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(Updated) Detective Reviews Cobain Case, Which Remains Closed

Update 3/15/2016: The department is releasing five additional photographs of the firearm, taken on or about June 11, 2015. These photos were placed on the City’s computer system on March 3, 2016, and added to the investigative file shortly thereafter. They are now viewable in a gallery at the bottom of this post.

Update 7/24/2015: In response to numerous public disclosure requests for the newly-discovered images related to the Cobain case, the Seattle Police Department is releasing an additional 34 photographs taken at the scene. The photos can be viewed in the gallery at the bottom of this page. 

— Originally published 3/20/14

In anticipation of the 20th anniversary of the suicide of Seattle icon Kurt Cobain, Seattle Police Department Cold Case Detective Mike Ciesynski reviewed the case file in anticipation of media inquiries about Cobain’s death, and the many conspiracy theories surrounding the case.

Ciesynski reviewed the case—including statements and evidence photos—but did not re-investigate or re-open what is considered a closed case.

“We knew with the 20th anniversary coming up and we knew there was going to be a lot of media interest,” Ciesynski says. “I’ve been a detective in homicide for 20 years and I’ve been in the cold case unit for 10 years. Most of the cases I work on, I look for something that wasn’t done [in the investigation] in the past.”

To prepare himself to take a fresh look at the case, Ciesynski says he watched several documentaries about conspiracies surrounding Cobain’s death, read articles and watched TV shows. “They’re all very interesting,” he says. “I can see why people have questions [about the case], but you can always point to something and say ‘what if.'”

After pulling the full case file out of storage at SPD’s Evidence Unit, Ciesynski did find something left undone in the 20 year old investigation—four rolls of crime scene photos, which were never developed by investigator as they “felt it was a suicide and already had polaroids and photos from the medical examiner,” Ciesynski says.

While it’s unusual for SPD to store evidence from a closed case for two decades, Ciesynski says that because of the high profile of the case, detectives put the Cobain file into storage. “There were so many conspiracy theories out there, it was good judgement on their behalf to hold to this,” he says.

While Ciesynski didn’t come up with any new theories about the case, he does have a theory about why questions about Cobain’s death have persisted after all these years. “Sometimes people believe what they read—some of the disinformation from some of the books, that this was a conspiracy. That’s completely inaccurate,” he says. “It’s a suicide. This is a closed case.”

Photos of property/narcotics recovered from the scene.Cobain1





Cobain’s family and the City of Seattle are seeking to block a lawsuit, filed against the Seattle Police Department earlier this year, aimed at forcing the release of a handful of graphic crime scene photographs.

Members of Cobain’s family have provided statements to the court, citing the emotional and potential physical harm they may face if the previously unreleased images depicting the Nirvana singer’s body, are publicly released.

In one of the court declarations, Cobain’s daughter says she believes the release of the photographs may “encourage disturbed stalkers and fanatical threats,” like a man who previously broke into her home and waited three days for her to return, before telling her he was “meant to be with me because my father’s soul had entered my body.”

You can download the declarations from Cobain’s family here (.Zip), as well as records and photos from the original 1994 SPD case and 2014 review  here (.PDF 1, PDF 2, PDF 3, PDF 4  File 5.Zip).

Photos of Det. Ciesynski’s review of the firearm added 3/16/2016: