Pro wrestling legend and WWE Hall of Famer Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka has been charged with third-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter for the 1983 death of his girlfriend, Nancy Argentino. Snuka was arrested Tuesday in his New Jersey home. The case, as reported by Allentown, Pennsylvania newspaper The Morning Call, was reopened last year following an investigation by the newspaper that uncovered a previously unseen autopsy report ruling Argentino's death a homicide.
Argentino's death and Snuka's potential involvement in it had long been a source of speculation in pro wrestling circles, but this is the first time Snuka has been formally charged. Argentino's family won a wrongful death lawsuit in 1985, but Snuka never paid the $500,000 they were awarded, citing that he was destitute.
Argentino, 23 at the time, was found "gasping for air and oozing yellow fluid from her mouth and nose" (as stated in the Morning Call's report) in May 1983, in a motel outside of Allentown, and was pronounced dead the next day. The Call's report states that Snuka told at least five people, including a police officer, that he shoved Argentino and she hit her head, before changing his story to stating she slipped and fell.
Snuka was a major star during the 1980s pro wrestling boom, appearing in the corner of Hulk Hogan and Mr. T during the main event of the first "WrestleMania" in 1985, and as part of the cast of the animated "Hulk Hogan's Rock 'n' Wrestling" series. This is the latest in a series of troubling news surrounding icons of '80s pro wrestling, starting with news of a racist rant delivered by Hulk Hogan, followed by the death of "Rowdy" Roddy Piper at age 61.
WWE has issued a statement on Snuka's arrest: "WWE expresses its continued sympathy to the Argentino family for their loss. Ultimately this legal matter will be decided by our judicial system."
Reports surfaced last month that Snuka, now 72, had been diagnosed with stomach cancer. His daughter Sarona Moana-Marie Reiher Snuka currently performs in WWE under the name Tamina.