Elliott Smith’s Death Remains A Mystery 15 Years Later

The coroner was never able to determine if the stab wounds were self-inflicted or inflicted by someone else.

Silhouette of guitar player on stage
Roman Voloshyn / Shutterstock

The coroner was never able to determine if the stab wounds were self-inflicted or inflicted by someone else.

It was exactly 15 years ago, on October 21, 2003, that American singer and songwriter Elliott Smith passed away at the age of 34. Born in Omaha, Nebraska, Smith’s cause of death was ruled to be from the two stab wounds to his chest.

Unfortunately for family members, friends, and fans of the indie rock singer hoping for closure, his autopsy was ruled inconclusive in determining whether his death was a suicide or a homicide.

According to Yahoo! Music News, it was his nomination for Best Original Song during the 70th Academy Awards – for “Miss Misery,” from the film, Good Will Hunting – that was the big breakout moment of his musical career. The Oscar ended up being awarded to Celine Dion for “My Heart Will Go On” from Titanic

Music critics predicted Smith would be “the next big thing” in the music world. His musical career, however, was cut drastically short when he passed away a little more than five years after his big career break.

While many speculate his death was a suicide, it still remains shrouded in mystery until this day, as the Los Angeles Police Department investigation into his death remains open.

“The trauma that he sustained could have been inflicted by him or by another, and the coroner has not been able to make a determination,” a representative of the coroner said back in 2003.

Yahoo! Music News notes that many of the artist’s fans found it particularly spooky that Smith’s song titled “Needle in the Hay” had recently become the soundtrack for a suicide attempt in The Royal Tenenbaums.

Elliot was just kicking off his career and in the prime of his life during a time when celebrities suffering from depression, addiction, and mental illness were not topics people openly discussed. Today, these are all topics celebrities very candidly speak about during interviews.

The young singer drew a lot of attention to himself because he was always very open and honest about his struggles with depression, addiction, and even suicide. It was a rare quality you just didn’t see in musicians back then.

Naturally, there have also been a lot of conspiracy theories circulating around what may or may not have happened to Elliot Smith the day he died. One of the more prominent theories is that his girlfriend, Jennifer Chiba, who was living with him at the time, may have killed him.

While it is still a mystery whether he was killed, or he took his own life, Smith remains an idol in the indie rock genre of the music industry. Moreover, many of his fans believe it is a shame he never won any awards for his work.