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Dr. Scheinin Gives A More Nuanced Opinion In The Upcoming VICE TV (Re)Solved Episode, Examining Elliott Smith’s Death



When I spoke to Dr. Scheinin at the Department of Coroner in 2011, she looked a little nervous. We sat down for about 20 minutes and discussed her findings regarding the autopsy she performed on Elliott Smith in 2003. Her memory of the details seemed quite sharp, but, during the entire interview, her answers stayed very neutral. Dr. Scheinin was very careful with her words as if she didn’t want to reveal much about her conviction if she ever had one.

When I asked her if the directions of the stab wounds were more consistent with suicide or murder, she answered “Either way, there is no way to tell.” When I asked her about the two possible “defense wounds,” she immediately corrected me as she didn’t want to affirm that these wounds truly were of a defensive nature and said that Elliott could have mishandled the knife and hurt himself in the process. When I mentioned the blood found throughout the house and asked her if people who commit suicide usually run throughout the house, she answered that people are still able to walk around when stabbed, partially avoiding my question: why would someone even walk after stabbing themselves? Scheinin didn’t even find it surprising that Chiba said she saw “two cuts” on Elliott’s chest when she removed the knife. She even corrected me when I said that Elliott and Chiba were in the middle of the fight, as the police report states that they had fought and Chiba had locked herself in the bathroom; at least it has been the official version provided by Chiba herself. Scheinin’s conclusion was that it was “not a common form of suicide,” but “not impossible,” and even though many aspects were “atypical,” like the non-removal of the clothes, some people “go against the grain.” The entire time she didn’t want to take any position, and when the interview was over, she even said: “That was easy!” as if she expected a more aggressive interview.

I will skip her interviews by Liam Gowing for Spin and Schultz for his book “Torment Saint” since both of them strongly pushed the suicide narrative, but in 2018, Scheinin was interviewed again by France 24 and she somewhat changed her tone when she explained that “the majority of people who commit suicide with a knife cut their veins or their throat” and admitted she didn’t remember “having seen any other case in which the individual had stabbed his chest.” She never told me this in 2011, and I felt a bit betrayed. But the point was that she was more willing to bring up the oddities of the case, something she didn’t do with me.

On Thursday 29, VICE TV is gonna air an episode of their series (Re)Solved examining the circumstances around Elliott’s death. Even though they approached me to use some of my research, I don’t know what position and opinion they will support in the episode. VICE TV has already posted a very short trailer on social media (see below) and Dr Scheinin has been interviewed once again. In the excerpt, you can hear her say:

“I would have been much happier if the girlfriend had been interviewed again, another time, because how do we know that’s exactly what happened? Maybe what she said was the truth, but maybe it wasn’t. Because we do have all these other factors that suggest that it was a homicidal rather than a suicidal death.” 

This is much more than she was willing to admit when I interviewed her 12 years ago. She never entertained the idea that Jennifer Chiba could have lied and she certainly did not acknowledge “all these other factors that suggest that it was a homicidal rather than a suicidal death,” she was rather brushing them on the side, trying to minimize the numerous oddities of the case. This is just an excerpt, and we will see tomorrow if this reflects the tone of the entire episode, but it seems that Scheinin is definitively much more predisposed to recognize the murder theory.

According to this document, Dr. Scheinin, who performed many autopsies of famous people (actress Brittany Murphy, Notorious B.I.G.) retired in 2014. Could she feel freer and more unrestrained to give an unbias or personal opinion since her retirement?

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