Irv Muchnick reacts to 1983 Jimmy Snuka/Nancy Argentino death story
Sunday, 09 June 2013 09:48
By Irv Muchnick
On May 10, Concussion Inc. published JUSTICE DENIED: The Untold Story of the Death of Nancy Argentino in Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka’s Motel Room
. This short ebook sells for $2.99 with 100 percent of the royalties being donated by the Argentino family, in Nancy’s memory, to the White Plains, New York-based My Sister’s Place women’s shelter and resource center.
Readers without a Kindle-compatible device can order an emailed PDF copy by remitting $2.99, via PayPal, to
From my introduction in the ebook
“Of particular interest would be two documents: the autopsy and the transcript of the interrogation of Snuka immediately thereafter. One local official involved in the investigation, as well as one of the Argentino family’s lawyers, told me the autopsy showed marks on the victim other than the fractured skull. And former Whitehall police supervisor of detectives Al Fitzinger remembered that the forensic pathologist, Dr. Isadore Mihalakis, confronted Snuka to ask him why he’d waited so long before calling an ambulance.” — from the original 1992 article
Go read the front page story
in today’s Allentown Morning Call by Adam Clark and Kevin Amerman and front page story in today’s Courier-Post of Cherry Hill, New Jersey
by Randy Miller. Both articles are very well reported and written, and in the great tradition of corporate journalism, better late than never.
But the most important items to read are the two documents linked online to the Allentown story: full texts of the contemporaneous Argentino autopsy and the Snuka police interview.
At the time I wrote my 1992 piece, I was in the middle of an editorial and business dispute with the Village Voice over the very publication of my work. I did not have the resources to follow up on a public information fight with the city of Whitehall and Lehigh County.
The enterprising Morning Call reporters, however, unearthed these documents from a federal records warehouse in Philadelphia. No matter what grounds the Whitehall police claim in sealing their embarrassing work of a mere 30 years ago under the rubric of an “open” investigation, the autopsy and police report had emerged as exhibits in the Argentinos’ 1985 federal civil lawsuit against Snuka.
(Snuka blew off the $500,000 default judgment against him in the civil case — just as cavalierly as, two years earlier, he had let his girlfriend sleep off her supposedly self-induced traumatic brain injury while he had beers with wrestling colleagues Magnificent Muraco and Mr. Fuji. Miller in the Courier-Post is strong on the aspect of how Snuka, who maintains that he is still tortured by what happened to Nancy Argentino, never lifted a finger in the intervening years to pay the judgment.)
In Dr. Mihalakis’s autopsy, he writes that in view of the findings “and the discrepancies in the clinical history, I believe that the case should be investigated as a homicide until proven otherwise.” This certainly ups the ante on my 1992 quote from corner (deputy coroner in ’83) Wayne Snyder: “I immediately suspected foul play, and so notified the district attorney.”
The police interrogation shows the Superfly in all his rambling and dissembling glory. He tells between three-and-a-half and five versions of Nancy’s “very serious concussion.” In one, he slapped her face by the roadside to bring her back to consciousness. In another, he gently slapped her again in the motel room while they were “messing around.” In that chapter of his fairy tale, her head hit a chair. But not because of anything Snuka did, mind you.
In his recently published autobiography, Snuka protests that he would never harm a woman — for, you see, he loves women, everything about them, including their “smell.” For my part, I don’t like the smell of women-beaters.
After Chappaquidick, Ted Kennedy, scion of a rich and dynastic political family, at least pleaded down to a charge of leaving the scene. Jimmy Snuka got off scot-free.
To the Morning Call, Gerald Procacyn — then a Whitehall detective and now an investigator for the district attorney — walks back some of the lies he told me during my ’92 reporting trip, as part of his attempt to close the book on the case. Procacyn represented Snuka to me as likable, credible, consistent. Even if I didn’t already know that the last two, especially, were a load, I soon had independent information contradicting other parts of what Procacyn said. For example, he insisted the family was never heard from again. Right — except for commissioning two private investigations and suing Snuka in U.S. District Court.
Reporters Clark and Amerman conscientiously print Procacyn’s no-comment on why Snuka was never driven around to look for the spot by the road where he claimed Nancy fell and hit her head. The autopsy showed no gravel, dirt, or other signs of such a location.
As I said, the Call did a very good job overall, but their story is flawed by self-censorship — Clark-Amerman, or more likely their editors, did pull some other punches. This, again, is par for the course in an investigation by a newspaper that wants to maintain its ongoing relationships with the local law enforcement establishment.
My favorite example is the quote of Snuka’s from his own book, in which he describes then-WWF boss Vince McMahon carrying a briefcase into a climactic meeting with detectives, prosecutors, and the medical examiner. The newspaper article quotes this passage: “I don’t know what happened. …The only thing I know for sure is I didn’t hurt Nancy.”
What the Call leaves out, filling instead with ellipses, is this sentence from Snuka: “I don’t know if [McMahon] gave Nancy’s family money or anything.”
All the evidence is that McMahon didn’t give the Argentinos any money; Nancy’s sisters say their mother would hang up on a WWF representative who called to offer her $25,000.
Anyway, whether McMahon gave the family any money is a non sequitur in the passage above. The question raised and unanswered by Snuka’s tantalizing quote is something entirely different: whether WWF, in protecting one of its most popular stars from a homicide indictment, handed out strategic cash to anyone else.