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Steroids discovered in probe of slayings, suicide

6/27/2007

FAYETTEVILLE, Ga. -- Pro wrestler Chris Benoit strangled his
wife, suffocated his 7-year-old son and placed a Bible next to
their bodies before hanging himself with the pulley of a weight
machine, authorities said Tuesday.

Investigators found prescription anabolic steroids in the house
and want to know whether the muscle man nicknamed "The Canadian
Crippler" was unhinged by the bodybuilding drugs, which can cause
paranoia, depression and explosive outbursts known as "roid
rage."

Authorities offered no motive for the killings, which were
spread out over a weekend, and would not discuss Benoit's state of
mind. No suicide note was found.

"In a community like this it's bizarre to have a
murder-suicide, especially involving the death of a 7-year-old,"
District Attorney Scott Ballard said. "I don't think we'll ever be able to wrap our minds around this."

In an interview with ESPN.com on Tuesday, Ballard indicated that the boy had needle marks in his arms. The district attorney said he believed that the boy had been given growth hormones for some time because the family considered him undersized.

That was only one of the strange facts that Ballard revealed. He said that two text messages of note caused authorities to investigate the house. In one, Benoit told somebody he knew that his wife and son were sick.

"Of course, they were dead," Ballard told ESPN.com.

In a second message to a neighbor, Benoit said that the door of the house was open and the pets were outside.

"And our assumption is that that was an effort to try and get somebody to come find the bodies after the suicide," Ballard said. "That is our assumption."

The Montreal-born Benoit was one of the stars of the World Wrestling Entertainment
circuit and was known for his wholesome family man image.
His wife, Nancy, was a wrestling stage manager who worked under the
name "Woman." They met and fell in love when their wrestling
story lines intertwined.

When he won the world heavyweight championship in 2004, Benoit
(pronounced ben-WAH) hoisted the belt over his head and invited his
wife and child into the ring to celebrate. Asked by the Calgary Sun
that same year to name his worst vice: Benoit replied: "Quality
time with my family is a big vice. It's something I'll fight for
and crave."

Nevertheless, Nancy Benoit filed for a divorce in 2003, saying
the couple's three-year marriage was irrevocably broken and
alleging "cruel treatment."

She later dropped the complaint, as well as a request for a
restraining order in which she charged that the 5-foot-10,
220-pound 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.

The bodies were found Monday afternoon in three rooms of the
house, off a gravel road.

Ballard said that Benoit's wife, 43, was killed Friday in an upstairs family room,
her feet and wrists were bound and there was blood under her head,
indicating a possible struggle. Ballard told ESPN.com that it appeared that she had been pinned to the floor and asphyxiated with some sort of cable.

The son, Daniel, was probably killed late Saturday or early
Sunday, the body found in his bed, Ballard said. The district attorney indicated that he had been choked to death.

Benoit, 40, apparently killed himself several hours and as long
as a day later, Ballard said. His body was found in a downstairs
weight room, his body found hanging from the pulley of a piece of
exercise equipment. Ballard said that he had used weights, the pulley and cable to choke himself to death.

The prosecutor said he found it "bizarre" that the WWE
wrestling star spread out the killings over a weekend and appeared
to remain in the house for up to a day with the bodies. Ballard told ESPN.com that investigators smelled what they ascertained to be decomposing bodies when they entered the home. The varying degrees of decomposition between the bodies helped indicate the staggered times of death.

Toxicology test results may not be available for weeks or even
months, he said. As for whether steroids played a role in the
crime, he said: "We don't know yet. That's one of the things we'll
be looking at."

Benoit received drug deliveries from a Florida business that
sold steroids, human growth hormone and testosterone on the
Internet, according to the Albany County, N.Y., District Attorney's
Office, which is investigating the business, MedXLife.com.

Six people, including two of the pharmacy's owners, have pleaded
guilty in the Albany investigation, and 20 more have been arrested,
including doctors and pharmacists.

Steroids have been linked to the deaths of several professional
wrestlers in recent years. Eddie Guerrero, one of Benoit's best
friends, died in 2005 from heart failure linked to long-term
steroid use.

The father of Curt "Mr. Perfect" Hennig blamed steroids and
painkillers for Hennig's drug overdose death in 2003. Davey Boy
Smith, the "British Bulldog," died in 2002 from heart failure
that a coroner said was probably caused by steroids.

The WWE, based in Stamford, Conn., issued a statement Tuesday
evening saying steroids "were not and could not be related to the
cause of death."

"The physical findings announced by authorities indicate
deliberation, not rage," the company said, adding that Benoit
tested negative April 10, the last time he was tested for drugs.

Benoit was a quiet, roughhewn figure amid the glitz and bluster
of pro wrestling. He performed under his real name, eschewed
scripted personas and didn't bother to fix a gap where he had lost
one of his front teeth. (According to the WWE Web site, he lost the
tooth while roughhousing with his pet Rottweiler.)

His signature move was the "Crippler Crossface," in which he
would lock his hands around an opponent's face and stretch his
neck.

"You always rooted for him, because he was a good guy and he
overcame the odds," said Dave Meltzer, editor of the Wrestling
Observer, a weekly news letter. "It's like if you watched 'Rocky,'
and in the end it comes out that Rocky killed his wife and his
son."

He met his wife in the 1990s when she was married to rival
wrestler Kevin Sullivan. As part of the scripted rivalry, Benoit
and Nancy were supposed to act as if they were having an affair. A
real romance blossomed, and she left Sullivan for Benoit.

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.

WWE 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."

On Saturday, Benoit was slated to appear at a WWE live event in Beaumont, Texas. According to a release from the WWE, Benoit contacted WWE that afternoon to inform them that his wife and child were ill, and that he would not be able to attend the show.

The release also stated that WWE executives rebooked Benoit's flight for the following morning, making arrangements for Benoit to attend the pay-per-view event in Houston on Sunday. Employees attempted to confirm his travel plans but were unable to contact him.

The WWE, based in Stamford, Conn., said authorities asked that
it not release further information on the deaths.

"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.

"He was like a family member to me, and everyone in my family
is taking it real hard," said fellow Canadian Bret Hart, a
five-time champion with the World Wrestling Federation. The
federation has since changed its name to World Wrestling
Entertainment.

Benoit had maintained a home in Atlanta from the time he
wrestled for the defunct World Championship Wrestling. The Fayette
County Tax Assessors Office lists the value of the house, on more
than 8.5 acres, at nearly $900,000.

The WWE canceled its live "Monday Night RAW" card in Corpus
Christi, Texas, after the bodies were discovered.

Monday's show was supposed to be a memorial service for WWE
owner Vince McMahon. In a storyline concocted by the WWE, McMahon
was supposedly "assassinated" in a limousine explosion two weeks
earlier. McMahon appeared at the beginning of Monday's telecast and
acknowledged the bombing was made up.

The McMahon storyline has been dropped.

Benoit had two other children from a prior relationship.

Mike Fish of ESPN.com contributed to this report. Information from The Associated Press was also used.