Reports add details about Cornell’s death
New details released by Detroit officials Tuesday under the Freedom of Information Act shed additional light on what happened the night rock star Chris Cornell hanged himself inside Room 1136 of the MGM Grand Casino Hotel.
Materials released include photographs of the hotel room doors that were kicked in by the Soundgarden singer’s bodyguard after he could not gain access to the room, which was locked from the inside; the exercise band he used to hang himself; and a detailed report from a homicide investigator who interviewed bodyguard Martin Kirsten, the last person to see Cornell alive shortly before midnight May 17.
Among the new revelations: Cornell’s wife, Vicki Cornell, tried to get information from a hotel operator, but she claimed the woman hung up on her.
The city also released photos of investigators taking DNA swabs from the bodyguard’s hands. A 911 call is also among the material released Tuesday, although it is different from alleged police scanner audio that was posted on YouTube and other websites. The News could not verify the authenticity of that audio.
The new information also fills gaps in the timeline, which some have questioned. One element many questioned was why it took so long before medical first responders reported finding Cornell, although according to Kirsten, they worked on the rock star for about an hour as he lay in the hotel room bathroom.
Some of the details in the various reports vary slightly. For instance, Kirsten told police he found Cornell lying in the bathroom, while another report states the Soundgarden frontman was lying at the foot of his king-sized bed “at the entry doorway to the bathroom.”
“The door of the bathroom is opened,” the report said. “On the floor of the bathroom, is a large drag mark of blood with a red rubber resistance band with black handles laying across the gathered blood. One end of the resistance band is fashioned with a loop utilizing a hooking latch at the base of the handle.
“There is blood splatter on the side of the bathtub,” the report said. “Further investigation of the bathroom indicated a small notch in the top of the bathroom door. This notch appears to be indicative as to where the resistance band was positioned when used as a tool for hanging.”
In a separate report, Kirsten relayed for homicide detective Charles Weaver the events of the evening:
“We completed a show at the Fox Theater at approximately 11:00 p.m.,” Kirsten said, according to Weaver’s written report, which began at 3:10 a.m. and ended more than an hour later. “We had a police escort back to the hotel. Chris signed autographs and then we came up to the room. I gave him his 2 sleeping pills and went back to my room.
“Chris called me and said that Apple TV was not working,” Kirsten said. “I arranged for hotel IT to bring the remote that provides access to the hotel’s network. That was around 11:34 p.m.”
Kirsten told Weaver he was in his room watching television when “I received a phone call from his wife Vicki. She sounded angry because he wasn’t responding to his phone. She told me to go to the room and check on Chris.
“I came to the room and was unable to get (in) because of the interior latch. I went back to my room and called for hotel security to come and open the door. They refused, saying that it wasn’t my room, although I told them that he was my employer and that I had a key.”
“MGM Detroit has assisted fully with the investigation into this matter,” said Yvette Monet, spokeswoman for MGM Detroit. “Out of respect for the family, we will not be providing any information beyond the information that we have already provided to authorities.”
Kirsten said he then had a telephone conversation with Vicki Cornell. “I told Vicki that they wouldn’t come open the door and she told me to kick it open. I did. Upon entry, I found the bedroom door locked. I called the hotel operator and told her that I needed security to open the bedroom door. They refused again, and I told them that I’m going to damage the hotel room and (they) need to send security, call 911 and call an ambulance.
“I kicked the bedroom door 6-7 times before it somehow popped open,” Kirsten told the detective. “I went inside and the bathroom door was partially opened and I could see his feet.
“I saw the band around his neck. He was on the floor. I forced the band from wherever it was hanging and attempted (to) loosen the band from around his neck, and began chest compressions with I believe my left hand.
“The hotel EMT came in, directed me to stand aside and she began working on him. Other personnel started arriving, hotel security, medical staff and EMTs, and Detroit (police).
“They conducted life saving protocols for a long time, maybe an hour. Then who I believe was a doctor called the time of death,” Kirsten said.
“Vicki was on the phone the whole time asking for updates,” Kirsten said. “She told me that she called the front desk and they hung up on her. It was a female. She called back a couple minutes later and a male answered, saying that it was (the first) that he was hearing about the incident.”
Kirsten signed the report at 4:35 a.m.
The information released Tuesday expands on the timeline and details contained in a police report obtained by The Detroit News.
The police report says the bodyguard was in Cornell’s hotel room at 11:30 p.m. to help the star with his computer. While in the room, Kirsten gave Cornell two Ativan pills.
The report says Vicky Cornell talked to her husband at 11:35 p.m. and, alarmed by what she heard, phoned the bodyguard to ask him to check on her husband. Kirsten told police he went to Cornell’s room at 12:15 a.m.
After Kirsten kicked in the two hotel room doors, according to the police, a medic arrived at 12:56 a.m.
The police report says a medic “untied red exercise band from victim’s neck” to begin CPR.
Detroit police wrapped up their investigation after determining there was no foul play involved in Cornell’s death. The Wayne County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled the case a suicide.