The peculiar death of Kristen Pfaff

This is an archived copy of the original article.

DISCLAIMER: This article is in no way attempting to accuse, nor attempting to indict anyone in the death of Kristen Pfaff. The intention is simply to lay out the confusing details of this case. We hope you enjoy, and find this article informative.

On June 16, 1994, Kristen Pfaff was found dead in the bathtub of her Seattle, Washington apartment. What ensued would be a peculiar series of events, each more confusing than the last. In order to better understand this case and each puzzling detail, it's important to truly understand who Kristen Pfaff was, musically and personally.

Kristen Marie Pfaff was born May 26, 1967 in Amherst, New York, a suburb of Buffalo in the western part of the state. She was the only child of her mother's marriage, which ended in divorce when Pfaff was very young. Her mother, Janet, remarried to Norman Pfaff, whom Kristen was adopted by. She later took his last name. Growing up, she was trained in classical piano and cello.

In 1985, Kristen graduated from the Buffalo Academy of the Sacred Heart, a private Catholic high school. She relocated to Europe for a brief time, but eventually returned to America to study in Boston, Massachusetts. Shortly after, she moved once more to Minneapolis, Minnesota and enrolled at the University of Minnesota. It was here, at age twenty-one, Kristen learned how to play the bass guitar.

While living in Minneapolis, Kristen formed her first band, Janitor Joe, in 1992. The band released their debut single the same year, and their debut album Big Metal Birds one year later in 1993. Janitor Joe was formed alongside guitarist/vocalist Joachim Breuer and drummer Matt Entsminger.

During a Janitor Joe performance in California, Courtney Love and Eric Erlandson found Kristen Pfaff, and her life was changed forever. The duo's band Hole were scouting out a female bassist, as they had just lost theirs, Jill Emery. Love asked Pfaff to join Hole, but she refused and returned to Minnesota. However, Love and Erlandson were persistent that she fill Emery's space in Hole. Eventually, Pfaff agreed and moved to Seattle, Washington in order to join Hole. In early 1993, Pfaff began rehearsing with Hole in preparation of their second studio album, Live Through This.

During her time in Seattle, Kristen began using heroin, most likely due to her inner circle of friends all being users. It is reported that Pfaff hated Seattle, and eagerly longed to return to Minneapolis. Pfaff told a reporter with the University of Minnesota newspaper what she allegedly told her Hole bandmates, "Look, if you want me to be happy and sane, I just need to get back home." Home was not the New York suburb where she was raised, rather it was Minneapolis, where she attended college and was heavily involved in the city's music scene. After nearly a year in Seattle, she left to return to Minnesota in March of 1994. In April, she returned for friend Kurt Cobain's funeral, and in June she returned one final time to collect the remainder of her belongings. Kristen never returned from that June trip to Seattle.

In an interview with the Buffalo News following Kristen's death, her mother Janet recalls an incident in February of 1994 where she rushed to Seattle following her daughter had what she called an "incident" that led to her hospitalization. "In this brief time in her life, for the first time, Kristen had a fling with drugs," Janet Pfaff told the Buffalo News. "I think it was peer pressure. I think it was part of a music scene in Seattle where drug use is glamorized and emphasized.". Janet said her daughter was not a regular drug user or addict by any means. Following the death of Cobain, Janet said her and her daughter talked regularly, and states that her daughter struggled with the passing of somebody so close to her. It is reported that following Cobain's passing, Pfaff entered a depression.

Many circumstances surrounding Pfaff's death are extremely suspicious. Before we dive in to the peculiar details, let it be known that this article is simply stating the strange facts of this case, and is no way intending to accuse anybody of being responsible for Kristen Pfaff's death.

Prior to her death, Pfaff had finished a drug rehab program to help combat her heroin problem. The plan was to return to Minneanapolis, and as stated earlier, Kristen was only in Seattle to collect the last of her things to bring back with her. A packed Uhaul was outside the apartment at the time of her death. The last person to see her alive was boyfriend and fellow Hole member Eric Erlandson. Suspiciously, while talking about the death of his ex-girlfriend Kristen Pfaff, Erlandson is quoted as saying "I admit, I made some stupid mistakes with some people, and people are dead because of my stupid mistakes."

Pfaff was found dead in a bathroom in her Seattle apartment, the one which she was making a final homage to in order to pack up her belongings, by friend Paul Erickson. Drug paraphernalia was found on the scene, the presence of which automatically changed how the scene was analyzed. Without much of a second look, police had decided Kristen overdosed, despite the fact that multiple sources claimed she was doing much better.

To put it bluntly, Kristen's "autopsy" was a joke, but there are some important points that need to be made regarding it. The autopsy was performed by Dr. Nicholas Hawthorne, a coroner who, conveniently, also performed Kurt Cobain's autopsy and was close friends with Courtney Love. If you recall, Kurt Cobain's death was ruled a suicide, despite some suspicious circumstances that lead some to believe he was possibly murdered. Love's close relationship to Dr. Hawthorne also makes things complicated, as the autopsy report could have potentially been biased.

An immediate cause of death could not be determined by the preliminary autopsy. Hawthorne stated it was a "classic suicide" comparable to that of Cobain's. This is where the case of the autopsy gets more suspicious. Pfaff's body was found in a room with drug paraphernalia. The police believed she overdosed, and Dr. Hawthorne believed that was the method used for Pfaff to commit suicide. However, there is no record of a toxicology report being conducted. If it was believed Kristen Pfaff overdosed on drugs, why wouldn't they perform a toxicology? It would be crucial information to know what was in her system at the time of her death. The drugs in her system and the concentration of them would better help establish a cause of death for Pfaff. The only explanation for Dr. Hawthorne not performing a toxicology report would be him knowing some damning information regarding Courtney Love and her relation to Pfaff's death. This information could have been kept secret by the lack of a toxicology report. Of course, if no or an excess amount of heroin was found in her bloodstream, the death would automatically become suspicious in the eyes of investigators. Is it possible Dr. Hawthorne bypassed an autopsy and gave Kristen a seemingly obvious cause of death to save somebody else's reputation, rather Love herself or somebody in her close circle?

Kristen's full autopsy report was never released to the public. It has been 24 years since her death.

Courtney Love is the main suspect in the death of Kristen Pfaff. With holes in her story, a turbulent past between the two, and Love's intense paranoia, she certainly fits the profile. According to reports, Courntey was obsessed with the idea that Kurt Cobain was cheating on her. On April 1st, 1994, shortly before his death, Cobain had bought two round-trip airline tickets for him and another female besides Love. Apparently, Love thought this "mystery woman" of Kurt's was possibly Kristen Pfaff. Multiple reports say Courtney thought Kurt was having an affair with Kristen, though the pairing claimed they were only good friends. Kurt has been quoted as saying "She's a fucking talented musician, she's also a beautiful soul. I think she's so beautiful, but if I ever told her that, and Courtney found out, it would be hell." about Kristen.

According to multiple sources, including Pfaff's own brother, Jason, Kristen feared Courtney greatly. At the time of her death, Kristen was in the process of leaving Hole. She had rekindled her relationship with her Janitor Joe bandmates, and was excited about returning to Minneanapolis to possibly start their career again. Overall, Kristen's attitude of returning to the city she called home was positive. She seemed excited. However, Courtney Love was most likely not as thrilled. It was reported that Kristen was just "taking a break" from Hole, but why would she abandon the city of her bandmates, take a Uhaul full of her stuff back to Minneapolis, and restart a relationship with her old bandmates if it was just a "break"? It is important to note that like the death of Kurt Cobain, Kristen Pfaff died while she was separating herself from Courtney Love.

In December 1994, Courtney Love gave an interview to Rolling Stone magazine, which was just all the more confusing and did not make much sense. She stated "I had to go over there and get Eric away from the body. Kristen had been his lover for a really long time. He'd already broken down the bathroom door after bathroom door for her." Although, if you remember, it wasn't Eric Erlandson that found Kristen; it was friend Paul Erickson. Additionally, the initial police report from the scene does not mention Courtney's presence at all.

When Janet Pfaff, Kristen's mother, received her daughter's belongings post mortem, she noticed something quite odd. Every day, Kristen journaled before falling asleep. Her journal contained truly the deepest parts of herself. When Kristen's diary was returned to her mother, multiple pages were torn from it. These missing entries were the ones during the week of time when Kurt Cobain was missing before his body was found. Rather Kristen, Courtney, or somebody else tore these pages out will forever remain a mystery.

Multiple suspicious details surround the death of Kristen Pfaff. Every person in Kristen's immediate family, including her brother, mother, and father, do not believe Kristen overdosed as the police and coroner state. As far as everybody knew, Kristen was doing great and rehab had helped her kick her heroin addiction. Some believe Kristen was given a "hot shot", an especially potent bit of pure heroin, which is almost always lethal. Others believe Kristen was murdered and the drug paraphernalia was placed by Paul Erickson upon discovering Pfaff's body. Rather this was a true overdose or something more sinister, we will never know. The only people who truly know what happened to Kristen Pfaff are herself and any others involved, rather innocently or in a more sinister way.

Published July 10, 2019 by Ryan Lyman,

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