Criminal Justice

Grand jury will investigate 1983 death of pro wrestler's girlfriend

A Pennsylvania grand jury will investigate a 30-year-old cold case involving the death of former World Wrestling Entertainment superstar Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka’s girlfriend.

According to the Allentown Morning Call, Lehigh County district attorney Jim Martin announced on Tuesday that he had empaneled a grand jury to look into the 1983 death of Snuka’s girlfriend, Nancy Argentino. Snuka, who was married to another woman at the time, had been in Allentown on the evening of May 10, 1983, to perform at a television taping for the WWE. According to the Morning Call, he called 911 and emergency medical technicians rushed Argentino out of his motel room. She was gasping for air and had yellow fluid emanating from her mouth and nose. She died the next day, and the autopsy indicated that her injuries had been consistent with someone who was struck violently in the head with a blunt object.

According to the Morning Call, as well as investigative reporter Irv Muchnick, who covered the story at the time, Snuka gave inconsistent statements regarding Argentino’s injuries. He reportedly told witnesses at the scene that he had shoved Argentino, causing her to hit her head, before giving a different statement to authorities, telling them that she had slipped while going to the bathroom on the side of the road. According to a June 2013 story from the Morning Call commemorating the 30th anniversary of Argentino’s death, Snuka and WWE owner Vince McMahon met with authorities a couple of weeks after her death with McMahon doing most of the talking. Snuka was not charged, but his WWE career was never the same. Formerly one of the company’s main attractions, Snuka left the company in 1985 before coming back in 1989. He was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 1996.

The decision to empanel the grand jury came more than six months after Martin officially reopened the case. In a press release, Martin said that he had met with some of Argentino’s family members several months ago and personally instructed his chief deputy to review all the available evidence. Martin also acknowledged that the Morning Call story from June had played a part in his decision to reexamine the case.

“Praise God that maybe justice will be done,” said Argentino’s younger sister, Louise Argentino-Upham, to the Morning Call.

“This is something that should have happened 30-some-odd years ago,” said Lorraine Salome, Argentino’s older sister. “But at least it’s happening now.”

Snuka, for his part, has maintained his innocence over the years. In a 2012 autobiography, Snuka wrote that 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.

Snuka was hit with a $500,000 wrongful death judgment in 1985, but he has yet to pay anything to the Argentino family, citing poverty.

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