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Kurt Cobain's Downward Spiral: The Last Days of Nirvana's Leader

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According to one of Cobain's visitors at the clinic, "I was ready to see him look like shit and depressed. He looked so fucking great. He walked out an hour later." At 7:25 p.m., Cobain told the clinic staff he was stepping out onto the patio for a smoke and, according to Love, "jumped over the fence." Actually, it was a brick wall more than 6 feet high. "We watch our patients really well," says a spokesperson for Exodus. "But some do get out."

Kurt Cobain 1967–1994

The next day, Love canceled Cobain's credit cards and hired private investigators to track him down. But he had already flown back to Seattle. "I talked to Cali [one of Frances Bean's nannies, whose real name is Michael DeWitt]," Carlson says, "who said he had seen [Kurt] on Saturday [April 2], but I couldn't get ahold of him." Neither could anybody else. On April 4, Cobain's mother, Wendy O'Connor — who says she had been afraid for her son's safety for some time — filed a missing-person's report. She told the police that Cobain might be suicidal and suggested that they look for Cobain at a particular three-story brick building, described as a location for narcotics, in Seattle's upscale, bohemian Capitol Hill district.

The police believe Cobain wandered around town with no clear agenda in his final days, though they suspect he stopped by a gun shop to buy more rounds of ammunition. Neighbors say they spotted Cobain in a park near his house during this period, looking ill and wearing an incongruously thick jacket. Cobain is also believed to have spent a night at his summer home in nearby Carnation with an unidentified friend.

Photos: Rare Kurt Cobain Images, Artwork and Journal Entries

Sometime on or before the afternoon of April 5, Cobain barricaded himself in the greenhouse above his garage by propping a stool against its French doors. The evidence at the scene suggests that he removed his hunter's cap — which he wore when he didn't want people to recognize him — and dug into a cigar box that is believed to have contained his drug stash. He penned a one-page note in red ink. He also tossed his wallet on the floor, open to his Washington driver's license, which friends believe was to help the police identify him.

Love reconstructed the rest of the tragedy for MTV: Cobain drew a chair up to a window overlooking the Puget Sound, sat down, took some more drugs (most likely heroin), pressed the barrel of the 20-gauge shotgun to his head and — evidently using his thumb — pulled the trigger. (Though the county medical examiner has determined that Cobain died on the afternoon of April 5, the police report that two people claim to have spoken to him on April 6.)

In a cruel twist of fate, it wasn't until April 6 that Love's private investigators arrived in Seattle. "I was working with [an investigator]," Carlson says, "and the day we were going to Carnation to look for him, we found out he was dead." Before Cobain's body was found, the police say they asked workers outside his house if they had seen him, though the police didn't go inside the house.

Elsewhere on April 7, an emergency phone call was placed to 911 about a "possible overdose victim" at the Peninsula Hotel. The police, the fire department and ambulances arrived at the scene, where they found Love and Hole guitarist Eric Erlandson. (Frances Bean and her nanny were staying in the room next door.) Love was taken to Century City Hospital, arriving around 9:30 a.m. She was released two and a half hours later. Lt. Joe Lombardi of the Beverly Hills Police says that Love was arrested immediately after her discharge and "booked for possession of a controlled substance, possession of drug paraphernalia, possession of a hypodermic syringe and possession/receiving stolen property."

Criminal lawyer Barry Tarlow, Love's attorney, says that contrary to published reports, Love "wasn't under the influence of heroin" and "didn't overdose." He says that "she had an allergic reaction" to the tranquilizer Xanax. Tarlow says the stolen property was a prescription pad that "her doctor . . . left there when he was visiting. . . . There were no prescriptions written on it." And the controlled substance? "It was not narcotics," says Tarlow. "It's Hindu good-luck ashes, which she received from her entertainment lawyer Rosemary Carroll."

Love was released at about 3 p.m. after posting $10,000 bail. She immediately checked herself into the Exodus Recovery Center, the same rehabilitation facility from which her husband had escaped a week earlier. The following day, April 8, she checked out when she received word that her husband had been found.

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