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By Mike Johnson on 2007-06-29 12:35:00

CNN Headline News' Nancy Grace spent close to 40 minutes covering the Benoit family tragedy last night featuring a panel of former WWF champion Chris Jericho (who came off the best of everyone on the panel and the only one actually concerned with finding out what caused the tragedy), Sports Illustrated senior investigative reporter Louis Fernando Llosa (who at times was asked about factual information and stammered through the appearance, at one point saying he didn't know the timeline), CNN's Law Enforcement Analyst Mike Brooks, Court TV's Jean Casarez and several others.

Grace, speaking in a tone and style that sounded more like a wrestling announcer pushing a PPV than that of a serious journalist, opened the show discussing much of the conjecture about "roid rage", Daniel's fragile X syndrome and mixing that with actual factual information.  She said police were combing over text messages sent "before and during the murders" and then mentioned the wikipedia posting.  

Grace mentioned rumors that Benoit himself had been murdered.  The truth is, those rumors don't exist, she failed to name a source for any such rumors and they are completely unfounded.  Llosa was asked about the DEA raid on Benoit's physician's office and said that they are trying to find out what was actually prescribed to Benoit via computer records.  They are trying to find out what and why Benoit was taking.  Casarez pointed out that Benoit visited the doctor that day and then he and his family were dead.   She said it was believed files and computers were taken.  Grace asked if they were files relating to Benoit.  At this point, I wanted Casarez to say, "Well, duh" but she simply affirmed Grace's query.

Llosa discussed the Internet pharmacies that send prescriptions to individuals online and in many cases (but not this one, according to Llosa) doctors who weren't even actually treating patients were writing prescriptions and advising clients on how to use the drugs properly.  Daniel Benoit's condition was asked about the crime scene and he recapped many of the facts already reported by the media.  He said the toxicology report and the timeline of the when the family died will be the most important factors going forward in the investigation.

Grace said there was "an uproar in the wrestling community at the suggestion that Benoit had used anabolic steroids."  To be fair, there's no uproar as I doubt anyone who follows or is part of the business would claim that Benoit never, ever used steroids.  The uproar was from WWE claiming that, in their opinion, the evidence didn't match up with the mainstream media's "roid rage" fixation, which is an entirely different subject that Grace instead incorrectly referenced and then glossed over.  

Susan Moss, listed as "Family Law Attorney & Child Advocate" began screaming that perhaps OJ Simpson isn't the only athlete that should be referred to as "The Juice." She said that it makes no sense that Benoit was loved by his friends and his community that snapped in a big way over a period of several days.  "Certainly he may have been depressed, but authorities will have to look at the toxicology to see what the real story is."

Professor Marty McCary (name may be misspelled) was brought in to discuss the Fragile X syndrome that Daniel Benoit suffered from.  

Nancy Grace then introduced Chris Jericho, introducing him as "a name you all know, wrestling superstar and dear friend of Chris Benoit.  Jericho was asked for his thoughts on everything he's heard them discuss and how the story has hit him.  Jericho said, "It's almost a tale of two cities, a tale of two people. There was the Chris Benoit that had these horrendous acts of extreme psychopathic lunacy in the last couple of days of his life. Then there's the Benoit I myself traveled with, lived with, said I love you to on many occasions - he was my mentor, he was one of my best friends and he was a brother to me in so many ways. The fifteen years I knew him and the two days that he decided to do these horrible horrible acts, it's hard to kind of discern the two and that's why we have to find out what would make a mild-mannered, polite, influential, tremendous person and performer to do such things. Is steroids a reason? I think it goes a lot deeper than that. I think we're seeing a man with some severe psychological, troubled issues that held them in for far too long until everything combined to cause him to snap in such a horrible way."  

At this point, Jericho was already the best spoken to the entire panel and had put a human face to the tragedy that 99% of the other "representatives of wrestling" who seemed content to get agendas or promote themselves, had in much of the recent cable news coverage.  

Grace noted that Jericho spent "many, many years" with Benoit and asked him if Benoit ever spoke with him about Daniel's condition.  Jericho responded, "No and see, this is why I really wanted to come talk to you, Nancy, and try to explain a little of Chris Benoit the man to some of the people that never heard anything about wrestling and don't know anything about him and the millions of fans and hundreds of co-workers that he influenced in such a positive way and entertained. He was a very quiet man, but not a recluse and not a hermit. Just quiet.  He minded his own business but he was always around.  If there was a joke, he would laugh and in all of the years I was with him, I never saw anything. If I went nuts and wanted to beat somebody up, he was the guy who would contain me. A lot of people can tell you that and as far as knowing Daniel's condition, it wouldn't surprise me.  I'm saying this seriously, if even his parents didn't even know. If Chris had decided he wanted to keep it to himself, you wouldn't have been able to pry it out of him for anything. I don't know anybody - myself or any of his close friends, his co-workers, his boss, who knew or even suspected anything about him having Fragile X. Yet as soon as I read the symptoms of Fragile X, it fit Daniel to a Tee all across the board."

Grace asked Jericho in what ways.  "The lack of social skills, hard to make eye contact, intense shyness, flapping of the hands- I remember that was one thing I read; ADHD, a very kind of a hyper little guy.  Even to the point of his ears being a little bigger, his head was a little bit larger. You don't think much about those things; some kids grow into themselves over the years, but now that you read it, you can kind of see where this all ties in.  I remember a few years ago at a Wrestlemania party, my son, who was a year and a half old spoke more and better than Daniel did at four and a half at the time.  They were playing and I just thought Dan was like his father, quiet and naturally withdrawn.  Now you can see there were indications it was something more than that."

Grace asked if the symptoms Jericho described and whether they matched Fragile X.  He said many of them do.  She then asked if it would lead to stunted growth and he said that it was a tough call to say based on what little they know about Fragile X syndrome.  

Nancy Grace went to Dr. Bethany Marshall about whether Daniel need special treatment to develop as much as he could. She wanted to know why someone would keep it secret from even his best friends, like Jericho. The doctor said 4% of all homicides include a suicide. She said often men who kill their wives, children, and then themselves have an "extreme personality disorder" and marry normal women.   She noted Daniel was about to go to school and that may have caused Benoit to feel that he was exposing Benoit to harm or humiliation. She exposed a theory that men who commit crimes of passion believe their partner is "exposing them to danger, so they expose them to danger."  Grace jumped right in, pointing out that by all accounts, "Benoit adored the boy."  Grace's response was that Benoit put him in a chokehold and killed him.  

A caller asked if Benoit had previous legal issues.  It was pointed out he had a DWI "early in his life" and then the now well-known divorce papers filed in 2003.

Jericho was asked whether Benoit was upset about being demoted to ECW.  Important to note here that the night before, Grace asked Bret Hart if Benoit was upset about being demoted from (I kid you not) "The Four Horsemen to Raw".  Jericho said that was "such a fabrication" and explained the three WWE brands.  He noted Benoit was champion of the Raw brand, then moved to the middle of the Smackdown brand.  He said, "To better utilize his talents because he was, across the board, the best wrestler in WWE and anyone will probably tell you that.  The move was twofold.  One, he was about to become ECW champion.  Two, ECW is full of younger guys who are just learning and Chris was just a great trainer and so well respected that they wanted to help train some of these younger guys to help them with their future endeavors.  So, to move Chris to ECW, Chris would not see that as a demotion.  He would see that as doing his job to help the business and keep it going.  The business that he loved.  Chris never had a job except for wrestling.  He never delivered papers, he never worked in a convenience store.  He would have seen this as a honor."

Grace said that it sounded as if Benoit was turning into more of a trainer.  It's easy to take a swipe at her, but she didn't understand that Jericho meant Benoit was being placed in ECW to help younger performers improve by working against him, which is understandable from a woman who 24 hours ago, thought going to Raw was a demotion.  She doesn't have a frame of reference for wrestling, which has actually been something of a weakness for many of those covering the story.  Jericho said, "No, he was about to become the ECW champion.  A champion is a champion, right?"

A caller noted that Benoit was so loved and asked if they were sure it was actually a murder-suicide.  Grace said that rumors are flying that Benoit's death was actually a murder.  That was news to me.  Grace went back to SI's Llosa who said that after speaking to investigators and the District Attorney and nothing has supported that.  He said that it's likely they have someone that was upset and possibly on steroids, but they need the toxicology report to truly understand what happened.

They ran down a list of wrestlers who died before the age of 65 while discussed drugs in wrestling and their adverse reaction.  I have no problem with the media coming in to look at the deaths in wrestling, but it's amazing to see how little effort goes into research when they do so but I guess I shouldn't be surprised.  How do you talk about drug deaths as you run the names of Owen Hart (in-ring accident), Adrian Adonis (car accident), Chris Candido (blood clot following surgery), Marianna Komlos (cancer), and Joey Marella (car accident), among others.  You can't paint with such a broad brush and expect to be taken seriously.  There are issues that need to be addressed but lumping names that have nothing to do with those issues only dilute the point, although the general public wouldn't know any better.

Grace said that she doesn't understand the "roid rage" and a doctor explained symptoms of it, including issues with impulse control.  It would have been interesting to get Jericho's response to the list but they failed to ask him.

They aired clips of Lex Luger discussing the tragedy.  I'll refrain from comment.

A caller asked about Benoit's other children in Canada.  Jericho said that they are doing the best they can to try and deal with it.  He said that you have to imagine how they feel losing their father at this age and the way they did.  He said he knows they will do well but it's going to be hard.

WWE's disclosure that Benoit passed his most recent Wellness test was brought up and a doctor noted that we only know that WWE claimed he passed.  While he has a point, I doubt WWE is going to throw that incorrect fact out there.  He said that we don't know anything about how WWE collects samples, etc.  Well, a little research could have answered that for them, but they didn't take the time.

The discussion turned to the text messages Benoit sent then discussed the wikipedia story.  Boy, there is a college student in CT who's really scared of a knock on his door today.  Grace asked the lawyers assembled if there would be criminal liability if Benoit told someone of the murders and they did nothing.  As silly as the wikipedia story is when you realize the inexcusable non-attempt at research, that was a pretty fair question.  One said it would be a stretch; there is no requirement by law to be a good Samaritan.  

Grace asked Jean Casarez if the doctor could be facing criminal charges if he is tied illegally to giving Benoit steroids.  Cesarez said she wishes she was representing the doctor and would love to see the search warrant used.  Grace rightfully pointed out that wasn't the answer to her question.  Cesarez said that Benoit passed a drug test and there's nothing to support the doctor did anything wrong.  Well, that would be the point of investigating, to rule that out and discover what he did wrong.  Grace said the drug test was four months ago.  Uh, April 10th would be 79 days ago, which isn't even three months yet.  

Susan Moss jumped in saying the doctor would be accessory to murder if the medication led Benoit to snap.  Cesarez said that there's no evidence of that.  Moss and Cesarez began arguing back and forth although both were trying to say that the facts aren't in yet.  I could only imagine what Jericho was thinking as all this unfolded before him.  Cesarez asked why we are assuming steroids were a factor and Grace pointed out the house was "full of steroids."  Cesarez said that the toxicology could come back clean and said it's possible Daniel was killed by the wife, who "was also a pro wrestler."  

Cesarez said for "us to vilify Chris Benoit...."  Grace cut her off and said, "No one is vilifying Benoit."  Under Grace read a graphic that said, "Cops: Wrestler Kills Wife, Son, Then Hangs Self."  Grace said, "Benoit was a hero; not just to the wrestling community but to all the charities that he worked with; to all the people he tried to help and this is the choice and as you're screaming about anabolic steroids.  According to the police, he killed his wife and his little boy, his mentally handicapped little boy, so if you can sleep better at night thinking he did that cool, calm and collected, then fine but I'd rather think for myself that some reason, he lost his mind."

She then said she wanted to go to Jericho because he knows Benoit, "better than us.  He's known him for years.  They are very dear friends."  Grace asked Jericho if he can imagine Benoit doing this cool-headed.  Jericho said absolutely not and commented that the argument was, "getting away from the story.  Steroids or no steroids, it was still a man who had a very severe problem that no one knew about - maybe his wife did - I don't know, but no one I knew or that Chris talked about had any indication of these tendencies.   This is not about steroids, this is not about wrestling; this is about finding out about the mental problems this man had to cause him to snap in such a brutal form.  Ilove Chris Benoit. I hate the fact of what he did."

Grace said we don't know what happened.  The murder victims can't speak and "he killed himself, although there are rumors he was murdered." She said it would would ease her heart to know maybe he was on steroids and "maybe he flipped for a moment" She said that Daniel had a Benoit action figure by his bedside and that he worshipped his father and Benoit worshipped him back.

"Nancy, that's the dichotomy of this this, that's the problem.  Chris loved his children - all three of them.  He talked about them constantly and went out of his way to go home, even for a few hours to see his sons, Daniel for sure.  That's why you can't comprehend it. Was it steroids? Maybe, but I don't want to hang everything on steroids.  He didn't suddenly take a shot of steroids and said, 'I'm going to go crazy.'  This is something that had been building in him for many years, obviously to snap like that and go insane and take away the most important thing in his life.  I know it, because he told me - all three of his children [were the most important thing.]

Grace asked Sports Illustrated senior investigative reporter Louis Fernando Llosa about the chronology of the deaths, trying to discuss a theory that Nancy Benoit killed Daniel first.  Llosa said, "I'm not sure.  The chronology has changed and shifted in the last three days."   Actually, it never has; not even once.  

Llosa then said he "didn't want to get off the point" and said they really need to take WWE to task, ignoring the fact that he just got completely off the direct question that was asked him.  He said they need to instigate rules and regulations for anabolic steroids and human growth hormones.  I got the impression Llosa knew nothing about the case and completely deflected the question towards WWE, not even realizing there is a Wellness Policy in place (and admittedly, the merits of which can obviously be debated, but he doesn't even seem to know there is one).

Mike Brooks noted that Nancy Benoit couldn't have tied herself up and then asked Jericho's drug testing policy.

Jericho said it was a random testing that was held by an independent corporation and said it was a "real, true, stringent drug test that gets results."  He said if you are caught, you are fined and suspended (although some just work during that period with pay) and that if they asked Vince McMahon for a list of names suspended in the last six months, he would provide it.

That ended the discussion.  

Quick Thoughts: Of all the guests, Jericho brought a human face to the tragedy and the hardship that many in the business are facing in trying to come to terms with what exactly happened.  His comments that this goes beyond steroids and within Benoit's psyche was the voice of reason that has been needed all week from someone inside the business.  Llosa added nothing to the conversation (and looked as if he was fighting to stay awake) while many of the experts seemed more involved with arguing over subjects without much in the way of knowledge on them.  Grace's comment that no one was trying to vilify Chris Benoit was as ironic as having clips of Lex Luger discussing the tragedy.

Mike Johnson can be reached at



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