty of something. And that something is a topic I’ll get too further into this piece.) I don’t care that they were prescribed or that Chris may have asked for them; those are not the points here. When someone is over-intoxicated you should NEVER give them more drugs, prescribed or not prescribed, just like a bartender should never serve more alcohol to a visibly over-intoxicated customer. Bartenders are held liable if something goes wrong after over-serving a customer, and the bodyguard should be held liable for his actions as well.
- What time did Chris’s phone conversation with his wife take place?
- How long did that phone conversation last?
- What was said during that phone conversation? I want details.
- Did Chris indeed hang up the phone abruptly on his wife, and, if so, what prompted that? What was said leading up to that abrupt hang-up?
- How was Chris’s visit at home with his wife and children?
- Were there any problems with Chris and Vicky’s marriage?
- When Vicky called Chris’s bodyguard, what were her exact words?
- Why did hotel security not let the bodyguard into Chris’s room? This is the man who was hired to protect Chris. He should’ve been let into the room if he truly voiced concern for Chris’s safety. Maybe he didn’t really want them there; he didn’t want witnesses to what REALLY took place in Chris’s hotel room.
- At what time did the bodyguard finally get into the bathroom to find Chris unresponsive on the floor?
- At what time did the bodyguard place the second call to hotel security about finding Chris on the floor unresponsive?
- Why did the bodyguard not immediately remove the band from Chris’s neck and perform CPR? This is a HUGE question for me, and a disturbing one. It was the bodyguard’s job to protect Chris, but all we know is that when he found Chris in that condition, all he did was call hotel security and wait for the medic to arrive. What else did he do between the time he called security and the time that the medic arrived and finally removed the band from Chris’s neck and finally performed CPR? Did he just stand there doing nothing? Did he leave the room at all? Did he call anyone else? Since he gave him the meds after the show, and he was the last person to see Chris alive, and he was the person who found Chris allegedly unresponsive on the bathroom floor with a red exercise band secured around his neck with a clip—how do we know that the bodyguard didn’t have the intention of drugging Chris to a state where he wouldn’t be able to put up much of a fight if the bodyguard wanted to do him in for whatever reason? What these details mean is that he, Martin Kirsten, cannot be definitely ruled out as a suspect without more details of his actions—and lack of actions—investigated and explained truthfully. Some fans have argued that the bodyguard didn’t want to tamper with the scene, and that is why he left it up to the hotel medic to remove the band and perform CPR. But this isn’t a good enough answer, and it raises more questions for me if that was indeed the reason why the bodyguard didn’t do more. Why was the bodyguard so worried about tampering with evidence? Why was protecting his own ass more important than trying to save Chris’s life? What was the bodyguard so worried about? What is he guilty of? There are too many red flags surrounding the bodyguard’s actions and lack of actions. This lack of action makes the bodyguard, Martin Kirsten, look guilty of foul play.
- Why are Vicky Cornell and her mother Toni Karayiannis trying so hard to convince people that Chris was so in love with and devoted to Vicky? Why would there be any question about his feelings for his wife? Maybe this is their way of grieving and coming to grips with the ruling of his death as a suicide, but it all doesn’t sit right with me. Who are they really trying to convince and why? (Read Vicky’s goodbye letter to Chris, that she had published in Billboard, and you can see for yourself how it all sounds fishy– http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/chris-cornell-wife-to-dead-husband-i-will-fight-for-you-w484130 AND see her mother’s tweets for yourself: @ToniKaras )This is why I wonder if there were any marital issues leading up to Chris’s death. If there were, maybe they led to his decision to commit suicide, maybe they led to his decision to get over-intoxicated and mistakenly take his own life while in an altered state of mind, OR—what I suspect—maybe there was foul play involved because of preexisting marital problems and/or money and another guy—the bodyguard, Martin Kirsten. I don’t know, but I want to know. I NEED to know. If their actions are just a part of their grieving process, a way for them to accept Chris’s death as an actual suicide, I understand and I truly sympathize with them. I can understand how the wife of a suicide victim would wonder why their beloved would kill themselves when they had so much love for one another. I can understand how Chris’s suicide, if indeed it was a suicide, could easily put doubt in anyone’s mind about how he felt for his wife, especially the wife herself. But at this point, I’m still unconvinced. I need to know more in order to find acceptance.
- Why is Chris’s family—Vicky and her mother Toni—putting so much weight on the findings of the toxicology report? Why are they not asking the questions I’m asking about the bodyguard and the hotel staff? Or are they asking these same questions? They admittedly say that they believe that Chris was over-intoxicated and that it was his skewed state of mind that caused him to take his own life, but that seems to easy for me. It’s a cliché. AND it is a verdict that is too easy for the masses to believe—he is a rock God, after all, and rock stars are believed to all be addicts and emotionally unstable. Cliché. Yes, it is possible that the extra Ativan on top of whatever else may have been in Chris’s system at the time of death could have led to him committing suicide, but . . . there feels like there is more to it than that. What led to Chris getting so over-intoxicated? Was it just simply his anxiety and potential depression? Were there marital problems? Again, why did the bodyguard give Chris more Ativan if Chris was already visibly intoxicated? There are too many questions, asked and un-asked, beyond what the toxicology report can give us.
Investigation 101: When someone is found dead it is the last person who saw that person alive, and the last person who talked to that person before they were found dead, and the person who found the body, and the spouse of the deceased person that are all primary suspects. I have not yet heard enough evidence to rule out either of the suspects—Vicky Cornell and Chris’s bodyguard Martin Kirsten. Since there is not enough evidence to definitively rule out the two number one suspects, there is also not enough evidence to definitely rule Chris Cornell’s death a suicide. This is all my objective thinking. I am not accusing anyone of foul play, but I do strongly suspect foul play occurred. I want to make sure that a thorough investigation takes place before anything is ruled out, and before there is any final verdict on Chris Cornell’s true cause of death.
There are people out there who are going to think I’m a horribly uncaring person to put Chris’s wife Vicky on the suspect list and under the magnifying glass, but it is nothing personal. I am being objective with all of my thoughts and inquiries. (Plus, I’m not trying to gain friends or followers with this write-up; I’m trying to get to the bottom of Chris Cornell’s real cause of death and what led up to his final fall. As I’ve stated many times, my writing is not for the easily offended.) The details surrounding how Chris and Vicky got together to begin with only adds to my questioning how devoted Vicky truly is to Chris. Chris was divorced from his first wife, Susan Silver, in March of 2004. By May of that same year Chris and Vicky were married, and by September of that same year they gave birth to their first child together, Toni Cornell –(http://fandaily.info/celebrity-couples/vicky-karayiannis-is-chris-cornells-wife ). If these details I’ve research are accurate, that means that Vicky was pregnant with Chris’s child before he was divorced from his first wife, which, for the slow thinking individuals out there, suggests that Vicky was the other woman at some point in their relationship. It has also been said that Susan had at some point had a private investigator looking into the matter of Chris and Vicky as a couple. This all immediately puts up red flags in my mind about the character of Vicky Karayiannis Cornell. I will admit that I don’t know if Chris and his first wife had been separated before the divorce was final, but even so, how was Vicky to know that Chris and Susan would not eventually reconcile? Yes, I know it was a messy divorce, but most divorces are; that’s not uncommon—just as it is not uncommon for a messy separation to lead back into a stronger marriage. And to Chris, I have to say—If I am wrong in my questioning of Vicky and how devoted she was/is to you and my questioning if she had something to do with your death, it is not because I don’t care; it is because I care so much. I can’t emphasize enough that I mean no disrespect toward your family. I have the utmost respect for all of your family—(unless what I suspect is true, of course).
Another aspect of this case that puts Vicky’s sincerity and devotion to Chris under question is, again, her goodbye letter to him. (See the link above to read it and see what I mean.) The letter is mostly about her. She repeatedly states what Chris had said to her about how much she meant to him. She emphasizes this point by saying, “. . . you had always said . . .” & “. . . when you said to me . . .” Who is she trying to convince that Chris was so in love with her and so devoted to her? If anyone follows Chris on Twitter, or has seen the two of them together, they can see for themselves that he was obviously in love with her. What the goodbye letter sounds like and looks like to me is a slam against Chris’s first wife Susan Silver, making it look like Chris could never have loved her as much as he loved Vicky. But it also looks like a publicity stunt to take the magnifying glass off from Vicky for any potential foul play. She wrote, “My heart gleamed to see you happy, living and motivated. Excited for life.” Why would she write that she “gleamed” to see him living? That is a highly suspect thing to say. What she is actually saying and doing with that line is shining a light on the idea that she wanted him alive, and by doing this she is trying to take the magnifying glass off from her for any suspicion of foul play—making it appear like she would never have had him killed. The last line of the letter is hyperbolic and melodramatic: “I love you more than anyone has ever loved anyone in the history of loving and more than anyone ever will.” This over exaggerated line is another red flag; it immediately shows: she’s trying very hard to convince the public that she was in love with Chris (Why should anyone doubt that?); it’s another slam against Susan Silver, saying that Susan never loved Chris as much as Vicky; she is also playing on people’s sympathies in order to take the magnifying glass off from her for any potential wrong-doing; AND by having her letter published in Billboard emphasizes all of this. Vicky Cornell’s goodbye letter points more to some sort of guilt rather than the devastation over the loss of her spouse.
As for Chris’s history and state of mind at the time of his death: I understand that Chris Cornell was a recovering addict. I understand that he was prescribed Ativan for anxiety. I also understand that he had a darkness inside of him, like we all do, and that he suffered with depression and anxiety. I also understand all too well how depression and anxiety can lead to suicide, and that self-medication and prescribed medication can easily make anxiety and depression worse an in-turn lead to suicide. (I not only have a degree in psychology, but I’ve also worked in the mental health field for many years, and I have also suffered with anxiety and depression my whole life—and tried drugs and medication to deal with that darkness.) But listen to Chris’s music. Listen to Chris’s words. He is an artist, and he used his art to express all of his inner demons, all of that darkness. That is healthy. That is therapeutic. I’m a musician, a singer and lyricist, as well as a dark fiction writer, and in my many years of work and study—the writer, the artist, is always said to use their art as a healthy and therapeutic outlet for what they are coping with inside themselves. Chris did that.
Some reporters and fans argue that the final song he performed with Soundgarden—“Slaves and Bulldozers”, with a segue into “In My Time of Dying”—in that Detroit show was an indicator that Chris planned his suicide, but I do not believe for one minute that that is the case. For one—the band has done that same thing before, segue and all, during previous performances. For two—Chris ended the show by telling Detroit, “We’ll see you soon.” (Watch the link above to see and hear this for yourselves.) Those are not the words of someone who is about to kill themselves. And, again, if you watch the performance—not just the last song—anyone who is familiar with Chris Cornell and his tremendous talent and normally tremendous stage presence—will see and hear that he was off and appeared intoxicated. (Again, WHY did Martin Kirsten, Chris’s bodyguard, give more meds to an obviously over-intoxicated Chris?)
So, what is it that really led to Chris Cornell’s death? If it really was a suicide, what pushed him to his breaking point? Was it over-intoxication that led to him not thinking clearly in those final moments? Was it marital problems that pushed him over the edge? Was it the pressure of the business (I highly doubt it.)? Was it the pressure of being a touring musician, a rock legend doing what he loves to do, and also the pressure of wanting to also be the best father and husband he could be? Was he overextending himself? OR were there other factors that led to his death? Was there any type of foul play involved? Why was the bodyguard so negligent? Why is the bodyguard Martin Kirsten not being held liable for giving a visibly over-intoxicated person more drugs? (Maybe this will happen after the toxicology report is finalized.) Why is Vicky not going after Martin Kirsten for giving Chris more Ativan when Chris was already visibly intoxicated? (Maybe she will after the results of the toxicology report. If she doesn’t, then that points even more to foul play.) Why are Chris’s wife Vicky and her mother Toni emphasizing how in love with Chris Vicky was? Why does Vicky say she “gleamed” to see him living? Were the bodyguard and the wife involved in something more sinister? (This may be the dark fiction writer inside of me getting the best of my mind, but it’s still a legitimate question that needs to be answered. Again, I mean no disrespect, but it can’t be ruled out; too many red flags point to this possibility.)
Chris’s wife Vicky has said that she will stand up for Chris, and I respect and adore her alleged devotion to her husband. But since she should still be a suspect—which could put doubt in people’s minds as to the sincerity of her actions (Again, I mean no disrespect. This is just objective thinking.)—It is the fans that need to be Chris’s voice right now. And though I am small in the grand scheme of the world, I will have my voice heard. I will speak up for Chris since he is no longer able to speak up for himself, and I hope that more of his fans will stand with me and demand more questions asked and more answers given. And we can’t just accept the first answers given—every last detail needs to be investigated to the fullest in order to dig to the absolute truth. We all need to come together and demand that Chris’s death is thoroughly investigated in order to come to a definitive ruling.
I have to say that I have the utmost sympathy for Chris’s three children—Christopher, Toni, and Lillian Cornell. Chris was a loving and devoted father who can never be replaced. My heart aches for the pain and loss and emptiness they are feeling. I hope they know in their hearts that he would never intentionally abandon them, and that he will forever live on within them and around them.
When all is said and done, no matter what the true reasons are behind the death of Chris Cornell—my hero, my muse, my inspiration whom I love dearly—he will forever be the shape of the hole inside my heart. Rest in peace, Chris Cornell. “Say Hello to Heaven”.