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Chris Benoit and his family were found dead Monday at their Atlanta-area home. ((Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press))

Canadian pro wrestler Chris Benoit, his wife, and son were found dead Monday and police said they were investigating the deaths as a murder-suicide.

Det. Bo Turner told television station WAGA in Atlantathat the case was being treated as a murder-suicide, but said that couldn't be confirmed until evidence was examined by a crime lab.

The station said that investigators believe the 40-year-old Benoit killed his wife, Nancy, and seven-year-old son, Daniel, over the weekend, then himself on Monday at their Fayetteville, Ga., home.A neighbour called police, and the bodies were found in three rooms.

Lead investigator Lieut. Tommy Pope, of the Fayette County Sheriff's Department, told the Associated Press the deaths were being investigated as homicide, and that the causes of death awaited autopsy results on Tuesday. Pope said the bodies were discovered about 2:30 p.m., but refused to release details.

The house is in a secluded neighborhood set back more than 50 metres off a gravel road, surrounded by stacked stone wall and a double-iron gate.

Benoit wrestled for World Wrestling Entertainment, which cancelled its live Raw wrestling card Monday night in Corpus Christi, Texas.

Canadian television network The Score aired a three-hour tribute to Benoit in place of the scheduled telecast.

"I am deeply saddened over the loss of Chris Benoit," WWE Canada president Carl DeMarco said on the WWE website.

"My heartfelt thoughts and sympathy go out to his parents and family. My relationship with Chris has extended many years and I consider him a great friend.

"Chris was always first class — warm, friendly, caring and professional — one of the best in our business."

Benoit, 40, was born in Montreal and also lived in Edmonton.

He maintained a home in the Atlanta area from the time he wrestled for the defunct World Championship Wrestling.

Benoit was scheduled to wrestle at the Vengeance pay-per-view event Sunday night in Houston, but was replaced at the last minute because of what announcer Jim Ross called "personal reasons."

The Canadian Crippler

Benoit, a five-foot-11, 220-pounder, was often described as a rabid wolverine in the ring.

Known as "The Canadian Crippler," he had a chiseled physique and superior technical skills. The "Crippler Crossface" was one of his signature moves, along with a flying head butt from the top rope and triple German suplex.

"Chris was beloved among his fellow superstars and was a favourite among WWE fans for his unbelievable athleticism and wrestling ability," the WWE said on its website.

"He always took great pride in his performance and always showed respect for the business he loved, for his peers and towards his fans. This is a terrible tragedy and an unbearable loss."

Benoit began his career in 1985 after training with Stu Hart and family in Calgary.

Won championship in 2004

He competed for Hart's Stampede Wrestling promotion in the late 1980s and later wrestled in Japan and for the National Wrestling Alliance, WCW and Extreme Championship Wrestling.

He joined WWE in 2000.

Benoit held several titles over his career but realized his dream at Wrestlemania 20 in 2004, defeating Shawn Michaels and champion Triple H in a triple threat match at Madison Square Garden to win the WWE world heavyweight championship for the first time.

"He was a man of few words, but his passion for the sports-entertainment business was almost unrivalled," the WWE said.

"Whether loved or hated, Benoit was always well-respected by our fans and his peers for his in-ring ability, his trademark toothless grin and his no-nonsense attitude.

"The sports-entertainment world has truly suffered a loss with his passing, as one of the all-time greats was taken well before his time."

With files from the Canadian Press