Correspondence between the author and Carole Chaski, a reknowned forensic linguist featured in the docudrama Soaked In Bleach, illuminates the divide between Chaski’s findings on the greenhouse note discovered near Kurt Cobain’s body on April 8, 1994, and how she was portrayed in the film.
The issue regarding Chaski’s portrayal in the film was first reported on here: The Aftermath of Soaked In Bleach – Part II. The author’s findings fully support the contents of the aforementioned article regarding the linguist.
Chaski holds a Masters and PhD in Lingusitics from Brown University and a Masters in Psychology of Reading from the University of Delaware, and currently serves as Executive Director for the Institute for Linguistic Evidence and as CEO and President of ALIAS Technology, LLC.
In addition to confirming her opinion that the entire greenhouse document qualified as a suicide note, the linguist informed the author that it was her opinion that the note was a “metaphor” for the way in which Mr. Cobain chose to die, with the top portion representing the overdose aspect of his passing and the bottom portion representing the firearm aspect. “I think he used two methods of death and two methods of communicating his ideation,” Chaski indicated.
“Poet’s see the metaphorical aspects of life and he was a poet until the very end,” the linguist imparted.
Chaski stated that she had communicated her belief regarding the metaphorical nature of the top and bottom portions of the note during the taping of her testimony for Soaked In Bleach. This aspect of her testimony, however, does not appear in the film.
In addition, as part of her participation in the film, Chaski indicated that she had further evaluated the note using computational software which analyses the linguistic features of a questioned document to determine if it qualifies as a suicide note.
The software is called SNARE (“Suicide Note Assessment Review”), and Chaski indicates that SNARE classified the greenhouse note in the following ways:
1) The top portion as a suicide note;
2) The bottom portion as a suicide note; and
3) The entire note as a suicide note.
With regard to the scientific validity of SNARE, Chaski informed the author of the following:
The SNARE method was developed independent of any case investigation or litigation, using only ground truth data of known suicide notes and known control texts. The method was developed in a purely controlled environment to minimize confirmation bias.
SNARE was validated for accuracy using statistical procedures, which indicate an accuracy rate of 86% for notes less than 45 words and an 80% accuracy rate for notes in excess of 45 words.
SNARE has been subjected to peer review and has been presented at the American Academy of Forensic Sciences’ annual meeting.
In conjunction with SNARE’s computational findings, Chaski also indicated that she conducted a qualitative assessesment of the note. The qualitative assessment, Chaski explained, involves her examining the individual linguistic parts of a given note and determing whether or not those parts meet the characteristic features of known suicide notes. Chaski indicated that the greenhouse note contained many such suidical features, such as “burdensomeness of self,” “unbearable situation” and “relationship loss.”
Both the top and bottom portions of the note are “classic suicide notes,” Chaski further informed the author.
The linguist indicated that the producers of Soaked In Bleach had been informed of SNARE’s results and the results of her qualitative assessment. SNARE’s results, however, do not appear in the film, and Chaski’s determination that the entire document – not merely the bottom portion – qualified as a suicide note is also not presented.
A finding was made in 1994 by the Washington State Patrol that Mr. Cobain was the author of the greenhouse note.
The aforementioned information provided by Chaski during correspondence with the author appears to starkly indicate that a wealth of information not conforming to Tom Grant’s murder-conspiracy theory, but highly relevant with regard to Mr. Cobain’s passing and vital to gaining an accurate impression of Chaski’s beliefs, was excised from the film.
Another expert featured in Soaked In Bleach, Vernon Geberth, a former NYPD Homicide Commander and author of the highly regarded Practical Homicide Investigation textbook, asserted in June of this year via his Facebook account and website that he believed his testimony in the film was misportrayed to falsely give the impression that he supported the homicide theory.
When Chaski was asked by the author if there was anything that most stood out to her about the greenhouse note, Chaski communicated that the first portion came across as the most moving and powerful to her.
“It intimately conveyed what it felt like to be him,” the linguist said.