Wrestler charged in murder: Jimmy Snuka

Published: September 2, 2015

Wrestler charged in murder: Jimmy Snuka, James Snuka, who rose to fame in the 1980s as professional wrestler Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka, was charged Tuesday with third-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter in the 1983 slaying of Nancy Argentino, his then-girlfriend.

Snuka, 72, was booked in Lehigh County Jail in Pennsylvania and released on $500,000 bond, according to Lehigh District Attorney James Martin.

Messages left at Snuka’s New Jersey home went unreturned Tuesday evening.

Lingering questions about what happened to Argentino, Snuka’s 23-year-old paramour at the time of her death, have long dogged the Fiji-born wrestler famous for his acrobatics.

In May 1983, Snuka was an up-and-coming superstar in the fledgling World Wrestling Federation, now called the WWE, which in those days taped matches in Allentown, Pennsylvania, for television broadcast.

According to Martin, Snuka, then 39 and with a wife and four kids in North Carolina, was staying in an Allentown-area motel with Argentino,

On the night of May 10, paramedics responding to a 911 call at the George Washington Motor Lodge arrived to discover Argentino unresponsive. They were called there by Snuka.

“(Argentino) was unconscious, and her breathing was intermittent and shallow,” Martin said in a statement. “Her pupils were dilated and didn’t move, indications of a head injury, (and) a monitor showed Argentino had a fast heart rate, which indicated head injury and shock.”

Just a few hours later, she was pronounced dead, leaving only one person to know what happened.

The autopsy report said that Argentino had a skull fracture and died of craniocerebral injuries, something for which Snuka offered different explanations at different times.

According to Martin, Snuka told investigators that they were “fooling around” outside the motel room when she fell, or that she had hit her head on concrete while the two were wrestling or that she had slipped and hit her head as the couple was “clowning around” on the side of the highway during a bathroom break.

Despite his evolving story, it was enough to keep authorities at bay; the family won a wrongful death civil suit against Snuka in 1985, but authorities never charged him.

The family was discouraged. “The evidence was there,” Louise Argentino, Nancy’s younger sister, told CNN. “But it got muddled … (because Snuka) was big star at the time.”

So they gave up trying. “It was just too much,” Argentino said. “It was too painful,” she said, especially for their mother.


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