On Tuesday, WWE Hall of Famer Jimmy Snuka was charged by a grand jury with third-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter in the 1983 death of Nancy Argentino. Though his direct involvement in her death has been passed around as an urban legend in wrestling circles for decades, the case wasn’t reopened until January 2014.
Police were prompted by questions posed in this June 2013 article from local newspaper the Morning Call that reexamined events on the 30th anniversary of the incident. The story featured a thorough retelling of the relationship between Argentino and Snuka, but more importantly, revealed a copy of an autopsy report wherein her death was ruled a homicide. Roughly two weeks after the article was published, the Lehigh County district attorney announced that he would take a “fresh look” at the case, and determine whether it warranted a grand-jury investigation.
One of the biggest factors that led to the involvement of a grand jury were inconsistent statements from Snuka himself. Via the Morning Call:
Snuka originally told at least five people, including the responding police officer, he shoved Argentino earlier that day, causing her to fall and hit her head. He later told police those five people misunderstood him, and said Argentino slipped and hit her head when they stopped along the highway to urinate. After Argentino died, though, Snuka spoke to a hospital chaplain and to Procanyn, giving both men different accounts of how she died.
“We believe it is important to note that James Snuka changed the location of the injuries in his discussion with the chaplain to happening on the highway traveling to [the George Washington Motor Lodge], but still admitted that she sustained her injury after he shoved her and she fell backward, hitting her head on the concrete,” the grand jury wrote in the presentment.
Years later, Snuka’s story again differed from his original retelling. The grand jury reviewed copies of Snuka’s 2012 autobiography Superfly: The Jimmy Snuka Story, as well as interviews after the release. The grand jury noted that no less than 14 different versions of the incident were told on record in various forms by Snuka since the discovery of her death.
Via Lehigh Valley Live:
They also reviewed interviews Snuka gave with the Opie and Anthony radio show and The Sam Roberts Show, including watching YouTube clips of the interviews.
In the interviews and book, Snuka claimed the pair were driving to Allentown, when they stopped so Argentino could use the bathroom on the side of the road. Snuka said Argentino fell and hit her head, but that she was conscious afterward and they drove to the Lehigh Valley.
In the book, Snuka said, “The only thing I know for sure is that I didn’t hurt Nancy. I couldn’t believe what had happened.” Sam Roberts asked Snuka about talking about Argentino’s death in his autobiography.
“Um, I had to tell the truth, brudda,” Snuka said.
Snuka surrendered himself to authorities on Tuesday. Snuka posted the $100,000 bail after his arraignment. While bail is not usually set in cases like this, Snuka is suffering from stomach cancer, and it was determined that county-funded care for his condition would be an unnecessary burden on taxpayers.