Wrestling legend Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka is being charged with third-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter for the death of his girlfriend more than 32 years ago following an assault in an Allentown area motel, Lehigh County authorities said.
The charges will be announced at a news conference this afternoon.
Snuka, 72, was arrested this morning at his New Jersey home and arraigned at 1:50 p.m. Tuesday from the Lehigh County Central Booking Center. He was sent to county jail under $100,000 bail.
Lehigh County District Attorney Jim Martin re-opened the case last year, months after The Morning Call published an investigation raising questions about the death of Snuka's girlfriend Nancy Argentino in May 1983 and revealing a never-before-seen autopsy report that labeled the case a homicide.
The grand jury's term ended at the end of July.
At the time of Argentino's death, Snuka was one of the World Wrestling Federation's biggest names known for his high-flying finishing moves.
Reached Tuesday by phone, Argentino's sister Louise Argentino-Upham said it's a relief, especially since her mother turns 90 this year and will be able to see justice served.
"I think that it's been a long road," Argentino-Upham said. "They did the right thing in face of all the evidence."
Snuka had been at a WWF taping at the Allentown Fairgrounds on May 10, 1983 and returned to his Whitehall Township motel room to find Argentino, 23, of Brooklyn, gasping for air and oozing yellow fluid from her mouth and nose, records show.
Argentino was pronounced dead at Lehigh Valley Hospital the next day. An autopsy determined she died of traumatic brain injuries and she suffered more than two dozen cuts and bruises -- a possible sign of "mate abuse" -- on her head, ear, chin, arms, hands, back, buttocks, legs and feet.
The autopsy also determined her injuries were consistent with being hit with a stationary object. In an autopsy report, forensic pathologist Isidore Mihalakis wrote that the case should be investigated as a homicide until proven otherwise.
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, according to police interviews obtained by The Morning Call. 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.
Snuka was the only person of interest in the case but was never charged.
The original Whitehall police investigation went cold June 1, 1983, after a follow-up interview with Snuka that was ordered by Lehigh Valley authorities and attended by WWF mogul Vince McMahon.
In an unprecedented move, Martin announced in January 2014 that a grand jury will investigate Argentino's mysterious death, prompted in part by The Morning Call's story. He said it was the oldest case he's ever sent before the grand jury.
Snuka, now 72 and living in Waterford Township, N.J., was diagnosed with stomach cancer, his wife announced earlier this month.
In 1985, the Argentino family won a $500,000 wrongful death case against Snuka by default, but Snuka never paid because he claimed he was broke and couldn't afford a legal defense.
In his 2012 autobiography, Snuka maintained his innocence and said Argentino's death ruined his life.
"Many terrible things have been written about me hurting Nancy and being responsible for her death, but they are not true," he wrote. "This has been very hard on me and very hard on my family. To this day, I get nasty notes and threats. It hurts. I never hit Nancy or threatened her."
However, less than four months before Argentino's death, Snuka was charged with assaulting her in a New York motel and then fighting with police when they responded to the call. He pleaded guilty to harassment in the case with most of the serious charges being dropped.
Talk about anything not to do with ROH. Time limit draws don't apply here!
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http://www.mcall.com/news/breaking/mc-j ... story.html
So I've seen people on Twitter make allusions to Vince McMahon, in regards to this news. Does he have anything to do with this? I may be naive, but I'm not getting the connection (if there is any)...
At this rate, the entire WWE site will be a giant redacted blur of error 404 not found.
I am cosmetically pleasing.
From what I've gathered, he may have pulled some maneuvers to protect Snuka. The F4W newsletter will likely be the top coverage on this over the weekend, even better than tomorrow's Observer.
Heard this from someone on Twitter as well. It's a very interesting twist to the story. What's the likelihood that anything happens to Vince, or is it too early to speculate?supersonic wrote:From what I've gathered, he may have pulled some maneuvers to protect Snuka. The F4W newsletter will likely be the top coverage on this over the weekend, even better than tomorrow's Observer.
Story goes Snuka was protected by Vince during the police questioning. He sat in the room and spoke for snuka. Led the officers to believe snuka was really a small minded pacific islander. "He speaks english but can not speak it good like we do." Basically the rumors were that Vince acted as snuka's attorney and was able to help him avoid a murder charge. Again just rumors.
Be careful who your childhood idols are. In 1983, as a 10 year old I was mesmerized by Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka, but he was a bad guy. I couldn't root for him, could I? Then he had the face turn and subsequently the amazing series of matches with the Magnificent Muraco. Although, he didn't win the title, Snuka gained more than just revenge in the culmination of their feud inside a steel cage, he captured the imagination of an entire fanbase, and more importantly inspired the next wave of professional wrestlers. He dragged Muraco's bloodied carcass back into the steel cage post match, scaled to the top and flattened Muraco with the Superfly splash. At that point, Jimmy Snuka became my hero. Little did I know, that my hero at the time was a fraud. And may soon be a convicted murderer. Be careful who your childhood idols are.
Media interest from network television shows is substantial as far as doing features on the Jimmy Snuka case is concerned. The stories may be timed with whenever Snuka’s future court appearances take place. A preliminary hearing in the case was scheduled for 9/21, but it’s now off as the court considers a petition from the District Attorney to bypass the hearing. The argument is that there’s enough evidence for the court to rule there is a case against Snuka from the indictment presented to go right to trail and it’s a waste of time and money calling all 20 members of the Grand Jury to a hearing to repeat what has already been said. They are also asking Judge Maria Dantos to grant the transcripts of the Grand Jury testimony in the case to be publicly released. It appears they are looking to not drag this thing out
-- Jimmy Snuka's preliminary hearing has been scheduled for two weeks from today. Irv Muchnick has a blog post about the investigators on his website.
http://www.f4wonline.com/other-wrestlin ... ked-201886
WHY THE JIMMY SNUKA PROSECUTOR GAG ORDER WORKED
By Irvin Muchnick, Concussion Inc. author
Two weeks ago, a Pennsylvania judge, at the request of the district attorney, issued a gag order in the murder trial of retired wrestling superstar Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka for the 1983 death of his girlfriend Nancy Argentino.
The gag order had its immediate intended effect: Nancy’s sisters were prevented from talking with CBS News about the longest-running cold case in the history of the Lehigh Valley, and 48 Hours decided to put on indefinite hold an hour-long episode in pre-production.
Of course, 48 Hours promises to jump right back in when the gag order expires. But I believe that, by then, the national coverage could be tepid and cookie-cutter: just another story of a well-connected celebrity getting away with something for too long, and the victim's family’s quest for a measure of justice.
From my perspective, the larger story comes in between now and then, but because of the gag order, is likely to get short shrift. I’m referring to hard-hitting examination of the original police and prosecution work -- either botched or downright corrupt -- that kept the Snuka case on the back burner for more than 30 years.
And make no mistake: it is the national media, and the national media alone, that would tell that story, certainly not the Allentown Morning Call.
True, it was the Morning Call’s better-late-than-never 2013 front-page package that finally got Lehigh County District Attorney James B. Martin moving again. But the newspaper also carefully fudged then, and continues not to make clear to its readers today, the aspects calling out an overly incestuous local criminal justice establishment.
Specifically: Martin was first assistant D.A. in '83 under William Platt, who is now a senior state judge. Several of the same individuals and institutions that let Snuka slide, at the time and for many years now, bear the current burden of delivering to a jury a case of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Almost no one is talking about this disconnect.
Peter L. Pavlovic, a retired police officer in another county township, encapsulated the problem in a letter to the Morning Call. In order to have a truly “fresh look” at the Snuka case, Pavlovic argued, “You need a new investigation team, and that should be the state police, not a county detective who investigated the case as a Whitehall police detective and did not file any charges. This case was not rocket science; this case was a case of conflicting stories by the person involved. This was a case of just bad police work.”
Meanwhile, in a ham-handed attempt to chill the First Amendment rights of one of his constituents, D.A. Martin earlier this year sued Bill Villa, an Allentown advertising man who blogs about local skulduggery at his site “Lehigh Valley Somebody.” Martin sued Villa for defamation for having the audacity to write, among other things, that the D.A. (as a reelection candidate) and the Morning Call have used the services of the same law firm. What had started Villa in his muckraking avocation was the soft-pedaled prosecution of a son of one of the law firm’s partners. The son, Robert LaBarre, was convicted of vehicular homicide in the drunk-driving accident in which Villa’s daughter Sheena was killed.
This is not the place for reviewing the LaBarre case, except to say that almost immediately after the 2006 incident, LaBarre, who had been released without bail, jetted to Belize to party. The Lehigh County Court of Common Pleas judge who allowed all this, with no consequences, was Robert Steinberg -- earlier one of the assistants who sat in with D.A. Platt at the June 1, 1983, meeting with Vince McMahon that culminated in no charges for Snuka.
The upshot of the parallel chilling of national media scrutiny in the Snuka case -- via a gag order with neither merit nor constitutional basis -- is that Snuka might very well get off the hook. Or he might be allowed, with little scrutiny, to plead guilty to the misdemeanor charge of involuntary manslaughter (for not calling early enough for emergency medical attention) in return for dropping the felony charge of third degree murder in the traumatic brain injury death of Argentino. Remember that the original coroner’s autopsy report said Argentino had sustained a pattern of bruises throughout her body “consistent with ‘mate abuse.’”
In my estimation, today’s justice calculus goes beyond whether the 72-year-old Snuka, who is recovering from stomach cancer surgery, should do prison time for an incident from three decades ago. His conviction at trial on the felony count is no sure thing, anyway, given how stale prosecutors let the evidence against him become. There is nothing of importance in the September indictment of Snuka not fully known to them in ‘83.
Did garden-variety incompetence, or WWE-greased corruption, derail swift and sure justice? Thanks to the gag order (issued by yet another former assistant D.A., Judge Kelly Banach, who had worked under Martin), we might never have that important public conversation regarding whatever kept the Snuka-Argentino file buried and in suspense for so long.
As is well known, Snuka’s own 2012 autobiography went to the trouble of recounting how his boss McMahon carried a briefcase into his meeting with Platt, Steinberg, and three Whitehall Township police detectives. Whether or not that was true (or whether it mattered even if true), WWF’s tri-weekly syndicated television tapings at the Allentown Fairgrounds and in nearby Hamburg were ongoing shots of Chamber of Commerce steroids for all of Eastern Pennsylvania.
The only arguably new information in the September grand jury presentment was the testimony of Snuka’s ex-wife and of Buddy Rogers’ widow that Snuka had shown a pattern of domestic violence against the ex-wife. In that connection, the gag order eases the pressure on prosecutors to develop additional witnesses who might have come forward subsequent to the grand jury.
Recently a woman, whose bona fides checked out, contacted Concussion Inc. with information about her time as Snuka’s girlfriend in the 1990s. The information included both allegations that Snuka abused her and a claim that he gave her an account of how Nancy Argentino had died. The account purportedly identified the blunt object in the hotel room that Nancy’s head struck.
Unfortunately, instead of advancing on such angles, the national media are in retreat. The gag order has jeopardized the full airing of something more than your average celebrity murder case.
https://twitter.com/sarahcassi/status/8 ... 8587211776
#Breaking: Judge dismisses murder charge against Jimmy #SuperflySnuka. Gag order also lifted. Story soon @lehighvalley
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