Hunter lived, died ‘by his own rules’ |

Hunter lived, died ‘by his own rules’

Eben Harrell
Hunter S. Thompson. Aspen Times photo.

The Pitkin County coroner confirmed yesterday that author and counterculture icon Hunter S. Thompson died from an intentional, self-inflicted gunshot wound.Thompson, alone in the kitchen of his Woody Creek home, put a gun in his mouth and pulled the trigger at 5:42 p.m. Sunday. His body was discovered by his son, Juan, who was in another room of the home at the time, according to the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office. Thompson’s 6-year-old grandson, William, was also in the house. Thompson’s wife, Anita, 32, was not at the residence, according to The Associated Press.Coroner Steven Ayers said Thompson died instantly. The sheriff’s office told The Associated Press the weapon was a .45-caliber handgun.Ayers has not ordered a toxicology report to reveal whether there were drugs or alcohol in Thompson’s body at the time of death.

“I’m not ordering a toxicology report in this case because it was incidental to the cause of death. It doesn’t matter if there were drugs in his system; it had nothing to do with the manner of his death,” Ayers said.Thompson’s home in Woody Creek was quiet yesterday, with a private security officer guarding the entrance. The nearby Woody Creek Tavern, a longtime watering hole frequented by Thompson, was swarming with national media. Gaylord Guenin, a tavern regular, Aspen Times columnist and friend of Thompson’s, said he had done so many interviews he had lost count. No matter how many times he’s asked, Guenin said, he still can’t come up with an explanation.”I could see him driving into a river or overdosing on some bizarre drug, but not this way. To lose a friend is tough. But we didn’t lose him. He ran away from us,” Guenin said. “The weird thing was in the last few weeks he had been really upbeat.”Woody Creek resident and close friend Michael Cleverly agreed, saying Thompson had been in good spirits.”Healthwise he’s had a crummy year, and he was no spring chicken, but it seemed like he was bouncing back,” said Cleverly, who also pens a column for the Times. “He was feeling better all the time. On Friday he called me after physical therapy and said he felt great.”

Cleverly had last been with Thompson on Friday, when the two watched a basketball game at Thompson’s home, and “talked about important matters – trying to save the world one minute and destroy it the next,” he said. Cleverly noted that Thompson was absorbed with a number of projects.Another friend, Curtis Robinson, a former Roaring Fork Valley resident now living in Washington, D.C., said Thompson called him a few days ago “tickled to death” about his latest “Hey Rube” column for had been with Thompson recently in Louisiana and said the author was having some trouble walking, which frustrated him.Asked about his state of mind, Robinson said, “We speculate so much but just look at his work. There was so much angst in all his work. People ask, ‘Was he happy?’ Well, he was Hunter.”Jimmy Ibbotson, a longtime neighbor and friend of Thompson’s, said the author had been quite ill and had undergone three or four operations in the past few years.”He’d heard that he was real sick. He was dying and he didn’t want the coyotes to get his body,” Ibbotson said. “He lived his life by his own rules, and he took his life by his own rules.

“Why he did it with his son and grandson in the [home] … that’s the part that no one can get.”Pitkin County Sheriff’s Investigator Joe DiSalvo said Thompson’s family will likely organize a memorial service later this week. He also said a grief counselor was dispatched to Thompson’s home within an hour of his death.Aspen Times staff writers Chad Abraham and Catherine Lutz contributed to this report. Eben Harrell’s e-mail address is

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