ALLENTOWN, Pa. (AP) – Former professional wrestling star Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka was charged Tuesday with third-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter in the death of his girlfriend more than three decades ago.
Prosecutors in Lehigh County announced the results of a grand jury investigation into the death of Nancy Argentino, 23, of New York.
Snuka, who had been at a World Wrestling Federation taping at the Allentown Fairgrounds, said he returned to the couple’s Whitehall Township hotel room in May 1983 to find her gasping for air and oozing yellow fluid from her mouth and nose, The (Allentown) Morning Call reported. She was pronounced dead at a hospital the next day.
An autopsy determined she died of traumatic brain injuries and had more than two dozen cuts and bruises, and said her injuries were consistent with being hit with a stationary object. At the time, forensic pathologist Isidore Mihalakis wrote that the case should be investigated as a homicide until proven otherwise, the newspaper reported.
Snuka, now 72 and living in Waterford Township, N.J., wrote about Argentino’s death in his 2012 autobiography, maintaining his innocence and saying the episode had 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. “This has been very hard on me and very hard on my family. To this day, I get nasty notes and threats. It hurts. I never hit Nancy or threatened her.”
Argentino’s sister, Louise Argentino-Upham, told The Morning Call that the charges came as a relief, especially the prospect that her mother, who turns 90 this year, may see justice in the case.
“I think that it’s been a long road,” Argentino-Upham said. “They did the right thing in face of all the evidence.”
Nicknamed “Superfly,” the Fiji native was known for diving from the ropes and even the top of steel cages in a career that spanned four decades. He was admitted into the World Wrestling Entertainment Hall of Fame in 1996, according to the organization’s website.
Snuka was arraigned Tuesday afternoon and sent to Lehigh County Jail, but he was expected to post a portion of his $100,000 bail.
Argentino’s family won a wrongful death lawsuit against Snuka in 1985.