Elliott Smith Case Not Closed
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By Josh Grossberg
Sad-song troubadour Elliott Smith was thought to have died by his own hand two months ago.
Now, those investigating the presumed suicide of the 34-year-old folk-rocker aren't so sure.
A statement issued this week by the Los Angeles County coroner has clouded the case, saying officials have been unable to determine whether Smith was the one who initiated the two "penetrating stab wounds" in his chest.
Therefore, an official cause of death has not yet been filed.
"Despite a comprehensive and ongoing inquiry into the death by the LAPD (news - web sites) detectives and coroner investigators together with a thorough examination by the coroner's pathologist, the mode of death remains 'undetermined' due to incomplete knowledge of the circumstances surrounding the death," the coroner's office said in a press statement.
The coroner says the wounds could have been inflicted either by Smith or a second party.
The body of the brooding singer-songwriter was discovered October 21 in the kitchen of his Los Angeles apartment.
Given Smith's history of drug and alcohol abuse and depression (he was once dubbed "the unhappiest man in the land" and his most famous song was "Miss Misery"), police initially declared the case a suicide. But toxicology tests showed no drugs in Smith's system and, with the coroner's most recent pronouncement, authorities say they plan to revisit the suicide theory.
The coroner's office will revisit the case should new information surface; until then, the file will remain open.
Smith rose through the indie ranks in the '90s with fragile melodies that stood in stark contract to the grunge, nu-metal and rap dominating radio.
He released his solo debut, Roman Candle, in 1994, and received critical acclaim for 1997's Either/Or.
Smith's music caught the attention of director Gus Van Sant, who included several of the singer's tracks on the Good Will Hunting Soundtrack (1997), the most popular of which, "Miss Misery," earned Smith a surprise Oscar nomination for Best Original Song.
His major-label debut, XO, was released the following year on DreamWorks Records.
In August, Smith released the vinyl single "Pretty (Ugly Before)" with the flip side, "A Distorted Reality Is Now a Necessity to Be Free." It was his first recorded work since the 2000 album, Figure 8.