A week to the day before pro wrestling wife Nancy Benoit was found murdered in her suburban Atlanta home, the body of former pro wrestler and manager Sherri Martel was discovered in her mother's Alabama home, the cause of death unknown.
Martel, a pro wrestler in the WWE Hall of Fame who went by the ring name "Sensational Sherri," and who later managed the likes of "The Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase, Ric Flair and "Macho Man" Randy Savage, was found dead by her husband Robert Schrull at her mother's home in McCalla, Ala., on June 15, according to the Tuscaloosa News newspaper.
Linking Martel to the deaths of Nancy and husband Chris Benoit and their son Daniel is former pro wrestler Kevin Sullivan, a man once married to Nancy Benoit and who also was Martel's friend and booker.
Following World Wrestling Entertainment's announcement of Martel's death, wrestling Web sites quickly began speculating about case.
Dave Metzler of Wrestling Observer Live told his audience that she did not die of natural causes, saying "this was not a typical wrestler's death," according to reports. But Capt. Loyd Baker of the Tuscaloosa County Metro Homicide Unit told the Tuscaloosa News that foul play was not suspected in her death.
"The cause of death is pending her autopsy and toxicology report," he said June 19. An officer in the homicide unit told FOXNews.com that those results could take months to be finished.
Martel began her career in the early 1980s and later went on to manage more than 15 wrestlers including Ric Flair and Jake "The Snake" Roberts.
“Everyone respected her," said Bruce Mitchell, a columnist for the Pro Wrestling Torch newsletter and Web site, told the Tuscaloosa News. "She was an attractive lady, but she wasn’t just eye-candy.
"She was really a pioneer and a trailblazer."
One popular wrestling site, PWTorch.com, reports that Kevin Sullivan, then married to Nancy, tried to pair Martel with wrestler Ric Flair as part of a scripted Nicole Brown/O.J. Simpson ring drama, but that "work" was abandoned.
PWTorch.com writes that in early 1996, Martel became involved in a strange "work" — or scripted — feud between Sullivan and wrestler Brian Pillman. The match reportedly got out of hand, and spilled into a backstage confrontation involving Martel and the then-Nancy Sullivan. Reports of the incident say that the argument escalated with Martel spitting on Nancy Sullivan.
Martel reportedly was later fired.
Several wrestling blogs reported that Martel had a drug problem and had entered a 21-day rehab program, but investigating police would not comment.
PWTorch.com quoted her in 2005 saying, "I slip back every now and again, but I am trying my best."
Kevin Sullivan, meanwhile, spoke earlier this week FOXNews.com, and expressed shock and sadness over the death of his former wife in her suburban Atlanta home.
Sullivan married the former Nancy Daus in 1985. The couple was still married in the 1990s when a scripted rivalry between Benoit and Sullivan in the now-defunct World Championship Wrestling (WCW) resulted in Benoit as the victor on the mat. However, a real romance blossomed between Benoit and Nancy, who eventually split with Sullivan and married Benoit in 2000.
From his home in Tavernier, Fla., in the Florida Keys, where he owns and runs a gym called Froggy’s Fitness with his wife, Linda, Sullivan said he had not spoken to his ex-wife since their split. He told FOXNews.com he learned of the grisly crime, which reportedly took place over several days, from television news on Monday evening.
“It’s surreal,” said Sullivan, who did not have children with Nancy Benoit. “She was a nice person. We just went our separate ways. She was nice and very loving and I’m sure she was a good mother.”
Sullivan said he did not know Benoit well outside the ring. “I never associated with him, so I really don’t know his personality,” he said. … “[But] I’m sad for all three, especially the child.”