Benoit's family shocked by murder-suicide, hoping tests provide closure

Updated: July 2, 2007, 4:46 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

ATLANTA -- Pro wrestler Chris Benoit's father said Friday that he was eager to see whether chemical tests can help explain why Benoit killed his wife and son and committed suicide, acts that the wrestler's father said he had no clue were coming.

Michael Benoit said by phone from his home in Alberta, Canada, that his family is shocked and in disbelief over the slayings.

Brain Study

The same group of researchers who studied the brains of deceased NFL players want to know if head trauma played a role in Chris Benoit's behavior, according to ESPN The Magazine's Peter Keating and Shaun Assael. Story

"We have no understanding of why it happened," he said. "We need some time to gather our thoughts and wait and see. There's still more information that's going to come out from toxicology tests that will give us some understanding of why this happened."

Steroids were found in Benoit's home, leading officials to wonder whether the drugs played a role in the killings, which took place last weekend. Some experts believe steroids cause paranoia, depression and violent outbursts known as "roid rage."

The New York Daily News, citing anonymous sources, reported Sunday that GHB, known as the "date-rape drug", also was a drug Benoit was known to use.

"Benoit was a GHB user and he did it with [now-deceased wrestler] Chris Adams," a source told the newspaper. "The question is, does GHB use play into what happened [in Fayetteville]?"

Chris Benoit strangled his wife Nancy and 7-year-old son Daniel, placing Bibles next to their bodies, before hanging himself on the cable of a weight-machine in his home, authorities said. No motive was offered for the killings.

Michael Benoit, who lives near Edmonton in Ardrossan, said the test results, which could take several weeks to be completed, "could give us closure." He said his son had seemed fine when they spoke on Father's Day, and had even said he regretted having to work instead of spending the day with his family.

"That really wouldn't give you an indication of someone who would do what he did a week later," the father said.

Law enforcement officials also want to know what might have been in Benoit's system at the time of the apparent murder-suicide. On Thursday, federal drug agents said they had raided the west Georgia office of a doctor who prescribed testosterone to Benoit.

The raid at Dr. Phil Astin's office in Carrollton began Wednesday night and concluded early Thursday, said agent Chuvalo Truesdell, a spokesman for the Drug Enforcement Administration. No arrests were made.

Hours before the raid, Astin told The Associated Press he had treated Benoit for low testosterone levels, which he said likely originated from previous steroid use. But he would not say what, if any, medications he prescribed when Benoit visited his office Friday.

Among other things, investigators were looking for Benoit's medical records to see whether he had been prescribed steroids and, if so, whether that prescription was appropriate, according to a law enforcement official speaking on condition of anonymity because records in the case remain sealed.

Meanwhile, the parents of Nancy Benoit were contesting a widely-reported aspect of the case -- that Daniel Benoit had an inherted genetic developmental disability.

On Friday, Nancy Benoit's parents said through their attorney that they were unaware that their grandson had a rare medical condition called Fragile X Syndrome, an inherited form of mental retardation often accompanied by autism.

On Thursday, Jerry McDevitt, an attorney for Chris Benoit's employer, World Wrestling Entertainment, said Daniel Benoit had the condition, and added that Chris and Nancy Benoit had argued over whether he should stay home more to take care of their son.

But Atlanta-based lawyer Richard Decker, who represents Paul and Maureen Toffoloni, told ESPN.com's Elizabeth Merrill that the grandparents babysat often for Daniel and noticed no medical issues.

"To them, he's always been a normal, healthy, happy child with no signs of illness," Decker said. "And that's not from a distance. That's from day-to-day contact.

"There has been a lot of speculation and rumor in the media that is doing nothing to advance the investigation and doing everything to cause the Toffolonis intense pain."

The Toffolonis, Decker told Merrill, are "grieving and trying to keep a low profile." They have asked Decker to investigate a possible civil lawsuit, and he is waiting for the investigation to conclude.

"We're trying to stay out of their way right now," Decker said. "In the meantime, Maureen and Paul and Sandra [Nancy's sister] have asked me to ask members of the media and public to remember that this is an investigation of the death of their daughter and only grandchild. And even though Chris and Nancy led public lives, the family, specifically Daniel, did not lead a public life."

In a related development, an anonymous user with the same IP address as the person who edited Benoit's Wikipedia entry to report his wife's death -- hours before authorities discovered the bodies of the couple and their 7-year-old son -- confessed early Friday on an online discussion page attached to the Web site, saying the changes were based on rumors and speculation, not hard evidence.

The authenticity of the posting could not immediately be confirmed, though Wikinews, an online news source connected to Wikipedia, said that the Internet protocol address of the individual is identical to that of the user who edited Benoit's profile early Monday morning. An IP address is a unique series of numbers carried by every machine connected to the Internet.

"I just can't believe what I wrote was actually the case, I've remained stunned and saddened over it," the user wrote.

Investigators are looking into who altered the entry early Monday to say that the wrestler had missed a match two days earlier because of his wife's death. A Wikipedia official, Cary Bass, said Thursday that the entry was made by someone using an Internet protocol address registered in Stamford, Conn., where the WWE is based.

An IP address does not necessarily have to be broadcast from where it is registered. It is not known where the posting was sent from, Bass said.

Benoit's page on Wikipedia, a reference site that allows users to add and edit information, was updated at 12:01 a.m. Monday, about 14 hours before authorities say the bodies were found. The posting, according to ABCNews.com, contained the following information:

"Chris Benoit was replaced by Johnny Nitro for the ECW Championship match at Vengeance, as Benoit was not there due to personal issues, stemming from the death of his wife Nancy."

McDevitt said that to his knowledge, no one at the WWE knew Nancy Benoit was dead before her body was found Monday afternoon. Text messages released by officials show that messages from Chris Benoit's cell phone were being sent to co-workers a few hours after the Wikipedia posting.

WWE employees are given WWE e-mail addresses, McDevitt said, though he did not know whether Chris Benoit had one.

On Thursday afternoon, the Wikipedia page about Benoit carried a note stating that editing by unregistered or newly registered users was disabled until July 8 because of vandalism.

Information from The Associated Press, ABCNews.com and ESPN.com's Liz Merrill was used in this report.