At 17 she had a child, whom she gave up for adoption, and whose father she said was Mr. Helm, best known as the drummer and singer for the Band. (Mr. Helm, who died in 2012, did not acknowledge paternity.) In the 1970s she spent almost four years in a volatile relationship with Mr. Lightfoot, the Canadian singer-songwriter.

“It was one of those relationships you get a feeling of danger comes into the picture,” he said in “Gordon Lightfoot: If You Could Read My Mind,” a recent documentary by Martha Kehoe and Joan Tosoni.

Ms. Smith tried to escape that Enquirer headline.

“I didn’t kill John Belushi,” she wrote in “Chasing the Dragon,” a memoir published in 1984 while her case was still in progress. “I do suffer guilt, but it is the guilt that comes from not being aware of what was really going on.”

That explanation, though, never earned her much sympathy. Nor did her efforts to express remorse.

Credit…Associated Press

“It should have been me in the pine box, with a tag on my toe,” she said in a documentary made for CITY-TV of Toronto in the mid-1980s. “My name is Smith, who cares?”

Catherine Evelyn Smith was born on April 25, 1947, in Burlington, Ontario, on the western end of Lake Ontario. She dropped out of school at 16 and found her way to the Yorkville section of Toronto, which was then a magnet for bohemian musicians and literary figures. A 1982 article in Rolling Stone quoted Bernie Fiedler, owner of a folk club called the Riverboat Coffee House, as calling her “absolutely beautiful, one of the ladies who had everything a man always wanted but was afraid to confront.”

Mr. Lightfoot took up with her in the early 1970s. It was a tempestuous relationship. His song “Sundown,” a 1974 hit about a dark sort of possessiveness (“I can see her lookin’ fast in her faded jeans/She’s a hard-loving woman, got me feelin’ mean”), was inspired by her.

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