WWE News SNUKA NEWS: Death of Jimmy Snuka's girlfriend 30 years ago could get "fresh look" from authorities
Jun 29, 2013 - 2:20:06 AM
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By PWTorch Staff
Update: The death of Jimmy Snuka's girlfriend 30 years ago, Nancy Argentino, could get a "fresh look" by Pennsylvania authorities, according to wrestling author Irv Muchnick, who recently published an e-book on Nancy's death.
The cold-case has remained open for 30 years. Now, a new investigation is being considered, according to Muchnick's sources in the office of District Attorney James Martin. This follows Martin noting in a recent interview that "we still look at the case."
"I'm not going to elaborate on it because it's an open case," Martin told Morning Call, which reported fresh details on the case earlier this month after unearthing documents in a warehouse. "Maybe one day, something will happen with it."
The next step would be Martin asking his chief deputy, Charles F. Gallagher III, to revisit the case. [ Update HERE at ConcussionInc.net ]
Original Report June 10
REPORT: 30 Years Later - new details on the Jimmy Snuka & Nancy Argentino death story - autopsy fills in missing details, Timeline of Events, how lives were affected, more...
The lives of then-39-year-old Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka, 23-year-old Nancy Argentino, and Argentino's family were forever altered 30 years ago when Argentino was found dead in a Pennsylvania hotel room belonging to Snuka in May 1983.
For Nancy, it was the end of her life, for Snuka it forever changed his personal life and career, and for the Argentino family, it was the beginning of a search for justice that has never come.
This week, new information has surfaced on the case, which is still considered an open case. The Morning Call publication in Pennsylvania unearthed documents from a Philadelphia federal archives warehouse, which includes the coroner's autopsy on Nancy. In the document, forensic pathologist Isidore Mihalakis suggested the case be "investigated as a homicide until proven otherwise."
The case never went to trial, though. Snuka was close to being prosecuted, but the prosecutor felt there was not enough evidence to put together a case for trial. A contributor was that Snuka changed his story about the events that happened on the night of May 10/11, 1983, which is supported by a transcript of Snuka's interview with police.
"I think what happened here is they were just unable to put the case together," says then-Assistant District Attorney Robert Steinberg. "Dr. Mihalakis couldn't give us the forensics to put the case together."
Snuka eventually presented a simplified story of what happened: Nancy hit her head near/around a truck-stop on the way to a WWF TV taping in Allentown, Pa. on May 10, 1983, Nancy went back to the hotel room, Snuka went to the TV tapings, Snuka had a few drinks with Don Muraco and Mr. Fuji after the tapings, and Snuka returned to the hotel room, where Snuka claims he found Nancy having a hard time breathing and foaming at the mouth. Nancy was then pronounced dead at 1:50 a.m. on May 11, 1983.
But, the story is not that simple, according to the newly-discovered autopsy report. In the autopsy report, Dr. Mihalakis noted that cause of death was "consistent with a moving head striking a stationary object, but it is not consistent with a single simple fall." The report continues, "In view of the multitudeness (of) other scalp, facial, and bodily bruises and abrasions." Also, Deputy Coroner Wayne Snyder told police at the morgue that Nancy's body had "several black and blue marks."
Dr. Mihalakis added that upon examination of Nancy's person, he found "no evidence of dirt or tears of the fabric" or "gravel or other similar dirt particles" consistent with a fall near a truck-stop.
The findings support an alternative theory that Nancy was struck or there was an altercation that led to her becoming unconsciousness. This is supported by Dr. Mihalakis's autopsy opinion that "the multiplicity and magnitude of the injuries may even be suggestive of 'mate' abuse."
However, Mihalakis told Morning Call in present-day that he "did not have a clear-cut case" at the time.
"The clear-cut forensics weren't there, but the suspicion was there," said Dr. Mihalakis. "I did not have a clear-cut case. It was a very worrisome case. Obviously, there was enough there to arouse my suspicion, but not enough to take it to trial. Just because she was beaten doesn't mean she was beaten to death."
This brings the story back a few months to January 1983 when Snuka allegedly struck and "beat up" Nancy in a hotel room, establishing a history of alleged abuse. When police arrived on the scene, they reported being met by "almost superhuman resistance from Snuka" before he was subdued. An officer on the scene reported seeing Snuka "grab Nancy by the hair when she ran out of the room and drag her face against the drywall." The police reported that Nancy's injuries included "a bruised right thumb, a contusion to the neck, possible fractured ribs, and injury to the lower back."
However, Nancy later told police that Snuka "never struck her or intentionally harmed her." Snuka was charged with assault and resisting arrest, but a plea deal was struck in exchange for Snuka pleading guilty to a lesser charge of harassment in April 1983. This was shortly before Nancy's death in May 1983.
The timeline of events following May 10/11, 1983 took numerous twists and turns that led to Snuka never going to trial and the case officially "going cold" on June 1, 1983 after Snuka and Vince McMahon met with local police.
After the police investigation was shut down, a civil suit was filed by Nancy's family. In 1985, the Argentino Family won a $500,000 wrongful death judgment against Snuka. However, Snuka claimed to be broke and he never paid. The timeline below captures how everything changed in May 1983.
Important Timeline of Events
- January 1982: Snuka joined WWF/E as a heel, being managed by "Captain" Lou Albano.
- June 28, 1982: One of Snuka's most famous WWF matches was leaping off the top of a steel cage and missing then-WWF champion Bob Backlund.
- 1982: Snuka rose up the ranks to being nearly the #1 star in the company prior to the WrestleMania Era. If the events of 1983 did not happen, it's likely Snuka would have been #2 under Hulk Hogan when Vince McMahon, Jr. took WWF global and launched WrestleMania in March 1985.
- Jan. 18, 1983: Snuka and Nancy allegedly got into a physical altercation at a Howard Johnson motor lodge in Salina, N.Y.
- April 1983: Snuka pled down charges of assault and resisting arrest from the Jan. 18 incident to pleading guilty to harassment.
- May 10/11, 1983: Nancy Argentino died at the age of 23 after being found unresponsive in Snuka's hotel room at the George Washington Motor Lodge in Whitehall, Pa.
- May 1983: Snuka attended Nancy's viewing along with manager Buddy Rogers and reportedly cried as he leaned over the casket. The family believed Snuka would return to the funeral the next day, but he did not attend.
- May 27, 1983: District Attorney William Platt, now a Pennsylvania Senior Superior Court judge, said the investigation into Nancy's death was nearly complete. "It's just a matter of getting everybody together," Platt said about getting the investigators and attorneys on the same page.
- June 1, 1983: Snuka and WWE head Vince McMahon met with Platt, then-Assistant District Attorney Robert Steinberg, Dr. Mihalakis, and Whitehall Police detectives for a follow-up interview about the events surrounding Nancy's death.
McMahon, who Snuka noted in his recent autobiography brought a briefcase with him to the meeting, "did all the talking," according to Steinberg.
"I remember Vince McMahon being what Vince McMahon has always been - very effusive," said Steinberg. "He was very protective, a showman. He was the mouthpiece, trying to direct the conversation."
Steinberg noted he "couldn't recall specifics of the conversation," there is no record of the content of the conversation, Snuka said in his book that he doesn't remember much of the conversation, and Platt said he is "not permitted to discuss this matter."
- June 1, 1983: The local police investigation effectively went cold after the follow-up interview with Snuka, who was represented by McMahon. The case remains open today and there is no record of Snuka being interviewed on the case ever again. Snuka wrote about the meeting in his book: "All I remember is McMahon had a briefcase with him. I don't know what happened. ... The only thing I know for sure is I didn't hurt Nancy."
Wrestling author Irv Muchnick, who published an e-book on the case called "Justice Denied," analyzed this piece of the story and speculated on the events surrounding the meeting in a new blog at ConcussionInc.net:
"All the evidence is that McMahon didn’t give the Argentinos any money; Nancy’s sisters say their mother would hang up on a WWF representative who called to offer her $25,000. Whether McMahon gave the family any money is a non sequitur. The question raised and unanswered by Snuka’s tantalizing quote is something entirely different: whether WWF, in protecting one of its most popular stars from a homicide indictment, handed out strategic cash to anyone else."
The involved parties in the investigation maintain today that there were too many "missing pieces" to put together the forensics, but Nancy's family believes the police did not do enough to determine how Nancy died.
"Nobody to this day really actually knows what happened," said sister Lorraine Salome. "It's just like they squashed it somehow. I don't know how they did it. I don't know what they did, but it was just like they squashed it."
"We still look at that case," said Lehigh County District Attorney Jim Martin. "I'm not going to elaborate on it because it's an open case. Maybe one day, something will happen with it."
- Oct. 17, 1983: Snuka famously leaped off the top of a steel cage onto Don Muraco in Madison Square Garden in a match that had very strong hype in the New York market. One of the most famous images in WWF/E history was also the end of an era for Snuka, whose career was never the same because he was never the same and WWE was nervous about pushing him again.
- 1984: Snuka drifted in and out of feuds with top WWF heels, including Roddy Piper and Bob Orton, Jr., but ended up playing a small role in the first WrestleMania next year.
- Mar. 31, 1985: Snuka was in Hulk Hogan and Mr. T's corner against Roddy Piper and Paul Orndorff (with Bob Orton) in the main event of WrestleMania I. Snuka then disappeared from WWE television.
- 1985: Nancy Argentino's family was awarded a $500,000 wrongful death judgment in their civil lawsuit against Snuka.
- Oct. 15, 1985: Snuka said in a sworn affidavit that he had been terminated from WWF, his family was extremely poor, and he owed $75,000 in back taxes. Snuka, who notoriously did not have money-managing skills, also maintained that he never hurt Nancy.
"I am very sorry that she died because she was a wonderful young lady. I regret this very deeply and personally, and I am sorry for the Argentinos's loss," he said in his affidavit in the lawsuit. "I know the Argentinos feel grief for their loss and I know they want to be comforted. They were my friends, and I hope they will find a way to show mercy on me and not take advantage of my present situation and my inability to defend their lawsuit."
- Late 1980s and early 1990s: Snuka toured with the AWA, then returned to WWF, where his most notable accomplishment was being The Undertaker's first opponent in Taker's Undefeated WrestleMania Streak.
[ LINKS: Morning Call report HERE at MCall.com, Muchnick's blog HERE at ConcussionInc.net , and Muchnick's e-book, "Justice Denied," HERE on Amazon.com ]
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