By Mike Mooneyham
Dec. 18, 2005
There’s no place like home for the holidays, but for some members of the pro wrestling fraternity, home may not be an option this year.
Several current and former pro wrestlers will be singing sadder laments from the confines of jail cells this holiday season.
Among them is former WCW world heavyweight champion Lex Luger.
Luger, who at one time was one of pro wrestling’s biggest stars, recently was jailed in Minnesota after being turned back at the Canadian border.
Luger, 47, whose real name is Lawrence Pfohl, was scheduled to make an appearance at an independent show in Winnipeg, but authorities sent him back after discovering two outstanding warrants related to previous drug charges. He was arrested shortly after arriving in Minneapolis.Luger and wrestler Marcus “Buff” Bagwell previously had been pulled off an airplane in Minneapolis on the way to the show in Canada due to a disturbance and were forced to spend the night there. They were, however, allowed to get on a later flight.
Both wrestlers, along with Scott Steiner (Scott Rechsteiner) and April Hunter, were detained for a lengthy period at the Canadian border before all – except Luger – were allowed to enter the country. Luger, who spent five hours at Winnipeg International Airport, eventually was sent back due to the outstanding warrants.
Luger, who was arrested Dec. 6 at the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport, currently is being held without bail at the Hennepin County Jail in Minneapolis. A court appearance is scheduled for Dec. 22 on two felony counts – a drug charge from the state of Georgia and a fugitive from justice charge stemming from that same original charge.
Luger has made a number of headlines outside the ring since WCW went out of business in 2001. His legal problems have centered around DUI arrests, nonpayment of child support and drug charges. Luger pleaded guilty in February to possession of illegal steroids which had been seized from his house shortly after girlfriend Miss Elizabeth (Liz Huelette) was found dead in their Marietta, Ga., home of a drug and alcohol overdose in 2003. Luger was sentenced to five years probation for that plea, but was allowed to plead as a first offender, meaning if he complied with the conditions of his probation, his arrest record would be expunged.
– Ricky Morton, one half of the legendary Rock and Roll Express with partner Robert Gibson, remains jailed in Tennessee on charges relating to nonpayment of child support.
Morton, a resident of Bristol, Tenn., was taken into custody on Oct. 14 after a warrant was issued for his arrest. According to a report, Morton had failed to pay child support to his former wife, Constance Lynn Morton, as part of a September 1991 divorce settlement. The couple had three children at the time of the divorce hearing. The children are now ages 23, 20 and 17.
Morton, who also is raising a 4-year-old son, reportedly owes his first wife nearly $74,000 in back payments for child support. The amount of support was determined by the salary Morton was making at the time of his divorce while he was earning a six-figure salary in WCW. It’s been years, though, since Morton has made anywhere close to that amount while working on the independent circuit.
Morton is jailed in Murfreesboro, Tenn., under bail stipulation terms handed down by a judge that he pay the child support payments in full. A scheduled court appearance for Dec. 28 was postponed last week to Jan. 10, and a motion has been filed for early release.
Leisa Richards, a longtime friend of the Morton family, has been spearheading an effort on the 49-year-old wrestler’s behalf. She said Morton’s incarceration has been a particularly trying time for his friends and family.
“He’s gained a little weight. His stomach is still bothering him, but they recently made him a trustee, and he’s getting a little bit better food than he was before. One of his wisdom teeth was bothering him, and he waited in line for four hours and still hadn’t even seen the nurse. He went back to his pod and pulled his own tooth. He said it had to come out. He just couldn’t sit there any longer.”
Richards says Morton is far from a “deadbeat dad” and that he has been a dedicated father who never challenged the level of support payment determined when he was making considerably more money in the wrestling business.
“When they (Morton and first wife Connie) separated, he gave her everything. They had a half-million-dollar home and a restaurant, and he gave her everything,” says Richards. “It wasn’t her, it was just the state of Tennessee. He never readjusted his rate of payment. He just felt like he would be taking something away from them, and he didn’t want to take anything away from his kids. If anybody knows Ricky, they’ve seen him with his kids. He loves children.”
Two of the children from his first marriage, says Richards, now live with Mortons parents. The four children from his present marriage live with his wife’s parents, she adds.
Richards says she hopes the case will be re-evaluated and his payments will be lowered. “He does not make that kind of money, and he hasn’t in a long time.”
A lawyer was initially hired for $1,500, but that price tag has increased due to court costs. At his next court hearing, says Richards, documents will have to be presented to the judge ensuring Morton’s ability to make money and catch up on his payments.
“I’ve had to get a lot of promoters send me papers showing interest to use Ricky so he can show that he can make restitution. Ive already got a folder started and have him booked in Oklahoma and Ohio. He told me wherever. He just needs to work.”
Richards says a visit last week from Morton’s brother, Larry, was the first the wrestler has had since he’s been in jail. His mother has been in failing health, she says, and “barely has the strength to walk to the end of the mailbox and back. Paul (her husband) has to take care of her all the time, and that ties them up. Ricky calls his mom every day, but she just hasn’t been able to see him.”
An account has been set up for Morton’s legal expenses. Richards says financial contributions may be made in Morton’s name and sent to his attorney, Lance Mayes, at 1994 Gallatin Road North, Suite 100-B, Madison, Tenn. 37115. Fans can write Morton at 940 New Salem Road, Murfreesboro, Tenn. 37129. Return addresses must be handwritten and not labels.
A Web site campaign also has been started for Morton. A number of wrestlers, including Stan Lane, Dennis Condrey, Bobby Eaton, Jim Cornette, Tracy Smothers, Tim Horner and Ivan Koloff, have donated items to be auctioned. For more information about the effort. contact Leisa Richards at (864) 461-4747 or (864) 431-4656. Richards says WWE performers Kid Kash (David Cash) and JBL (John Bradshaw Layfield) recently chipped in $1,000 to help Morton.
“Prayers and a letter of encouragement to Ricky would mean more than anything in the world,” she says. “Pray for the health of his mother, and please drop him a card or letter because he’s been down on himself since he’s been in there. This is not a deadbeat dad thing. He loves children. He just couldn’t keep up two families at one time. It can happen to anybody.”
– Ion (John) William Croitoru, who worked in Smoky Mountain Wrestling during the mid-’90s as Bruiser Bedlam and elsewhere as Johnny K-9 and The Terrible Turk, is back behind bars almost four months after he was released on bail. The former biker and pro wrestler was rearrested Dec. 2 outside a Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, muffler shop and charged with breaching six of his bail conditions. Police also issued a new extortion charge against Croitoru.
Croitoru, who worked as a bar bouncer in the past, has served time for various criminal offences, including assaults, drug trafficking, forgery and extortion.
He was first arrested in January and charged with two counts each of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder in the execution-style slayings of criminal lawyer Lynn Gilbank and husband Fred.. The two, both 52, of Ancaster, Ontario, were shot to death in their home in the pre-dawn hours on Nov. 16, 1998. Police had long theorized that the double-murder was a contract hit and that Lynn Gilbert was killed because she had helped a client who testified against members of a local crime family. Her husband worked as a consultant for IBM. Croitoru was described by police as an enforcer and debt collector for the crime family.
Andre Gravelle also was charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the couple’s slaying. Gravelle and his brother, Paul, were charged 13 years ago in relation to one of the largest hash-oil seizures in the United States. Paul was sentenced to a two-year jail term, Andre a four-year term, for their involvement in the illegal drug shipment from Jamaica to Florida.
Croitoru, one-time president of the now-defunct Hamilton chapter of the Satan’s Choice biker gang, was kicked out of the motorcycle outfit after police, using proceeds of crime legislation, successfully seized the group’s fortified clubhouse. Affidavits filed in connection with seizure of the clubhouse allege, that in the ’90s, Croitoru and other Satans Choice members peddled hashish provided by a local crime organization and that Croitoru was once paid to fly to the Caribbean to beat up someone suspected of stealing from the family.
Croituro, 39, a legit strongman who once benched 625 pounds, was well known among Canadian police. As a common criminal, his career included convictions for assault, forgery, a bombing conspiracy and drug dealing. Her served a seven-month prison stint for a 1991 assault and a 10-month sentence after being convicted of trafficking cocaine.
It was in Smoky Mountain Wrestling where promoter Jim Cornette gave the squat powerhouse the name Bruiser Bedlam and where he received his biggest push in the business. With Cornette patterning the wrestler’s tough-guy image after the late Dick The Bruiser, Croitoru held the promotion’s “Beat the Champ” TV title during an 18-month run there during the mid-’90s and defeated such stars as Randy Savage, Jake Roberts and Cactus Jack (Mick Foley).
Also known as Taras Bulba and The Terrible Turk, Croituro spent four years as an enhancement talent with the World Wrestling Federation where he once worked with Hulk Hogan in a televised match.
– Former pro wrestler Sam Houston, who was once married to pioneer wrestling valet Nickla “Baby Doll” Roberts, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for repeated DUI arrests.
Houston (Michael Smith), the son of longtime wrestler and promoter Grizzly Smith and half-brother of Jake “The Snake” Roberts (Aurelian Smith Jr.), has two young daughters from whom he reportedly has been estranged for years. “As most of you know, Sam has had an ongoing battle with drug and alcohol abuse,” Nickla Roberts recently posted. “It is the reason why we got divorced in 1994. During the last 10 years he has had an average of two DUI arrests per year. I know of four vehicles that he totaled (every accident he walked away from). There were other vehicles but I do not have all the info.
“Every time he was arrested, his dad would pay the fine, or use his influence and leverage with the judge or court officers to get his son out with little or no consequences. I know in his heart that Griz thought he was doing the right thing for his son but it was all wrong. After all this time it finally caught up with him. Mother’s Against Drunk Driving got ahold of Sam’s records, including every time he had been in trouble whether it was in the Carolinas, Texas or Louisiana. They were going to the newspaper and expose Sam’s arrest history and how nothing had been done time and time again. They were ready to supply the names of the judges, lawyers, probation officers, etc. that had let Sam go on with no consequences for driving while drunk, high or both.
“It was just a matter of time before Sam would kill someone. Thanks to the Lord that tragedy never happened. Sam had a court date the first week of August for a drunk driving arrest that had occurred earlier this year outside New Orleans. Griz took him to the court but Sam could not stand without weaving and he smelled like he had been drinking a lot. The deputies arrested him on the spot and told him they were not going to waste the judge’s time. Griz spent the rest of the day at the courthouse begging them to let Sam go.
“This time it did not work. Sam had another court appearance two weeks later. This judge had been given the information MADD had collected on Sam and his reckless behavior. The judge sentenced him to 10 years. My dad (longtime Lubbock, Texas, promoter Nick Roberts) was an alcoholic. The last 35 years of his life he stayed sober through the AA program. Dad helped a lot of other alcoholics and substance abusers stay sober by following the 12 steps. My dad said that Sam would end up in jail, institutionalized or dead if he kept drinking.”