The family of Soundgarden singer Chris Cornell says they're not yet ready to conclude his death Wednesday night was an intentional suicide based on preliminary autopsy results.
Vicky Karayiannis, his wife, said that when she spoke to her husband after the Detroit show, he told her he may have taken “an extra Ativan or two.” According to lawyer Kirk Pasich, the 52-year-old musician had a prescription for the anti-anxiety drug. Ativan, a sedative, has side effects that can include drowsiness and dizziness, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Without toxicology results, which will take weeks, the family says, the cause of his death cannot be determined conclusively.
“Without the results of toxicology tests, we do not know what was going on with Chris — or if any substances contributed to his demise,” Pasich said in a statement released to The Associated Press Friday. “Chris, a recovering addict, had a prescription for Ativan and may have taken more Ativan than recommended dosages."
Pasich's statement follows Thursday's announcement by the Wayne County Medical Examiner's Office that the singer hanged himself in his hotel room following a concert. Their ruling was based on preliminary autopsy results but the full investigation has not yet been completed.
“The family believes that if Chris took his life, he did not know what he was doing, and that drugs or other substances may have affected his actions.”
Cornell battled drugs on and off from the time he was a teenager well into adulthood, finally seeking treatment in 2002.
“I went from being a daily drug user at 13 to having bad drug experiences and quitting drugs by the time I was 14, and then not having any friends until the time I was 16,” he told Rolling Stone in 1994. “There was about two years where I was more or less agoraphobic and didn’t deal with anybody, didn’t talk to anybody, didn’t have any friends at all. All the friends that I had were still (messed) up with drugs and were people that I didn’t really have anything in common with.”
Longtime fan Ashley Zlatopolsky, who was at his final concert, observed that something was off with Cornell.
"He often staggered back and forth across the stage, and seemed weak in his movements," she wrote in the Detroit Free Press. Just one or two songs in, it was as if the energy had exited his body, and what was left was a shell of a man scrambling to do his job."
Cornell's wife also sensed something was wrong during her last conversation with him, noting that he was slurring his words. Worried, she asked someone from the band's security detail to check on him.
“What happened is inexplicable, and I am hopeful that further medical reports will provide additional details,” she said. “I know that he loved our children and he would not hurt them by intentionally taking his own life.”
Contributing: Mesfin Fekadu, Chris Grygiel, Associated Press