Officials: Wrestler Strangled Wife, Suffocated Son, Hanged Self
Professional wrestler Chris Benoit strangled his wife and smothered his 7-year-old son, placing bibles at their sides, before hanging himself from a pulley in his weight room, authorities said Tuesday.
Police ruled the death a double homicide-suicide and are investigating whether steroids may have been a factor in the deaths.
Authorities said they found prescription anabolic steroids in the home among other legal prescriptions. Steroid abuse has been linked to depression, paranoia, and aggressive behavior or angry outbursts known as "roid rage."
"There was a lot of prescription medication that he had received from doctors with what we believed to be at this time legal prescriptions," said Lt. Tommy Pope of the Fayette County Sheriff's Department.
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Police said that Nancy Benoit died of asphyxiation on Friday, said Fayette County District Attorney Scott Ballard. She was found in an upstairs family room with her legs and wrists bound and blood under her head, perhaps indicating a struggle, he said.
The Benoits' son, Daniel, died of asphyxiation sometime Saturday morning, Ballard said. He was found in his bed upstairs. Both mother and son had bibles placed at their sides.
Authorities found the pro wrestler dead in the basement, hanging from the pulley of a weight machine. He died sometime late Saturday or Sunday, Ballard said.
"In a community like this, it's bizarre just to have a murder suicide -- certainly involving the death of a 7-year-old child," Ballard said.
Nancy Benoit filed for a divorce in May 2003, saying their three-year union was irrevocably broken and alleging "cruel treatment." But she later dropped the complaint, as well as a request for a restraining order in which she charged that Benoit had threatened her and had broken furniture in their home.
In the divorce filing, she said Benoit made more than $500,000 a year as a professional wrestler and asked for permanent custody of Daniel and child support. In his response, Benoit sought joint custody.
"He was like the dad you always wanted to have," Bill Apter, a pro-wresting writer and friend of Benoit, told FOX News. "I just don't get this."
Apter called Benoit pensive and quiet, adding: "Chris Benoit was not the type of guy that you would profile to do anything of what is being alleged to have happened."
• Click here to view video report from MyFoxAtlanta.com.
The World Wrestling Entertainment wrestler canceled a pay-per-view appearance at the "Vengeance" event in Houston because of "personal reasons" a day before the trio were found dead.
The bodies were found Monday afternoon in three separate rooms of the house, off a gravel road about two miles from the Whitewater Country Club.
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Neighbors said the Benoits led a low-key lifestyle.
"We would see Chris walking in his yard from time to time. He wasn't rude, but he wasn't really outwardly warm," said Alaina Jones, who lives across the street.
Jimmy Baswell, who was Benoit's driver for more than five years, placed a white wreath at the Benoits' gate. "They always seemed like they were the happiest people," he said.
Whiteside said toxicology tests could take up to a week or longer to complete.
Text messages from the wrestler seem to have prompted the police to visit the home.
"The sheriff's department will only confirm that he sent one text message sometime around 4:30 a.m. Saturday, and I know that the WWE is saying that he sent several others, which is what prompted them to contact the sheriff's office to go do a welfare check at the house," Saeed Ahmed of the Journal-Constitution told FOX News.
World Wrestling Entertainment said on its Web site that it asked authorities to check on Benoit and his family after being alerted by friends who received "several curious text messages sent by Benoit early Sunday morning."
The WWE, based in Stamford, Conn., said it had been asked by authorities not to release further information on the deaths.
Benoit was born in Montreal. He was a former world heavyweight champion, Intercontinental champion and held several tag-team titles over his career. He was known by several names including "The Canadian Crippler."
"WWE extends its sincerest thoughts and prayers to the Benoit family's relatives and loved ones in this time of tragedy," the company said in a statement on its Web site.
Benoit had maintained a home in metro Atlanta from the time he wrestled for the defunct World Championship Wrestling. The Fayette County Tax Assessors Office lists the value of the house, situated on more than 8.5 acres, at nearly $900,000.
The WWE canceled its live "Monday Night RAW" card in Corpus Christi, Texas, and USA Network aired a three-hour tribute to Benoit in place of the scheduled wrestling telecast on June 25.
Benoit's wife managed several wrestlers and went by the stage name "Woman," The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
They met when her then-husband, Kevin Sullivan, drew up a script that had them involved in a relationship as part of an ongoing story line on World Championship Wrestling.
Sullivan spoke to FOXNews.com late Tuesday and expressed shock and sadness over the death of his ex-wife, who he married in 1985.
From his home in Tavernier, Fla., Sullivan said he had not spoken to his ex-wife since their split.
“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.”
Benoit, who has two other children from a prior relationship, became a standout at an early age among wrestling prospects who trained in the dungeon basement of the house where fellow Canadians and professional wrestlers Owen and Bret Hart trained. Owen Hart was killed during a wrestling event in 1999.
"He was like a family member to me, and everyone in my family is taking it real hard," said Bret Hart, a five-time champion with the now-defunct World Wrestling Federation.
Blane Bachelor and The Associated Press contributed to this report.