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Suicide By Stabbing

I know that suicide by stabbing in the heart is possible and there have been a few examples like the one Iman was talking about on Monday: at the beginning of this month, Darnay Hoffman committed by stabbing himself once in the heart.
But I would really like to know all the details surrounding his suicide: Did he have hesitation wounds? Did he stab himself through the clothing? These details matter more than anything. Because the details and circumstances surrounding Elliott Smith’s death make me far more suspicious than the mode of death itself.

When I began researching about this mode of death I found this quote by Lanny Berman, the director of the American Association of Suicidology:
‘Self-inflicted stabbing deaths are rare. In 2005, the most recent year for which national statistics are available, 32,637 people committed suicide in the United States. Only 590 did so by cutting or piercing, and of those deaths, most were slashing or cutting to the wrists and, to a lesser degree, the throat. Suicide by stabbing is very rare, and it's particularly rare for someone to stab themselves in the torso.’

That made me think a lot because, well, he is an expert about the subject.

In the November 2004 issue of Details magazine, there was an article about suicide ‘Why Successful Young Men Commit Suicide’, and it was even question of Elliott as if he was the poster boy for this quite unique way to commit suicide:

‘Suicide by stabbing is exceedingly rare; only about 1 to 2 percent of victims die this way. The death of popular singer-songwriter Elliott Smith, from two stab wounds to the chest, two months before Luna’s death, was originally believed by the Los Angeles police to have been a suicide. Now that case too is being investigated.’

Rare does not mean impossible, I am well aware of this and this is what is so frustrating with Elliott’s death.

I also found this information in the Manual of Forensic Emergency medicine: A guide for Clinicians written by Ralph Riviello, in which stabbing by suicide versus homicide is discussed:

‘Many suicides have fewer wounds than homicide victims do, with the suicide victim usually having one fatal wound or bilateral arm involvement. The larger number of homicide wounds is related to the patient sustaining multiple defensive wounds prior to the mortal wound. The presence of multiple cuts and stabs to a patient’s arms and hands indicates that the victim was attempting to shield himself or herself from a perpetrator at the time of the incident and is highly suggestive of homicide. These wounds may be either stab or incised wounds and most often occur in the upper extremity.’

This explains why they have been working so hard at demonstrating that these two small cuts were self-inflicted and absolutely not defensive wounds in the movie! This point is crucial and the fact that Dr. Scheinin could not determine if these were defensive wounds for sure let the door open for any possibility.

Further it is noted:
‘Surprisingly enough, damage to the clothing is also highly predictable of whether a case is homicide or suicide. Many suicide victims expose the area that they are preparing to stab, so they sustain no damage to their clothing. By contrast, most homicide victims have cuts through their clothing.’

In the Aorn journal, addressed to the Association of periOperative Registered Nurses, there is also question of suicide by stabbing:
‘It is much easier to stab someone else than oneself; therefore, suicide by stabbing is uncommon. Most deaths due to stab wounds are considered homicides. Stab wounds showing minimal penetration or wounds that barely break the skin usually identify self-inflicted stab wounds and are known as hesitation wounds. Stab wounds seen in people who have committed suicide vary in size and depth with usually only one or two “final” ones entering the chest wall or an internal organ. It is a rare individual who can self-inflict stab wounds without any evidence of hesitancy.’

So if Elliott did it he is one of this really really rare statistics, because the stabbing was done through the clothing and he had no hesitation marks. These are just the facts.

Left are the facts he had two wounds and not one and was totally sober. Again, many forensic journals tend to say this is not impossible but insist on the fact that in this case ‘we are most probably dealing with aggressive self-destruction, a type of behavior sometimes observed in people suffering from serious mental disorders.’

This explains why J. Chiba was pushing the ‘serious mental illness’ diagnostic at the end of the Q&A. I don’t doubt Elliott suffered from depression, but I would really be interested about what his psychiatrist has to say about this post-mortem diagnostic.

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