The music world lost one of its most gifted rock vocalists on May 18, 2017, as Chris Cornell was found dead that morning at the age of 52. Close to one year later, the singer’s widow, Vicky Cornell, admitted that she remains hurt because of what she feels was a “botched investigation” into her husband’s death.
In an interview with the Detroit News, Vicky Cornell criticized Wayne County, Michigan officials for allegedly “botching” their probe into Chris’ death, and sparking a series of conspiracy theories, accusations, and “online attacks” against the Cornell family. The Soundgarden and Audioslave frontman was ruled to have committed suicide after hanging himself from a rubber exercise band in his room at the MGM Grand Detroit Casino hotel, just hours after Soundgarden’s Fox Theatre concert on the evening of May 17.
“This has left me and my family still looking for answers, but at the same time, set off this whirlwind of conspiracies. Some of the people are just fans looking for answers, but some of them are conspiracy theorists who have said the most vile things to my children and me,” Vicky Cornell said.
The autopsy report from the Wayne County medical examiner, which suggested that drugs didn’t play a part in her husband’s death, was of particular concern to Vicky. She believes that the language used was “completely misleading,” and has spurred conspiracy theorists into believing that Chris Cornell did not die by his own hand. According to the Detroit News, many commenters on online forums still say a lot of negative things about Vicky, with some accusing her of conspiring to have Chris murdered.
“Some conspiracy people think if Chris wasn’t impaired, he would never have killed himself, and so he must have been killed — and then they start getting into the rest of the holes.”
Considering the plethora of conspiracy theories surrounding her husband’s apparent suicide, Vicky Cornell stressed that she and her two children with Chris — 13-year-old Toni and 12-year-old Christopher Jr. — are human beings with real lives, and are not “characters in some film.”
“I lost my husband. My children lost their father. We’re in a lot of pain, and we have to deal with these people coming after us. If the autopsy report was thorough, I believe some of this could have been avoided.”
As part of two of the most successful rock bands of the past few decades, Chris Cornell often struggled with his celebrity status as battled drug and alcohol addiction in the 1990’s, but had gotten clean in the 2000s, as noted by E! Online. However, the singer had reportedly relapsed just months before his death, and as Vicky Cornell recalled, he was incoherent and slurring his words when they spoke on the night before he died, repeatedly complaining that his ears were ringing and that he had “blown his voice out.”
A bottle of the steroid Prednisnone was found in Chris’ hotel bathroom, but Vicky claims that her husband was never tested for the drug, which is known to cause “extreme” changes in mood, depression, confusion, and “loss of contact with reality.”
“When you find a drug that causes mania at the scene, how do you not test for it?” Vicky Cornell said.
Based on toxicology reports, Chris Cornell was found to have taken a number of drugs prior to his death, including the anti-anxiety drug Ativan, the anti-opioid naloxone, a decongestant, and barbiturates — in Vicky’s words, Chris was given “prescription drugs that should have never been prescribed.” Two emergency medical service reports also suggested that he might have suffered a head injury, but this was reportedly left out of the singer’s autopsy. Furthermore, the Detroit News also quoted Vicky’s attorney, Jeffrey L. Schulman, who accused medical officials of not following federal health protocol when they made the suicide ruling.
“Before ruling a death a suicide, the CDC says there should be prior expressions of intent (to commit suicide); prior attempts or threats; preparation, rehearsal or researching the fatal behavior,” said Schulman.
“None of those criteria were found here. Nobody ever interviewed Mrs. Cornell or anyone close to Mr. Cornell. Nobody asked to look at his phone or computer”
With all that in mind, Vicky Cornell concluded her interview by saying that her husband killed himself due to a “perfect storm” of factors and that officials should have looked into all of them before ruling his death as a suicide.