by Candace Heckman (Seattle Post-Intelligencer Reporter)
Tuesday, May 7, 2002
Layne Staley, lead singer of the popular Seattle band Alice in Chains, died from a fatal mix of heroin and cocaine, the King County Medical Examiner's Office said yesterday.
Staley, 34, was found dead in his University District home on the evening of April 19 surrounded by drug paraphernalia after police were summoned by his family.
Hundreds of rock fans gathered for separate memorials in the week after news of his death.
Many who expressed condolences also voiced regrets that for two weeks no one had checked on the welfare of the artist, whose condition was known to have been deteriorating for years.
An autopsy concluded that he had died April 5.
Later tests confirmed that his death was caused by acute intoxication of a narcotic mix called, among other terms, "speedball," "dynamite" and "murder one."
Another street term for an injection of heroin and cocaine together, Belushi, was coined after the 1982 death of comedian John Belushi, who also died from such a lethal mix. Actor River Phoenix also had heroin and cocaine in his body when he died in 1993.
Staley's distinctively hard vocals and gloomy lyrics sent Alice in Chains to the top of rock stardom in the early 1990s as Seattle's "grunge" phenomenon enjoyed planetary success.
However, Alice in Chains stopped touring in the mid-1990s and made its final appearances in 1996 after Staley's drug use had worsened.
"Mostly, we are feeling heartbroken over the death of our beautiful friend," members of Alice in Chains said in a statement released after Staley's body was discovered.
"He was an amazing musician, an inspiration, and a comfort to so many.
"For the past decade, Layne struggled greatly. We can only hope that he has at last found some peace."