Former WWE Wrestler Faces Criminal Charges in Cold Case Murder of Girlfriend in 1983
Former professional wrestler James “Superfly” Snuka has officially been arrested and criminally charged decades after he allegedly murdered his girlfriend through domestic violence.
The 72-year-old retired entertainer was booked into Lehigh County Jail in Pennsylvania on Tuesday, September 1st, on criminal charges of third-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter. He was released after posting $100,000 bail.
The criminal charges came after police re-opened the cold case in 2014, reviewed all of the evidence from the original investigation, and after a grand jury investigation, a warrant was issued for Snuka’s arrest.
On May 10th, 1983, Snuka was taping an event with what was then the World Wrestling Federation (WWF). Following the event, he returned to his hotel room where he found his girlfriend, victim Nancy Argentino, struggling for breath with mucus flowing from her nose and mouth. He called for emergency help, and told police in an interview that earlier in the day, he had shoved Argentino and she had fallen, hitting her head.
However, after a manslaughter investigation began, Snuka changed his story, allegedly because he was married with four children at the time. He insisted that the five police officers who had interviewed him had been mistaken about what he said during the interview and that Argentino had slipped and hit her head.
Argentino died in the hospital on May 11th. Her autopsy revealed that she suffered a severe traumatic brain injury, which led to her death. Her body also had numerous cuts and bruises, signs that are indicative of domestic abuse. The coroner said in his report that her death should be investigated as a homicide, but local police failed to follow up on the recommendation.
“The evidence was unbelievable, I knew he did it all along,” Louise Argentino-Upham, one of Nancy’s sisters, told reporters from her home in Florida. “It’s been a long time coming. She was only 23 and she really didn’t deserve what happened to her. They did the right thing by gathering all the evidence now and arresting him. Somehow it got all muddled back then.”
The family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Snuka in 1985. “The evidence was there,” Louise said. “But it got muddled … (because Snuka) was big star at the time.”
“Better this should have happened 30 years ago. They dropped the ball then, they gave my family a very hard time,” another sister, Lorraine Salome, said. “Every avenue that we turned down in those days they slammed the door in our face. We had to sue him to get any kind of justice.”
Although the family won the wrongful death lawsuit for $500,000, Snuka disappeared without paying the award.
Snuka became famous as a “Villain” character with the WWE in 1984. “His aerial abilities and charisma made him one of the most popular Superstars to ever set foot in the ring — and jump high above it,” reads Snuka’s bio on WWE’s website. Fans loved him, which may have contributed to keeping the criminal charges at bay until recently.
“Based on all the evidence that was presented to the grand jury,” wrote Lehigh District Attorney James Martin, “members concluded: ‘It is our determination that the weight of the evidence clearly indicates that James Snuka repeatedly assaulted Nancy Argentino on May 10, 1983, and then allowed her to lie in their bed at the George Washington Motor Lodge without obtaining the necessary medical attention’ and that “his assaultive acts and his failure to act to obtain medical attention resulted in her death.’”