By Corey Deiterman
By William Michael Smith
By Jef With One F
By Craig Hlavaty
By Jesse Sendejas Jr.
By Sonya Harvey
By Jesse Sendejas Jr.
By Nathan Smith
Michelle's body was in the master bedroom. She was lying across the foot of the bed, clothed only in a white T-shirt. A blue elastic hair band was tightly wrapped around her left arm, just below the elbow. Inches from her left hand were a small baggie with cocaine residue, a syringe, a lighter and a piece of cotton in a burnt spoon.
"The body was very thin and emaciated, almost having a skeletal appearance," one officer noted. "The pelvic bones protruded grossly from the hip area." The fingers on both Michelle's hands were thin and shriveled. The officers recorded needle marks and sores on her neck, both arms and both legs. Her eyes were open and glassy. She had been dead for several hours.
The county medical examiner ruled Michelle's death an accident, because of complications of chronic intravenous drug abuse combined with an overdose of morphine and cocaine. The autopsy found that Michelle was suffering from an infected pulmonary valve, acute bronchopneumonia and severe malnutrition at the time of her death. She weighed 88 pounds.
Two nights before Michelle died, Simone Tardif says, her daughter called her from Tempe. She sounded sick. She begged her mother to wire her $200 immediately. "I said, 'My God, why? Cris has more money than I will ever make.' She just said, 'Please, please.' "
Cris came on the line and reiterated the plea. "He told me he couldn't get any more money from his accountant for a few days, and it was just a passing thing, but they really needed the money right then, not in a few days," Simone recalls. "He promised he would pay me back quickly. So I sent it."
In so doing, Simone Tardif now realizes, she likely bought her daughter's final, fatal high. "The sad thing is, Michelle told me she was supposed to go to the Betty Ford Clinic the next week. So you see, I wish I would not have sent the money. She just sounded so weak."
Cris kept his promise. He wired Simone Tardif $200 a week after Michelle died.
We're not a band; we're nasty little microbes eating away on the skin of this big dumb rotting fruit. We're going to plod along like the Galapagos rock trolls that we are. We'll continue to hawk our wares to the voracious consuming public. Then, a few years after that, death.
-- Cris Kirkwood, July 1994
Shortly after Michelle overdosed, Curt flew into Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix. He came only because he had to. In order to clear his name on the false drug charges Cris had tried to pin on him, Curt had to make a court appearance and be fingerprinted. He came only to clean up another mess Cris had made, not to console or help his brother. He'd already tried.
When Curt saw his brother in August, he says Cris was still Cris, part of the time. "He'd alternate between being a fiend and crying a lot, and acting like my bro."
It was enough to make Curt try to help, one more time. He paid a professional interventionist to come from California and help him get his brother into a private, high-dollar residential detox and rehab center in Los Angeles. Curt, the interventionist and a group of the Kirkwoods' old friends spent four days with Cris in a hotel near the Biltmore in Phoenix, trying to talk him into getting on a plane. The tense situation nearly exploded when a hotel security team went into Cris's room.
"Cris wasn't making any noise or scaring anybody," Curt recalls, "he just wouldn't let the maid in the room, four days straight. So these security guys show up, and all of a sudden, this situation where we're just trying to get my brother on a plane becomes this big fucking thing, because there's a lot of shit in his room, and the security guys are threatening to call the cops, which would have been a catastrophe."
The interventionist was able to mollify security. "He's an older man, about 60, and a real respectable pro. He dealt with them. He said, 'Look, we're just trying to get a very sick man to a hospital,' and even when he put it in that light, they were just like, 'Good.' They treated us like shit, just because my brother was in a bad way with drugs.
"This stigma our society puts on junkies is fucked. My brother is not a bad person. It's a sickness. I wish someone would force medical treatment on him. But the law says you can't force medical treatment on people. Instead, you put them in jail. Well, fuck, that doesn't make any sense. To someone in my position, that's infuriating.
Cris eventually got on the plane and checked into rehab, but he checked out five days later and went to a friend's house in L.A. When Cris called a limo, his friend tried to stop him from getting in, but Cris shoved him out of the way. That was in late August. Cris showed up in Tempe in early September. Curt heard from mutual friends that Cris was living in his car for a while, then a Motel 6. Curt says no one has seen him since a few days before Halloween.
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