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Kurt Cobain's Death: Medical Examiner's Office Responds to Allegations of Failure to Rule out Homicide

King County will not reopen Cobain's case without new evidence

In a recent interview, renowned forensic pathologist Dr. Cyril Wecht alleged that the authorities did not pursue Nirvana frontman's murder. Dr. Wecht expressed a willingness to review the musician's autopsy report.

We reached out to King County Medical Examiner's Office with a request for comment. We also asked specifically what the process would be on the part of King County to arrange for a second opinion regarding Mr. Cobain's autopsy report, either from Dr. Wecht or a panel of reputable forensic pathologists.

King County Examiner's Office responded with the following statement on February 24, 2020:

"Thank you for your message regarding the interview you conducted with Dr. Cyril Wecht. Your original request on February 12th did not make it to Dr. Harruff, and the other people you mention sending it to are not in the King County Medical Examiner's Office. I'm responding to your latest message on behalf of the King County Medical Examiner's Office, which is part of our public health department.

As Dr. Wecht pointed out in the article, in order for him to review the autopsy report, Mr. Cobain's next of kin would need to request the report from the King County Medical Examiner's Office, and forward it to him. This would be the same situation for any other pathologist or group of pathologists.

At the time of this case, the King County Medical Examiner's Office worked with local law enforcement, conducted a full autopsy, and followed all of its procedures in coming to the determination of the manner of death as suicide. As the autopsy records are private under state law, we cannot provide details about what informed our conclusion.

I can tell you that two pathologists went to the scene and reviewed the case, including Dr. Hartshorne and Dr. Donald Reay, then the chief medical examiner for King County. At the time of this case, Dr. Reay had been with the King County Medical Examiner's Officer for 19 years with extensive experience prior to that.

The King County Medical Examiner's Office is always open to revisiting its conclusions if new evidence comes to light, but we have seen nothing to date that would warrant re-opening the case and our previous determination of death.


James Apa

Communications Director

Public Health – Seattle & King County"

Link to the above referenced interview:

Editor's Note - Update:

After receiving the statement from Communications Director James Apa we requested copies of the King County Medical Examiner’s Office death investigation procedures from 1994, copies of any accreditation applications KCMEO submitted for 1994, and copies of any accreditation KCMEO possessed in 1994.

King County Public Records Officer Julie Kipp responded on March 11, 2020:

“I confirmed with the Medical Examiner’s Office that the documents you requested have been destroyed in accordance with retention schedules and therefore there are no responsive records.”


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