Wednesday News on Benoit Tragedy

This Monday’s edition of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter has one of the most comprehensive looks at the Benoit family tragedy. Here are some notes from Dave Meltzer that we haven’t yet reported:

– Several recent wrestler deaths had taken a profound toll on Chris and Nancy Benoit over the past couple of years, with the distress becoming more apparent in recent months. Benoit was said to be ‘terribly conflicted’ about working for WWE when they began running angles based on Eddie Guerrero’s death. Victor “Black Cat” Mar, Benoit’s best friend in Japan, passed away early in 2006. Then, on the 16th February, Mike “Johnny Grunge” Durham died too. Durham was a close friend of Nancy’s from their ECW days and often acted as an intermediary between her and Benoit when they had problems as he was always able to defuse the situation with good humour.

– Benoit refused to attend Durham’s funeral, saying that he hated religion and would never go into church again. It was around this time he began to act exceptionally paranoid, refusing to let their son Daniel play outside the house, not letting Nancy leave the house after 6pm and moving them from Peachtree City, Georgia, to Fayetteville. Nancy then put a note into a safe deposit box, which said that if anything ever happened to her Benoit would be responsible. This sentiment was also expressed the day before her murder during a phone call to a close friend, who advised her to get out of the house. The friend confided in someone else, a former wrestler, who said to tell Nancy to at least send Daniel to her parents in Daytona Beach. Nancy also spoke to a WWE employee that day, who said Nancy was distraught about Sherri Martel’s death as they were good friends and had been exchanging photos of their kids via e-mail.

– A note that Meltzer put on his Web site after the newsletter was mailed out: “In the Observer that comes out Monday, there is a note about Chris Benoit sending me a change of address form a few weeks ago and the belief that it meant he had at the very least, a second residence in the Atlanta area… As it turns out, and this came indirectly from someone close with Nancy, either Chris, Nancy or both, no longer wanted any mail of any kind coming to the house, so set up a different address for all the mail.”

– From the phone call to her friend, it seems Nancy felt Benoit’s drug abuse, which had been a growing concern since Guerrero’s death, had escalated along with his paranoia. He had taken to driving different routes home because he felt he was being followed. She had also just discovered Benoit had opened a bank account in his ex-wife’s name and a new life insurance policy that listed his ex-wife and their two children, David (14) and Megan (10), as the beneficiaries. Nancy had demanded that he changed the policy so she and Daniel were included, yet he refused.

– On the same day (Thursday, June 21, a day before authorities think she died), Nancy went to see their family physician, Dr Phil Astin, introduced to them by Durham, seeking advice about raising Daniel on her own as well as her neck pain from her surgery in 2006. Jerry McDevitt, WWE’s attorney, has noted that Nancy and Benoit were struggling to choose a school for Daniel because of his condition and that she was pressuring Benoit into slowing down his touring schedule. Benoit saw Astin on that Friday, complaining of ‘severe depression.’ Astin prescribed Zoloft and, as reported here earlier, said “He certainly didn’t show any signs of any distress or rage or anything.”

– As early as 2002, when Benoit was out of action for a year following his neck surgery, there were cracks starting to appear in the marriage. He and Nancy had many brief separations then, with her growing concerned about his continued anabolic steroid use even when he wasn’t wrestling and he confiding in friends he was concerned about getting too small for the business.

– There were also instances of them fighting in front of friends, then getting back together and deliberately not seeing those friends for several months. She filed for divorce and a protective order on the 12th May 2003. A judge issued a restraining order against Benoit, banning him from the family house. Nancy filed for permanent custody of Daniel, which Benoit contested by requesting joint custody. Nancy filed to drop everything on the 19th August. A friend of Nancy’s, referring to an incident after Guerrero’s funeral, told the Observer that Benoit had ‘beat the shit out of her’.

– Police are speculating that Benoit may have waited until Daniel was asleep before killing him, under the belief that he would not suffer as much that way. His Fragile X syndrome came from his mother’s side, with any child of Nancy’s having a 50% chance of getting it. Gene therapists have already reversed the effects in mice and hold hope of obtaining a human treatment, yet for now there is none. A woman named Pam Winthrope and her husband learned their son had the syndrome at the same time Benoit and Nancy found out about Daniel. Winthrope had encouraged Benoit to use his celebrity to increase awareness and raise money for it, yet he said he wanted to keep his son’s condition quiet. Many friends did not find out about Daniel’s condition until after his murder.

– WWE, as well as Christopher Nowinski, now an expert on the effects of concussions, are pushing for Benoit’s brain to be examined by the coroner for signs of neurofibrilliary damage in the cortex. However, Benoit’s parents, still living in Edmonton, would need to approve such a request.

– The belief is that Benoit would have won the ECW title from Johnny Nitro on the first ECW show after Vengeance. After the sheriff’s office called WWE at 4pm on the Monday, Vince McMahon ordered all the wrestlers down to the ring and broke the news to them. He said the show was cancelled and that anybody who wanted to go home could do so without it being held against them. A few did, including Teddy Long and Finlay. Many were consoled by Ted Dibiase, who had been at the arena to do a cameo during the Mr McMahon funeral. The exact time WWE found out about the double murder-suicide is disputed by Dave Meltzer, who said he was contacted at 6pm by a wrestler who was good friends with Benoit and had been told about it by someone higher-up. That was two hours before the tribute show began to air. The wrestlers were told the office didn’t find out until 10:30pm, yet it had first been mentioned in the media at 8:30pm. William Regal also stayed in Peachtree City and knew about the marital difficulties, which was reflected in what he did not say during his speech on Raw. Backstage, the mood shifted from sympathy to hatred. Ric Flair was particularly furious at Benoit’s actions as he had been friends with Nancy since the ’80s.

Meltzer goes into a lot more detail in the 2nd July 2007 edition of the newsletter, which is a must-read issue (note that there are graphic depictions of how the murders and suicide may have occured, based on conversations Meltzer seemed to have had with the local authorities). Click here for subscription information.