Pro wrestler, family found dead in Fayetteville home
By Saeed Ahmed, Kathy Jefcoats
The Atlanta-Journal Constitution
Published on: 06/25/07
In its ongoing attempt to constantly outdo itself, the World Wrestling Entertainment recently staged the “death” of its chairman in an apparent limo explosion.
Monday night, the largest wrestling organization in the world grappled with a real-life murder mystery: What led to the apparent murder-suicide of superstar wrestler Chris Benoit, his wife and child inside their expansive Fayetteville home?
Officials have not disclosed how the family died, other than to say the deaths did not involve a gun.
“The details, when they come out,” said Fayette County District Attorney Scott Ballard, “are going to prove a little bizarre.”
Deputies checking on the family at the behest of Benoit’s employer discovered the bodies of the 40-year-old wrestler, his wife, Nancy Benoit, 43, and their 7-year-old son, Daniel, on Monday afternoon at their home on Green Meadow Lane.
Benoit, a Canada native, maintained a residence in metro Atlanta from the time he wrestled for the now-defunct Ted Turner-owned World Championship Wrestling organization.
Most recently, Benoit performed as part of World Wrestling Entertainment. He was scheduled to appear in a pay-per-view title match Sunday night, but was a no-show because of a “family emergency,” the WWE said during the broadcast.
His employers, apparently worried, asked deputies to check in on the family Ã¢â‚¬â€ leading to the discovery, said Sheriff’s Lt. Tommy Pope.
Murders are rare in Fayette County, particularly so in areas like Green Meadow Lane, a rural stretch of the county where multi-acre mansion-style homes dot the landscape. In 2006, the sheriff’s office didn’t investigate a single murder.
Fans tried to cope with the news Monday evening as the blogosphere erupted in reader disbelief.
“Obviously, all sorts of speculation are running rampant but I have talked to so many people and nobody really knows,” said Bryan Alvarez, who runs Figurefour Weekly, a wrestling newsletter and Web site, from Linwood, Wash.
Benoit began his career in Calgary more than 20 years ago. He wrestled in Japan before moving back to North America.
While working in Atlanta with WCW, he met his wife, Nancy, who managed several wrestlers and went by the stage name, “Woman.”
At the time, her then-husband drew up a script that had the couple involved in a relationship as part of an ongoing storyline.
Soon after, the two became romantically involved in real life and married. Benoit has two other children from a prior relationship.
He joined WWE in 2000, and four years later, won its world heavyweight championship.
The family had moved into the Fayetteville neighborhood last summer, said neighbor Alaina Jones.
None of the neighbors recalled seeing police at the house before. Monday night, about half a dozen cars idled on the circular driveway. Deputies stood guard outside the wrought-iron gates of the residence. A car full of youngsters who stopped to gawk at the scene were pulled out by deputies, frisked and sent on their way.
The Monday night broadcast of WWE’s “Raw” on the USA Network was supposed to have been a who-dunit into the “death” of Chairman Vince McMahon, whose limousine burst into a fiery explosion moments after he stepped into it after a bout in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., two weeks ago.
The organization scrapped the storyline following Benoit’s death, and instead televised a three-hour retrospective on Benoit’s career.
And unlike the two-page, hyperbole-filled news release it sent out after its chairman’s “death,” the statement announcing Benoit’s real-life passing was curt and matter-of-fact:
“Chris Benoit and his family were found dead in their home. There are no further details at this time.”