On this day in 2002, Layne Staley, lead singer of Alice In Chains, was found dead in his Seattle condo.
Layne Thomas Staley, born on August 22, 1967, would become the lead singer and co-songwriter of the alternative rock band Alice In Chains, in Seattle, Washington in 1987. The group would become one of the most successful music acts of the 1990s, selling over 25 million albums worldwide, and over 14 million in the U.S. The band’s 1992 album, Dirt, was certified quadruple platinum. Their 1994 record Jar of Flies went double platinum.
Alice In Chains is one of the most influential bands to come out of the alternative rock/grunge genre. Guitarist and co-founder Jerry Cantrell still continues to play under the name Alice In Chains. He’s had everyone from Phil Anselmo of Pantera to Scott Welland of Stone Temple Pilots sing in Staley’s place and memory.
Staley’s struggles with addiction were no secret to the world; if he wasn’t singing about it, he was shooting it or in the middle of passing out from having just shoot up. It was a sad and slow demise.
He would make his final public appearance on October 31, 1998, when he attended a Jerry Cantrell solo show. He declined Cantrell’s request to sing with him on stage that evening. A photo was taken of Staley backstage at this show – is the most up-to-date photo to be released publicly.
From 1999 to 2002, Staley became more reclusive, rarely leaving his Seattle apartment. No one knows the details of his life during this period. It is likely that Staley was bound by his drug addiction and simply decided to fade into his sofa while injecting, snorting and smoking what he could. On February 14, 2002 Staley’s mother took a photo of him holding his newborn nephew, but the photo has never been published. Other than this scarce incident, Staley was not seen by family or friends.
On April 19, 2002, Staley’s mother became alarmed when she noticed that no money had been withdrawn from Staley’s bank account in two weeks. She was concerned enough to have police escort her to his condo. After failing to get a response from anyone inside, the police kicked in his door. They entered; the room was dark, the only light illuminating from the flickering television. On the sofa sitting upright was Layne Staley. He had been dead for two weeks and his body had decomposed into the cushions.
Layne was surrounded by drug paraphernalia. Cocaine, two crack pipes, numerous spray paint cans and syringes were everywhere. What was left of his hand was still holding a syringe loaded with heroin.
After the removal of Staley’s body, more syringes were found underneath him. The autopsy would show traces of cocaine, codeine and morphine in his system and he weighed a mere 86 pounds.
There was a large amount of cash lying next to the toilet and both the bathroom and kitchen were cluttered with used syringes, crack pipes and spray-paint cans. Forensics set the date of death as April 5. That is exactly eight years – to the day – that Kurt Cobain had taken his own life.
The autopsy report later concluded that Staley had died after injecting a mixture of heroin and cocaine, known as a “speedball”.
He was 34 years old.