Chris Cornell autopsy report: 'Drugs did not contribute to the cause of death'

DETROIT, MICH. - Chris Cornell's autopsy report released today revealed that several drugs were found in the musician's system, but they "did not contribute to the cause of death."

Toxicology tests performed after the Soundgarden singer died May 18 in Detroit detected lorazepam, which is used in the treatment of anxiety and sold as Ativan; pseudoephedrine, a decongestant; naloxone, used to counter effects of opioids; butalbital, a sedative, and caffeine.

The 52-year-old died in his hotel room at the MGM Grand Detroit after performing at the Fox Theatre with his band.

"Based on the circumstances surrounding this death and the autopsy findings, the manner of death is suicide," said the Wayne County Medical Examiner's Office report obtained by the Free Press today.

Cornell's cause of death was hanging.

He was discovered by his security guard, who kicked in Cornell's locked door to access the room.

"The security guard found the decedent on the bathroom floor with a resistance exercise band around his neck which was looped around itself using the resistance exercise band handle," the report said. "The opposite end of the resistance exercise band was attached to a metal clip device, which was placed over the top of the bathroom door. The security guard released the resistance exercise band from the top of the door, loosened the end of the resistance exercise band around the decedent’s neck and began resuscitative efforts."

Cornell was pronounced dead at the scene.

The autopsy document said Cornell "was found partially suspended by a resistance exercise band," per the investigative report and the police report.

Dr. Werner Spitz, former chief medical examiner in Wayne and Macomb counties, reviewed the documents released Friday, and told the Free Press he was intrigued by the position of Cornell's body, noting it was partially suspended.

Spitz said he was "not absolutely convinced" the suicide ruling is correct.

"In theory, it could be an accident," he said late Friday.

Spitz, who often weighs in on controversial cases, added that based on his reading of the report: "The way (Cornell) was found means he was able to regulate the pressure on his neck."

The autopsy report said Cornell, who was 6-foot-3 and weighed 180 pounds, was in a torn gray T-shirt and black underwear.

Naloxone, one of the drugs present in Cornell's system, is often given to resuscitate people with suspected opioid overdoses.

Spitz said it could have been administered when Cornell was found unresponsive.

Cornell's wife said people who knew him well noticed "he wasn’t himself during his final hours and that something was very off," in a statement provided to USA TODAY.

'We have learned from this report that several substances were found in his system," the statement provided today from Vicky Cornell said. "After so many years of sobriety, this moment of terrible judgment seems to have completely impaired and altered his state of mind."

She continued: "Something clearly went terribly wrong, and my children and I are heartbroken and are devastated that this moment can never be taken back. We very much appreciate all of the love we have received during this extremely difficult time and are dedicated to helping others in preventing this type of tragedy.

Earlier, Cornell released a statement that said she had spoken to her husband after the show and he was slurring his words.

"When he told me he may have taken an extra Ativan or two, I contacted security and asked that they check on him," she said in the statement.

The Detroit Police Department has not yet released documents from its investigation.

In response to a Freedom of Information Act request from the Free Press, the city's law department wrote the matter is an open investigation and releasing information would "compromise and interfere" with the investigation.

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© 2017 Detroit Free Press


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