More than a year after the shocking death of Chris Cornell, there is still no clear picture of what happened on the night the charismatic Soundgarden singer was found dead in his Detroit hotel room on May 18, 2017. The state’s coroner ruled the incident a suicide, and while drugs reportedly did not contribute to the cause of death, there were seven different medications found in Cornell’s system at the time of his passing.
The details surrounding Cornell’s case will be probed in the Reelz channel’s Autopsy: The Last Hours of Chris Cornell, which will look at the theories about his passing, including suggestions that head trauma may have played a role. In May, Cornell’s widow, Vicky, told the Detroit News that she did not agree with the coroner’s ruling of suicide, which came just hours after the singer died from asphyxiation caused by a rubber exercise band tied around his neck.
“This has left me and my family still looking for answers, but at the same time, set off this whirlwind of conspiracies,” Vicky Cornell told the paper. “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.” She noted that when she spoke to her husband the night he died, he was “slurring his words [and] he was on and off incoherent,” likely from taking a double dose of the anti-anxiety drug Ativan, of which the side effects can include suicidal thoughts.
Vicky Cornell has been adamant that she didn’t believe her husband would take his life, and said his judgment may have been impaired by the drug cocktail found in his system, but also because of other factors, including a head injury referenced in two EMS reports that she said were left out of the final autopsy report. According to the News, “An emergency technician is heard on medical dispatch audio referencing a gash in Chris Cornell’s head,” with the responding ambulance company noting a “laceration to back of skull [and] minor bleeding noted upon crew arrival.” Vicky also said you can “clearly see a gash or at least a visible big bald spot in pictures and video footage.”
That theory will be explored in the Autopsy special, with medical examiner Dr. Michael Hunter — who has performed 5,000 autopsies, but did not work on Cornell’s — weighing in on what might have happened, according to Alternative Nation. “Following Chris’ death, there was an apparent call made by a paramedic on scene that said Chris may have sustained head trauma,” Hunter said. “It suggests that Chris acquired an injury that may have caused a concussion. A concussion can cause confusion, memory loss, and unusual behavior such as sudden mood swings, and becoming easily irritated. Did a concussion cloud Chris’ judgment, and did it contribute to his death?”
Hunter added that he has doubts about a head injury based on the inconclusive evidence in poor quality video from Soundgarden’s show that night, noting that it’s “common for scene responders to suggest injuries that upon further examination don’t exist. In addition, there is no mention of it in the autopsy, so on that basis alone, I can discount head injury as a contributing factor to his death.”
Autopsy: The Last Hours of Chris Cornell will premiere on Reelz on Sunday (Aug. 12).