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MORE ON TODAY'S SNUKA RULING AND WHERE THE CRIMINAL CASE GOES FROM HERE

By Mike Johnson on 2016-06-01 17:44:00

As noted earlier, WWE Hall of Famer Jimmy Snuka was ruled mentally incompetent to stand trial and face the crimes of third-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter in the 1983 death of his then-girlfriend Nancy Argentino in Allentown, PA.  Judge Kelly L. Banach's ruling came at the end of a fourth hearing into Snuka's mental competency, following testimony from his wife Carol and Snuka taking the stand himself for a second time over the course of the hearings.

Noting that justice "suffers when it is delayed", Judge Banach said that she sided with claims that Snuka was suffering from dementia and did not believe he would be able to assist his own defense. 

When the prosecution tried to object and state that Snuka was simply acting, Banach noted that with all due respect to Snuka, she did not believe he was smart enough to pull it off.   The Prosecution asked that Snuka be taken into medical custody for a 60 day mental health evaluation, which the Judge denied.  Banach also ruled that Snuka, who is still technically out on bail, would be allowed to travel to Florida to stay with relatives.

 On 5/18, forensic psychologist Dr. Frank M Dattilio, brought in by Snuka's defense, testified that in his opinion, Snuka was not fit to stand trial.   Dattilio stated he had been treating Snuka for years and noted that Snuka had been prescribed medical marijuana to assist him.  He described Snuka's brain as "shrinking" to the effects of head trauma and dementia, stating that Snuka gets worse by the month and that the emotional turmoil of a trial could cause terrible harm.  He testified about Snuka's medical reports, including scans of his brain, dating back to 2009 and noted that Snuka's wife has to help him remember details when Snuka does interviews.  Dattilio also stated that Snuka routinely confused him with his attorney and vice versa.

In today's ruling, Banach noted that after her conversations with Snuka, she agreed with Dattilio and stated that any attorney that put Snuka on the stand in his own defense could come under allegations that they weren't being effective and that Snuka could easily be "lead" on the stand. 

Snuka's wife Carol testified that Snuka was not aware of why he was even in court the day he was indicted on the charges last year and afterward, was happy that he was being recognized and signing autographs.  She also testified that she uses photographs and other items to continually remind Snuka of his memories and that the family had taken his driver's license away after he began to have problems traveling to wrestling bookings.  She testified that Snuka was still taking bookings because of money issues, that he still takes multiple medications and that he still loves wrestling.  She also stated that a number of facts that Snuka told the Judge on the stand during a previous hearing were incorrect.

Judge Banach decreed that a gag order remain in place on the case, preventing anyone involved from publicly commenting on the case and set a new hearing for 12/2 where they will revisit the issue of Snuka's competency and see if anything has changed in that regard.   Unless the prosecution opts to drop the charges, this may be the beginning of a pattern where every few months, the court checks in on Snuka to see if his mental state has improved to the point he can stand trial and face the charges against him.

Nancy Argentino had been on the road traveling with Snuka at the time of her death.  Snuka had wrestled for the WWF on 5/10/83 at a TV Taping at the Allentown Fairgrounds. When he got back to his hotel room, Snuka said that he found Argentino gasping for air and oozing yellow fluid from her nose and mouth. She died on 5/11/83 with her autopsy stating it was due to traumatic brain injures. Argentino also had a number of cuts and bruises which suggested domestic abuse. There had been an incident in New York State several weeks before where police were called due to a situation between Snuka and Argentino in a hotel. 

The medical examiner's report at the time stated Argentino's injuries were consistent with being hit with a “stationary object."  The forensic pathologist suggested that the case be invested as a homicide but no one was ever charged and the report was lost somewhere along the way.  How that happened and how the case went cold has never been explained.  Whether that happening leaves the Argentino family in an actionable position in civil court against the State remains to be seen.

Snuka, after the case remained cold for decades, was charged last year with involuntary manslaughter and third-degree murder.  The "lost" autopsy report from the medical examiner at the time was discovered by The Allentown Morning Call as they covered the 30th anniversary of Argentino's death.  That report, as well as Snuka's 2012 autobiography Superfly providing a different version of the circumstances leading to Argentino's death when compared to what Snuka told authorities in 1983, as well as two new witnesses who woked at the motel coming forward, all led to him being indicted.

In 1983, Snuka claimed there was horseplay that led to Argentino getting hurt and he wasn't aware of the seriousness of the situation until he called for medical help after working the WWF TV taping.  In his 2012 autobiography Superfly, Snuka claimed that the two stopped for Argentino to go to bathroom on the side of a road when she slipped and hit her head on a rock.    He stated that he put her to bed, checked on her after wrestling for WWF, returned for another set of tapings and when he came back to the hotel after WWF had completed TV, realized the seriousness of the situation and called for an ambulance.

When asked about Argentino's death on the stand today, Snuka (according to Lehigh Valley area reporter Sarah Cassi) commented, "It was just an accident ma'am. I didn't do anything to hurt her."

After over 30 years, it appears that her family may never see the closure or the justice they have been seeking.

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