On May 11, 1983, Nancy Argentino died in a Pennsylvania hotel room from traumatic brain injuries. An autopsy showed injuries consistent with a history of domestic abuse, and her boyfriend initially told the responding officer he had shoved her, causing her to hit her head. No charges were ever brought against the boyfriend, professional wrestler Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka. That could change.
Lehigh County District Attorney Jim Martin announced yesterday that he will convene a grand jury to investigate Argentino's death, a case that remains open 31 years later, with Snuka the only named "person of interest."
This is a victory for Argentino's family, and for Adam Clark and Kevin Amerman of the Morning Call, whose investigation published last year led directly to this grand jury. They obtained police and autopsy reports that had never been made public, both of which pointed to something more sinister than Snuka's official story, that Argentino had slipped and fallen.
Argentino, 23, died of traumatic brain injuries consistent with a moving head striking a stationary object, according to the autopsy. Her injuries weren't reflective of a singular head injury, wrote Dr. Isidore Mihalakis, the nationally recognized forensic pathologist who examined the body.
Argentino suffered more than two dozen cuts and contusions — a possible sign of "mate abuse" — on her head, ear, chin, arms, hands, back, buttocks, legs and feet, Mihalakis wrote in his autopsy report.
"In view of the autopsy findings and the discrepancies in the clinical history, I believe that the case should be investigated as a homicide until proven otherwise," Mihalakis wrote.
Snuka, whose real name is James Reiher, was married at the time and had just returned from a WWF TV taping in Allentown. He told at least five people, including the responding officer, that he had shoved Argentino to the ground before her death. But in his official interview with detectives, Snuka maintained she had accidentally fallen on a highway.
Snuka, 70, has made increasingly sporadic appearances with WWE and independent promotions in recent years.