Canadian pro wrestler Chris Benoit killed his wife and seven-year-old son before hanging himself in the weight room of his Georgia home, officials confirmed Tuesday.
"We are now looking at this case and ruling it as a double homicide, suicide," Fayette County Sheriff Tommy Pope said during a news conference held in front of Benoit's home Tuesday afternoon.
Benoit and his family were found dead Monday in their house in Fayette County, just outside of Atlanta.
- Benoit, 40, killed his 43-year-old wife, Nancy, on Friday night. Her body was found wrapped in a towel in the home office. Her wrists and ankles were bound and a Bible had been placed near her body. The cause of death was ruled as asphyxiation.
- An autopsy suggested that the son, Daniel, was killed on Saturday morning. He was found in his bed, also with a Bible beside his body. His cause of death was also asphyxiation.
- Later Saturday orearly Sunday, Benoit hanged himself in the basement weight room, using the cord from his pulley weight set. He did not leave a suicide note.
Earlier Tuesday, a Georgia law enforcement official close to the investigation had said Nancy had been strangled and Daniel smothered, but Pope refused to comment on that report.
"It struck me as somewhat bizarre that perhaps he would even be in the home with their deceased bodies forsome length of time," Scott Ballard, the district attorney for Fayette County, said Tuesday.
Steroids may have been factor
Authorities are investigating whether steroids may have been a factor in the deaths of the family. Steroid abuse has been linked to angry outbursts known as 'roid rage.
Bill Dryden, a pharmacologist at the University of Alberta, said high doses ofthe drugcan be linked to irritable, argumentative or violent behaviour.
"It's almost described as a kind of aggressive depression that sets in," Dryden told CBC News in Edmonton.
Pope confirmed anabolic steroids were found in the home, along with several prescription medications, but the sheriff said the medications were believed to be legal.
It is not clear if Benoit, a former world heavyweight and Intercontinental champion who was born in Montreal but grew up in Edmonton, was using steroids.
"We don't know yet. That's one of the things we'll be looking at," said Ballard.
Investigators are still awaiting toxicology reports, which could take weeks to arrive.
The World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), the organization under which Benoit competed, claimed in a statement Tuesday that steroids were not related to Benoit's death, and could not be.
"The physical findings announced by authorities indicate deliberation, not rage," the company said, noting that Benoit tested negative for steroids on April 10, the last time he was tested.
Former pro wrestler Bret (Hitman) Hart, a good friend of Benoit's,said in light of the possible steroid link to the case, people should seriously consider the dangers of steroid use.
"I think it needs to be maybe the first big wake up call," he told CBC News in his hometown of Calgary. "There's got to be something that can be learned from this."
Steroids have been linked to the deaths of several professional wrestlers in recent years:
- Eddie Guerrero, a close friend of Benoit's, died in 2005 from heart failure linked to long-term steroid use.
- The father of Curt (Mr. Perfect) Hennig blamed steroids and painkillers for his son's drug overdose death in 2003.
- Davey Boy Smith, the British Bulldog, died in 2002 from heart failure that a coroner said was probably caused by steroids.
Wife requested restraining order
Meanwhile, court documents have surfacedthatshow thatBenoit's wiferequested a restraining order against her husband in 2003, accusing him of threatening her and breaking furniture in their home. She later dropped the request.
NancyBenoit also filed for divorce that year, saying her three-year marriage was irrevocably broken and marked by "cruel treatment." She later withdrew the complaint.
The couple met in 1990, when Nancy was married to a rival wrestler, Kevin Sullivan. As part of a script, Nancy and Benoit were supposed to act as if they were having an affair.
The two ended up falling for each other in real life, andNancy left Sullivanto marryBenoit in 2000.
Wrestler sent 'curious' text messages: WWE
The WWE said on its website that it asked police to check on Benoit and his family after being alerted by friends who received "several curious text messages sent by Benoit early Sunday morning."
Pope would not comment on the content or nature of the text messages.
Benoit was known by several names, including the Canadian Crippler, and maintained a home in the Atlanta area from the time he wrestled for World Championship Wrestling, which existed from 1988 to 2001.
"WWE extends its sincerest thoughts and prayers to the Benoit family's relatives and loved ones in this time of tragedy," the company said in a statement on its website.
Benoit was scheduled to perform at Vengeance, a pay-per-view event being held Sunday night in Houston, but was replaced at the last minute because of what announcer Jim Ross called "personal reasons."
The WWE cancelled its live Monday Night RAW in Corpus Christi, Texas, and USA Network aired a three-hour tribute to Benoit in place of the scheduled wrestling telecast.
Benoit had two other children from a prior relationship.