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Memory Lane: An Unjustifie​d Murder, Elliott Smith

In my forensics course, we had to select a murder to investigate and learn about.  Whilst kids were selecting Jack The Ripper and Jon Benet Ramsey, I went for one that was significantly less mainstream that I could educate people on- the Elliott Smith case.  Here's the outcome of my project:

The Crime:

Steven Paul “Elliott” Smith was born on August 6th, 1969 in Omaha, Nebraska. He became a famous singer/songwriter, and lived in New York City.  On October 21, 2003, Elliott was found dead.  He had two stab wounds on his chest, defense wounds, and was found with a suicide note- with his own name spelled incorrectly.

After being found dead in his apartment in LA, it was deemed a suicide.  However, the autopsy results came back as suicide, but possible homicide.  No one ever found his girlfriend, who he was arguing with on the 21st guilty. Violent shouting was heard, and with the defense wounds in mind, it is clear that his current girlfriend Jennifer Chiba commited the murder. 

The Evidence:

The suicide note- physical evidence.  Stating “I’m so sorry- Love, Elliot.  God forgive me.”  His name was spelled incorrectly.  It was found on the crime scene. 

Witness testimony- this statement was found on a website that was talking about Elliott’s murder shortly after it happened: “That said, from what I was told by a girl who lived next door to him: he and his girlfriend were having a HUGE screaming fight. She was a total opossum drug addict that dragged him back to heroin after he was finally getting clean and sober and making new albums/music again. My friend and her husband called the cops because it sounded like it was getting violent. When the cops arrived, Elliot had the knife in his chest. They took him to the ER and he repeatedly reiterated that he had done it himself and not to arrest his girlfriend. She claimed that they'd been fighting, she'd left the room, and when she came back, he had stabbed himself.”

Witness testimony- in the documentary of Elliott Smith’s life, “Searching For Elliott Smith”, Jennifer Chiba says “she heard a terrible noise coming from the kitchen.”  In the police report, she said that it was a scream she heard.  On other accounts, she called it a “thud.”  Chiba stated that when she opened the bathroom door to look out because she locked herself in, that Smith was standing with his back to her, over the kitchen sink.  She also stated that Smith was knocking and banging on the door,  begging and crying for her to come out. 

Elliott’s blood- physical evidence; on ceremoving the knife from Elliott’s chest, it is said that he walked about the house, followed by Chiba, until he collapsed. It was all about the house, causing a mess.

The house- it is not considered a crime scene because Elliott was declared dead at the hospital.

The knife- an 8 inch kitchen knife.  Police have not scanned it for fingerprints, at their discretion. 

Processing of the evidence:

The LAPD refuses to release any information at all that they’ve gathered on the case.

However, it was noted that the wounds on his arms were not self-inflicted.  This was stated by the autopsy notes. 

 The police report mentioned that Chiba took the knife out of Elliott’s chest whilst he was still standing.  A therapist that worked with the therapist that Chiba went to stated: “‘Anyone who takes a Basic FirstAid class, even the people who sleep through it, are scared straight from any idea of removing an impaled object of any kind. It creates a second trauma and increases the bleed. You leave it in and wrap it to staunch the bleeding. This particularly stressed in training for clinicians who work with children!!!” 


Jennifer Chiba- Elliott Smith’s girlfriend.  Due to the defense wounds, it was clear that Elliott did not stab himself.  Additionally, she waited quite some time after his collapsing to finally call an ambulance. 


Jennifer Chiba has not been declared guilty, though it is obvious that is the case.  We know this simply because she was the only person with Elliott before and after his death. Since it was not a suicide, she murdered him.

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