ALLENTOWN, Pa. – Pro wrestling star Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka is mentally incompetent to stand trial in the death of his girlfriend more than three decades ago, a judge ruled Wednesday.
Lehigh County Judge Kelly Banach ruled from the bench after a four-day hearing on whether Snuka should face trial on murder and manslaughter charges. Snuka, 73, took the stand last month and often seemed confused as he was questioned by the judge.
"I don't believe he's faking it," Banach said Wednesday.
Snuka, a native of Fiji who lives in Waterford Township, New Jersey, was charged last year in the death of 23-year-old Nancy Argentino, whose body was found in their Whitehall Township hotel room. Snuka pleaded not guilty and was released on bail. His mental fitness will be re-evaluated in six months.
The defense argued that Snuka suffers from dementia, partly due to the head trauma he suffered over a long career in the ring. A prosecution expert said Snuka's brain shows normal signs of aging and suggested he might be feigning symptoms.
Questioned by the judge last month, the high-flying wrestler didn't know his age or the year, couldn't remember the name of his lawyer or identify the current U.S. president or any presidential candidates, and seemed befuddled about the reason he was in court.
The judge said Wednesday she doesn't think that Snuka is "smart enough" to fake illness, characterizing the wrestler as "vacant" and "leadable."
"Unfortunately justice suffers when it's delayed," Banach said. "Justice suffers after 30 years because everything decays."
Snuka had been at a World Wrestling Federation taping at the Allentown Fairgrounds in May 1983, and told police shortly after Argentino's death that he had returned to their Whitehall Township hotel room to find her unresponsive in bed. She was pronounced dead at a hospital several hours later.
An autopsy determined she died of traumatic brain injuries and had more than three dozen cuts and bruises, and it concluded her injuries were consistent with being hit with a stationary object. But the probe went cold, and Snuka continued his high-profile pro wrestling career.
Prosecutors reopened the investigation after a 2013 report in The Morning Call newspaper raised questions about the case. He was charged in September.
His attorney has called Argentino's death an "unfortunate accident."