By Mike Mooneyham
June 28, 2007
Investigators continued to look for clues and possible motives Wednesday in the grisly double murder-homicide involving WWE superstar Chris Benoit.
The 40-year-old wrestler strangled his wife, Nancy Benoit, and suffocated his 7-year-old son Daniel over the weekend, authorities said, before hanging himself on a portable weight machine inside his lavish home outside Atlanta.
Nancy Benoit, 43, had bruises on her back and stomach consistent with someone pressing a knee into the small of the back while pulling on a cord around the neck, Fayette County (Ga.) District Attorney Scott Ballard told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Ballard said the autopsy indicated that there were no bruise marks on Daniel’s neck, so authorities are now assuming he could have been killed using a choke hold. “It’s a process of elimination,” he said.
Daniel was found face down on his bed, but authorities said they do not know whether he was sleeping when he was killed.
Needle marks also were found in Daniel’s arm, noted Ballard, who said authorities believe the boy had been taking growth hormones for some time. The boy, Ballard said, had been diagnosed with a form of dwarfism.
WWE attorney Jerry McDevitt told the Associated Press that the family was struggling with a rare medical condition Daniel had called Fragile X Syndrome, an inherited form of mental retardation often accompanied by autism. McDevitt said it was clear that the problem caused stress in Benoit’s relationship with his wife, and the couple reportedly argued over whether he should stay home more to take care of their son.
“Him and Nancy were clearly struggling about this whole issue, about how to take care of Daniel,” said McDevitt. “I don’t know what he confronted when he went back into the house. No one really knows that. We’ll have to see. Clearly this issue of the son was a stressor on both of their relationships for some time.”
He said Benoit’s wife didn’t want him to quit wrestling, but she “wanted him to be at home more to care for the kid. She’d say she can’t take care of him by herself when he was on the road.”
Nancy Benoit had filed for a divorce in 2003, saying the couple’s three-year marriage was irrevocably broken and alleging “cruel treatment.” She later dropped the complaint.
Questions also are being raised about whether steroids may have been a contributing factor in the deaths. A sizable quantity of prescription medication, including anabolic steroids, was found in the home. Dr. Phil Astin, Benoit’s longtime personal physician, said he met with the wrestler hours before he allegedly killed his wife, and he showed no signs of distress or rage.
“I’m still very surprised and shocked, especially with his child Daniel involved,” Astin said. “He worshipped his child.”
Astin said he said he had prescribed testosterone to Benoit because he suffered from low amounts of the hormone. He said the condition likely originated from previous steroid use. He would not say what, if any, medications he prescribed the day of the meeting.
WWE, which has distanced itself from Benoit ever since details of the grisly deaths emerged, issued a news release Tuesday decrying the speculation about steroid use being behind the tragedy. The company said Benoit tested negative for drugs during an independently administered evaluation on April 10.
“I don’t want to see this pinned on steroids,” former WWE world champ Bret Hart told Fox News. “I think that there is a deeper … it goes beyond that at this point … That’s why this is so hard to accept. We all loved him. I can’t think of any wrestlers who wouldn’t have come to the aid of Chris Benoit and support him in whatever he was carrying around.”
Pro wrestler and Atlanta resident Lex Luger told a Tampa news station that alcohol and drugs, including steroids, wreaked havoc on his own life for years before a jail chaplain converted him to Christianity. He said he believes it is possible steroid use played a part in the Benoit family tragedy.
“Obviously, they were in his home. Let’s face it. There’s a pretty good chance he was on them and to discount that they didn’t play a role, as far as with his temperament, I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t that possibility,” Luger said.
Chris Nowinski, a former WWE performer and concussion expert, offered another possible scenario. He told the New York Times that untreated concussions could have caused Benoit to snap.
“He was one of the only guys who would take a chair shot to the back of the head. Part of me hopes there was something wrong with his brain. The Chris Benoit I knew was always more concerned about everybody else’s well-being than his own.”
Debra Marshall, ex-wife of WWE star “Stone Cold” Austin, told My Fox TV in Colorado that she was glad she was “still alive.”
Marshall, who claimed to have lived through domestic abuse, said she witnessed firsthand her ex-husband taking steroids.
“The domestic and drug abuse is out of hand in the WWE and something needs to be done about it … I don’t even want to think about what Nancy went through,” said Marshall, who worked with Nancy Benoit when the two were in WCW.
“Why kill your wife, who’s innocent, and why kill your 7-year-old, a little child. That’s why I have to speak up,” she added. “I’ve been silent for too many years.”
She said a gag order prevented her from talking about her case with Austin for a year.
“I know what it feels like to have someone really, really big on top of you hitting you.”