The phone rang at the sheriff’s department in Fayetteville, Georgia, a city whose population today remains below 20,000, which is why most suburban residents know each other. For this reason, when that Monday, June 25, 2007, from the other side of the device, a voice requested that an officer go to 130 Green Meadow Street, it was not necessary to indicate that this was the Chris Benoit home. The wrestling star lived there with his wife, Nancy, and their 7-year-old son, Daniel. By the time the officer hung up the phone and sent a patrol to the scene, all three had been dead for several hours.
Benoit was a star of WWE, the most famous wrestling company in North America. Born in Canada, it took him only 18 years to turn professional and at 25 he already held the title of world champion. Admired by millions of children, respected by his colleagues and the protagonist of a life of luxury, this 40-year-old man seemed to have it all. Accustomed to earning more than half a million dollars a year, he had long ago moved with his second wife and his third child to Fayetteville to get away from the flashes that stunned him in the big cities. That $900,000 mansion became the crime scene that weekend.
After receiving no response, the police officers jumped the bars and entered the place with the help of some neighbors who were in charge of distracting the family’s dogs. The first thing they found inside the property was Benoit’s body hanging from one of the gym machines that had been built. But that was not the worst. On the ground floor they found a body covered with towels, tied hands and feet, and with a Bible resting on it. On the second floor, on top of young Daniel’s bed, was another smaller body, similarly covered and also with a bible on it.. At 4:15 p.m., the Sheriff’s Department informed the world that Chris Benoit had committed suicide after -probably- murdering his wife and his son.
The press from all over the planet echoed the news immediately and WWE dressed in mourning in surprise to learn that one of its greatest heroes had not only died, but was also a villain. Since then, Scott Ballard, district attorney, went to work to understand what had happened on the darkest weekend in wrestling history.
The autopsy on the bodies revealed that the first murdered had been Nancy, after an apparent verbal argument, Chris threw her to the ground, placed a knee on her back and strangled her with a rope on Friday. Hours later, probably early Saturday morning, she woke up her seven-year-old son, who suffered from fragile X syndrome (an inherited intellectual disability caused by a genetic disorder), gave him Xanax, a drug to calm anxiety, and then strangled him. On Sunday, after spending more than a day with the corpses under the same roof, she hanged herself using a machine in his personal gym.
The next step in the investigation was to summon the person who had alerted the police that something had happened at Chris’s house. It was about people linked to WWE, who had been concerned because that weekend the fighter had canceled his participation in an event in Texas. Is that After committing the crimes, the athlete contacted his colleague and friend guy Guerrero to let him know that he would not appear in the agreed fight. It was he who noticed something strange in his voice and on Sunday, receiving no response from his friend, he assumed that something bad had happened. In addition, Benoit even sent text messages to some of his neighbors and co-workers informing them: “The dogs are in the closed pool area. The side garage door is open.” It is evident that by then, he had already decided on his suicide.
But without a doubt, one of the great surprises that the researchers took away was that After killing his son Daniel, the Canadian athlete tried to revive him by searching his computer for the story of the prophet Elijah, who was able to resurrect a child from the dead and whose first step to achieve this was to place him on his bed. Just as the little boy was found.
In the reconstruction of how that weekend had been in Chris Benoit’s life, it was learned that before the horror had paid a visit to his personal physician, Dr. Phil Astin, who, in the days following the news, declared before Associated Press that his patient had shown “no signs of distress, anger or anything.”
As the prosecution continued to gather information, one of the most disturbing tidbits of all came to them: 14 hours before Benoit took his own life, someone on Wikipedia had altered his profile by revealing why he had not participated in the wrestling event in Texas that weekend: “He was unable to attend due to personal problems related to the death of his wife Nancy.” That text had lasted just 20 minutes on the popular website, before being removed by an editor, who understood that it was fake news.
How was it possible that on Saturday someone knew that Nancy had died if it was almost two days before the police discovered it?
Technological advances quickly detected the IP of the computer from which the modification to Wikipedia had been made and it was found that the network did not even belong to the state of Georgia. The device was located in the home of a man named Abraham Greenberg, whose 19-year-old son, Matt, had been responsible for breaking the news. When questioned, the young man explained that he had read about the death of Benoit’s wife in a public chat on a WWE forum, something that according to journalist Irv Muchnick, author of the book Chris and Nancy, was confirmed by the researchers.
Nevertheless, it was never possible to conclude how anyone could be aware of Nancy’s death if until that moment only Benoit knew what he had done. It should be remembered that the murderer had communicated by phone only with guy Guerrero, who always declared that he had noticed his friend’s voice as strange, but denied that he confessed to the crime.
Meanwhile, rumors were growing from the press that it had all been due to a nervous breakdown caused by excess testosterone in the fighter’s body as a result of the steroids he was consuming. While that version was becoming strong in the public debate, the prosecution ruled out that option since both murders had been premeditated because there were no signs of beatings, physical violence or even material damage that would reveal the existence of a previous fight.
It was thus that the news reached the ears of the doctor Julian Bailes, a renowned American neurologist who years ago had been key in the research of Nigerian-American doctor Bennet Omalu, who had discovered that many of the brain diseases suffered by American football players were linked to the blows to the head that these athletes received during their time as professionals. Bailes then made the request to Benoit’s family to be able to investigate the brain of the deceased. The results exposed the horror of WWE.
In his final report, Dr. Bailes reported that The fighter’s brain resembled that of “an 85-year-old Alzheimer’s patient” and that “the damage was severe”. In addition, he detailed that the 40-year-old fighter “had a neurobehavioral syndrome” similar to what he had seen in the NFL players he had studied. It was evident that the end of Benoit had begun the day he stepped into the ring.
How is it that a WWE star suffered from Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) and no one knew? How many more cases had happened? How many fighters were in danger at that time? The scandal had been uncovered and the one who raised his voice was Mike Benoit, Chris’s father.
In an interview given shortly after the results of the tests carried out on his son’s brain were known, he said that the Canadian athlete suffered from depression, insomnia, mood swings and sudden alcohol abuse. Furthermore, it was learned that the marriage he had with Nancy was not exactly that of a fairy tale, but in 2003 she had requested a divorce and a restraining order for her husband, but later retracted.
In addition, Benoit’s depression had worsened in recent times after the death of Eddie Guerrero, one of his best friends within the wrestling company and Sherri Martel, an old friend who died two weeks before the crimes.
In the interviews he gave, Mike made it clear that with this he did not seek to exonerate his son, but rather he wanted to make it clear that everyone who was close to him knew of the mental problems he suffered from and that he was now certain who he owed. blame with it. It was clear that the blows to the head suffered over the years in the scripted fights had caused an irreversible effect: “Cables, ladders, chairs… the props they were using when they hit him in the head. It’s a real chair, it’s a steel chair.”, the man exclaimed, outraged when he pointed out that the television show and the choreographies agreed to increase WWE audience levels had ruined his son’s head.
The wrestling company sought to clean up its image immediately with a brief statement sent to abcnews: “It is natural for a father to try to find a reason why his son would tragically murder his wife and son and then kill himself. Based on the Sports Legacy Institute study that claimed Chris Benoit had the brain of an 85-year-old man with dementia, Benoit claims that head trauma was the cause of his son’s aberrant and criminal behavior. However, common sense would dictate that this is impossible.. Someone with the brain of an 85-year-old man with dementia is incapable of maintaining a traveling work schedule, driving himself to arenas and performing intricate maneuvers in the ring, much less committing a methodical murder-suicide over a 48-hour period. ”.
Despite this heartbreaking writing, the death and double crime committed by Benoit had its consequences and the deep debate that the case unleashed forced WWE and all wrestling companies to change their combat protocols to protect their stars. Above all, after other cases of figures who died young, such as Andrew Test Martin, who died at the age of 33 from an overdose and whose brain had the same damage as Benoit’s.
In turn, the only person related to the case that ended up behind bars was Benoit’s personal doctor, Phil Astin, who also officiated as a doctor for several stars of this sports show. He himself pleaded guilty in 2009 in a Georgia state court to illegal distribution of prescription drugs to 19 patients (including Chris and Nancy Benoit) and was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
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