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WWE wrestler Chris Benoit and family found dead

BY ALFONSO A. CASTILLO
alfonso.castillo@newsday.com

June 26, 2007, 1:02 PM EDT
Pro wrestler Chris Benoit strangled his wife and smothered his son before hanging himself in his weight room, a law enforcement official close to the investigation told The Associated Press Tuesday.

The official spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Authorities also said they are investigating whether steroids may have been a factor in the deaths of Benoit, his wife and their 7-year-old son who were found dead in an apparent murder-suicide.

Fayette County District Attorney Scott Ballard said test results may not be back for weeks or even months.

Autopsies were scheduled Tuesday by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation in DeKalb County.

Benoit, 40, was discovered dead in his home in suburban Atlanta by Fayetville police yesterday – a day after he no-showed two scheduled matches in Texas over the weekend, including at World Wrestling Entertainment's Vengeance pay per view event in Houston Sunday night. He cited a family emergency as the reason for skipping the shows.

After friends in WWE received several "curious text messages" from Benoit, and WWE officials were unable to reach him, the sheriff's department in Peachtree City, GA went to Benoit's home to check on his family about 2:30 p.m.

After maneuvering through two German shepherds that guarded the home, police found Benoit, his wife and child dead in three separate rooms in the home, according to WAGA-TV. The Wrestling Observer newsletter reported that Fayette County police are operating under the theory that Benoit killed his wife on Saturday, son Daniel on Sunday, and then killed himself yesterday.

ABC News reported that authorities had found "the instruments of death" at Benoit's home – a mansion surrounded by stone walls with a gravel road leading to double iron gates.

MSNBC has reported that a police press conference disclosing preliminary autopsy results is expected to take place this afternoon.

Fayette County District Attorney Scott Ballard told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the details of the incident may "prove a little bizarre" when they come out.

WWE.com reported that, "The three bodies have been received by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation's crime lab, in Decatur, Ga., where autopsies will be performed Tuesday morning. Toxicology reports will not become available for at least two weeks."

WWE scrapped their schedule live, sold-out Monday Night RAW program in Corpus Cristy last night and sent fans home. In the show's place, WWE chairman Vince McMahon and the WWE announce team introduced a three-hour career retrospective that included several highlight's from Benoit's 22-year career, as well as emotional testimonials from fellow pro wrestlers.

McMahon reportedly broke the news around 4:30 p.m. yesterday to a locker room overcome with shock and grief. As news of authorities' suspicion that Benoit killed his wife and son came out, WWE scaled back their tribute to the former world champion on the WWE web site. The company is scheduled to hold its regular television tapings tonight.

Benoit, an Edmonton, Canada native, trained in Calgary and made his pro debut in 1985. He plied his trade in Japan for years before become a fixture on the American wrestling circuit in the mid-1990s. He joined WWE in 1999 and won the company's world heavyweight championship at Madison Square Garden at WrestleMania XX in 2004. He was widely expected to win the Extreme Championship Wrestling world title at Sunday's pay per view event.

Benoit became romantically involved with the then Nancy Sullivan, who worked as a pro wresting valet under the name "Woman," in the mid-1990's while she was married to another wrestler, Kevin Sullivan. The Pro Wrestling Torch newsletter said the marriage was known among wrestling circles to be volatile.

Benoit had two children from another relationship that were not in the home during the deaths.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.




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Benoit Benoit (AP Photo)  (Jun 26, 2007)

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