Police say they will investigate Benoit deaths as possible murder-suicide

Updated: June 26, 2007, 12:42 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

FAYETTEVILLE, Ga. -- WWE wrestler Chris Benoit, his wife and son were found dead Monday, and police said they were investigating the deaths as a murder-suicide.

Chris Benoit
AP Photo/WWE, HOAuthorities are investigating whether steroids may have been a factor in the deaths of Chris Benoit, above, his wife and child.

Lt. Tommy Pope of the Fayette County Sheriff's Department said the three were found at their home about 2:30 p.m.

Pope said autopsies on Benoit, his wife Nancy, and 7-year-old son Daniel were scheduled for Tuesday. It could be weeks before there is a result.

Benoit had missed several appointments over the weekend, leading some concerned parties to ask police to do a "welfare check," Pope told ABC News. The WWE reported on its Web site on Monday night that friends received several curious text messages sent by Benoit early Sunday morning, prompting VP of Government Relations for WWE, Inc. Richard Hering to contact Fayette County sheriffs on Monday and request they check on Benoit and his family. When sheriffs arrived at the home, they found the wrestler, his wife and their son dead.

Detective Bo Turner told television station WAGA that the case was being treated as a murder-suicide, but he said that couldn't be confirmed until evidence was examined by a crime lab.

The station said that investigators believe the 40-year-old Benoit killed Nancy, 43, and Daniel over the weekend, then himself on Monday. The bodies were found in three rooms.

According to Pope, there were no signs of gunshot wounds or stabbing. Authorities are not ruling out other causes, such as poisoning, suffocation or strangulation.

"The details, when they come out are going to prove a little bizarre," said Fayette County District Attorney Scott Ballard, according to The Atlanta-Journal Constitution.

Pope told ABC News "the instruments of death were located on scene," but would not specify what those instruments are or where in the house the bodies were found. Pope added the department is "not actively searching for any suspects outside of the house."

Authorities also declined to say whether drugs or steroids were found inside the house. "We're not releasing any information as far as what was located inside the house," sheriff's Sgt. Keith Whiteside said Tuesday.

Asked about the condition of the interior of the house, Whiteside said investigators found "nothing really out of the ordinary." He said Benoit was found in the home's weight room, his wife in an office and the son in an upstairs bedroom.

Whiteside said toxicology tests could take up to a week or longer to complete.

Neighbors said the Benoits led a low-key lifestyle.

"They were nice," said Lorre Jones, who lives across the street. Her daughter Alaina said: "We would see Chris walking in his yard from time to time. He wasn't rude, but he wasn't really outwardly warm."

Jimmy Baswell, who was Benoit's driver for more than five years, placed a white wreath at the Benoits' gate Tuesday.

"I saw him with his family all the time," said Baswell. "They always seemed like they were the happiest people."

The house is in a secluded neighborhood set back about 60 yards off a gravel road, surrounded by stacked stone wall and a double-iron gate. On Monday night, the house was dark except for a few outside lights. There was a police car in front, along with two uniformed officers.

Benoit was a former world heavyweight champion, Intercontinental champion and held several tag-team titles over his career.

"WWE extends its sincerest thoughts and prayers to the Benoit family's relatives and loved ones in this time of tragedy," the federation said in a statement on its Web site.

Benoit was scheduled to perform at the "Vengeance" pay-per-view event Sunday night in Houston, but was replaced at the last minute because of what announcer Jim Ross called "personal reasons."

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.

"My relationship with Chris has extended many years and I consider him a great friend," Carl DeMarco, the president of WWE Canada, said in a statement. "Chris was always first-class -- warm, friendly, caring and professional -- one of the best in our business."

Benoit's wife managed several wrestlers and went by the stage name "Woman."

They met when her then-husband drew up a script that had them involved in a relationship as part of an ongoing story line on World Championship Wrestling, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

Benoit 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 WWE champion.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.