Who was driving Jimmy Snuka’s car after Nancy Argentino supposedly fell and hit her head? – an intriguing cold-case question
by Irvin Muchnick
(PREVIOUSLY: “How we will know if Snuka investigation is serious,” http://www.f4wonline.com/more/more-top-stories/96-wwe/32017-irv-muchnick-how-we-will-know-if-snuka-investigation-is-serious.)
Trying to make sense out of Jimmy Snuka’s verbal nonsense is always fraught. But in one of the YouTube interviews promoting his recently published autobiography, the Superfly seems to suggest that he was driving the purple Lincoln Continental in May 1983 after his girlfriend, Nancy Argentino, purportedly fell at a roadside pee stop and hit her head. In this version – let’s call it version 4(b)(2) of Snuka’s kaleidoscopic accounts of Nancy’s death – they drove on the rest of the way to Whitehall, Pennsylvania, and he called an ambulance. See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q6BS1J1IIRU.
Anyone with even a low-functioning b.s. detector can identify at least a couple of problems here. For one, the ambulance wasn’t summoned until after Snuka returned late the following night from the then WWF television tapings at the Ag Hall in Allentown – in other words, more than 24 hours later.
The other major problem is that Nancy, not Snuka, was the one who drove their car – because Snuka did not have a driver’s license. In another version of these events, Snuka has said he slapped Nancy’s face to restore her to consciousness after she fell by the roadside. Did he mean to suggest that she then would have been in a condition to get back behind the steering wheel?
At this moment, the narrative of the incident, which culminated in Nancy’s being found near death in Room 427 of the George Washington Motor Lodge, remains stuck on Lehigh County district attorney James Martin’s generic and minimalist defense of the original and obviously shoddy homicide investigation. That probe was effectively shut down after a mere three weeks by Gerald Procanyn, a Whitehall police detective, and William Platt, then the DA.
Martin told me that he “will not be commenting on your ridiculous and unfounded assertions” that Procanyn baldly lied to me when I met with him during my 1992 reporting trip for New York’s Village Voice.
Responding to my observation that the county’s “fresh look” at the Snuka-Argentino investigation will be an empty caboose if Procanyn, now a detective for the DA, continues to drive the train, Martin also told Randy Miller of the Cherry Hill (New Jersey) Courier-Post that Procanyn is a “tenacious investigator.” Martin, however, ignored the specifics of my calling out of the detective.
The Courier-Post is one of the two mainstream media outlets that have performed a public service by heeding the call of Argentino’s two surviving sisters to revisit the story of how she died. It is the other newspaper, the Allentown Morning Call, that probably holds the key to the momentum of any reopened investigation. Not many of the fine citizens of Lehigh County read the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, let alone ConcussionInc.net.
So far Morning Call reporters Adam Clark and Kevin Amerman (or their bosses) are standing pat with Martin’s “fresh look” statement, which is accompanied by tamped-down expectations. And to be sure, a spectacular new piece of evidence in this homicide probe is likelier to emerge in a Raw skit than in real life.
But it’s incumbent upon the cold-case journalists to push the authorities to take a much more careful look at the existing record, and in the process, to question why Procanyn played so fast and loose with the facts when he spoke with me. Procanyn represented in ’92 that Snuka had given an unwavering and consistent account of how Argentino sustained her fatal head injury. This was approximately on par with a claim that Snuka flew off the cage onto Don Muraco in Madison Square Garden from a height of 100 feet. I don’t know if Procanyn was consciously covering up or simply trying too hard to blow off a journalist looking into a long-inactive file.
But I do know, from long experience, that it is a common trick of law enforcement agencies with something to hide to deny freedom-of-information requests for copies of police files on the grounds that the case was never officially closed. That is exactly what the Whitehall police did. Twenty-one years later, the Morning Call’s Clark and Amerman would track down the Argentino autopsy report and the Snuka police interrogation in a civil court archive in Philadelphia.
In apologizing for 30 years of inaction, Martin told the Courier-Post that “basically what we have is Snuka giving some inconsistent statements.” This marks a substantial downgrade from Procanyn’s Good Housekeeping seal for Snuka’s testimony in ’92, and even from Procanyn’s statement to the Morning Call last month that the peed-by-the-roadside story was the one Snuka “hung with the best.”
Circumstantial cases have been made on far less. And even when not taken to court, they are often used to compel guilty parties to plead down to involuntary manslaughter charges.
Further, one of the very reasons this case remains so circumstantial is that the Whitehall police lapsed on basic homework. They never even drove Snuka around to attempt to locate the roadside location where he claimed Nancy fell. Yet detectives did go to the trouble of driving 100 miles to Brooklyn to talk with the Argentino family – a session taken up, in part, by the cops’ pushing to the father and mother and sisters a cockamamie theory that Nancy had an incidental head trauma that might have turned fatal because of a congenital defect in her skull structure.
So it goes. If the sisters’ main goal, three decades removed from their bereavement, was to embarrass Snuka and the Lehigh County authorities in the court of public opinion, Louise and Lorraine have succeeded in spades. Sources say many friends and acquaintances of Snuka’s in South Jersey were unaware of the Argentino history until Miller went to work on it in the Courier-Post; deeply embarrassed, Snuka (who, through wife Carole, has declined Miller’s interview requests), is said to have turned quiet and housebound.
Closed or open case, genuine or phony “fresh look,” there is something rotten in Camden County, New Jersey. And in Lehigh County, Pennsylvania.