World Wrestling Entertainment star Chris Benoit asphyxiated his wife Nancy and their 7-year-old son Daniel before hanging himself, Fayette County Sheriff’s Department’s Lt. Tommy Pope said at a press conference outside the Benoit home on Tuesday.
Nancy, whose feet were bound, was likely killed Friday night in an office in the home where she was discovered, said Scott Ballard, Fayette’s District Attorney. Her death was followed by the boy’s murder on Saturday in the child’s upstairs bedroom. Daniel Benoit was found in his bed, said police. A bible was near both bodies.
“Then, maybe sometime later,” on Saturday or Sunday, said Pope, “Chris Benoit killed himself by hanging himself in the basement area.”
The three were found dead inside the family’s secluded Fayetteville, Georgia, home on Monday. Pope said that legal prescription medicines were found inside the crime scene. These included steroids, according to Ballard. A toxicology report is due within three weeks.
“We are currently treating this as a double homicide-suicide,” Pope reiterated at the conference. “We feel confident that everything is contained within the home.”
As far as a motive is concerned, none has been uncovered so far, but as Ballard told PEOPLE, “When you’re talking about the death of a 7-year-old boy, what motive could there be?”
Ballard confirms that the circumstances of the deaths appear “quite bizarre,” and says, “None of it takes away from the fact that it’s just a huge tragedy. I’m just blown away by the fact that a 7-year-old boy has been killed.”
Apart from media reports of a divorce petition filed by Nancy Benoit in May 2003 and then withdrawn that August, Ballard says he has no other knowledge of domestic violence or marital discord inside the Benoit household. However, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that the couple, after marrying in 2000, experienced a period of turbulence early in their union, with Nancy claiming domestic abuse and filing for divorce, per court records.
Her petition also stated, according to the paper, that Benoit “lost his temper and threatened to strike [her] and cause extensive damage to the home and personal belongings of the parties, including furniture and furnishings.” The papers also said that Nancy was feared for both her own and her child’s safety.
However, in August 2003, she asked for the divorce petition to be dismissed.
Benoit (pronounced: ben-WAH), 40, a native of Canada, was a former world heavyweight champion, Intercontinental champion and held several tag-team titles during his career. He had two other children from a previous relationship, reports the AP.
Chris and Nancy Benoit (formerly Nancy Daus), 43 – who managed several wrestlers and used the stage name “Woman” – met when Nancy’s previous husband came up with a script that had them involved in a relationship as part of an ongoing story line for World Championship Wrestling.
The tragic turn of events apparently began on Saturday, when, after informing WWE officials of “a family emergency,” Benoit was conspicuous by his absence from that night’s live event in Beaumont, Texas – and again at WWE’s Vengeance: Night of Champions in Houston 24 hours later.
Friends who received curious text messages from the entertainer on Sunday morning contacted the wrestling organization, which in turn asked the Sheriff’s office to run a welfare check on the family at their home on the south side of the Atlanta metro area.
After learning of what occurred, the WWE canceled its live Monday Night RAW, and USA Network aired a three-hour tribute to Benoit in lieu of the scheduled wrestling telecast.
“WWE extends its sincerest thoughts and prayers to the Benoit family’s relatives and loved ones in this time of tragedy,” the federation posted in a statement on its Web site.
• Reporting by JEFF TRUESDELL