Snuka not com­pe­tent for mur­der trial, doc­tor says

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For­mer pro­fes­sional wrestler and Fi­jian na­tive Jimmy ‘Su­per­fly’ Snuka suf­fered so many blows to the head dur­ing his long ca­reer - even get­ting a co­conut smashed on his skull - that he is men­tally in­com­pe­tent to stand trial in the death of his girl­friend, a psy­chol­o­gist has tes­ti­fied. Snuka’s se­vere men­tal im­pair­ment also stems from a his­tory of abus­ing al­co­hol and co­caine, Dr Frank Dat­tilio tes­ti­fied at the for­mer wrestling star’s com­pe­tency hear­ing. Snuka was charged with mur­der and in­vol­un­tary man­slaugh­ter last year in the 1983 death of 23-year-old Nancy Ar­gentino, who was from New York. The 72-yearold for­mer pro­fes­sional wrestling stand­out’s lawyer as­serts he doesn’t un­der­stand the charges or even know he was ar­rested. Le­high County Judge Kelly Banach, af­ter hear­ing from pros­e­cu­tion and de­fence ex­perts, will de­cide if Snuka is com­pe­tent to stand trial. Snuka, who was in the court­room for last Fri­day’s hear­ing in the Penn­syl­va­nia city of Al­len­town, has pleaded not guilty and is free on bail. His at­tor­ney, Robert Kir­wan II, has called Ar­gentino’s death an “un­for­tu­nate ac­ci­dent’’.

Tes­ti­fy­ing for the de­fence, Dat­tilio said he had a “hell of a time’’ try­ing to get even ba­sic back­ground in­for­ma­tion from Snuka. “This is per­ma­nent dam­age, and he’s not likely to be re­stored to com­pe­tence,’’ Dr Dat­tilio said.

The wrestler, a Fiji na­tive, had been at a World Wrestling Fed­er­a­tion tap­ing at the Al­len­town Fair­grounds. He told po­lice shortly af­ter Ar­gentino’s death that he had re­turned to their White­hall Town­ship ho­tel room to find her un­re­spon­sive in bed. She was pro­nounced dead at a hospi­tal sev­eral hours later. An au­topsy de­ter­mined she died of trau­matic brain in­juries and had more than three dozen cuts and bruises, and it con­cluded her in­juries were con­sis­tent with be­ing hit with a sta­tion­ary ob­ject. But the probe went cold, and Snuka con­tin­ued his high-pro­file pro wrestling ca­reer. Af­ter a 2013 story by The Morn­ing

Call news­pa­per raised ques­tions about the case, Ar­gentino’s sis­ters ap­proached Le­high County District At­tor­ney Jim Martin, who re­opened the in­ves­ti­ga­tion. A grand jury re­port said Snuka, who lives in Water­ford Town­ship, New Jersey, had pro­vided more than a half-dozen shift­ing ac­counts of Ar­gentino’s in­juries, at first telling paramedics he hit her dur­ing an ar­gu­ment out­side their ho­tel room and she struck her head on con­crete, then say­ing to po­lice she slipped and fell dur­ing a bath­room break on their way to the ho­tel. The grand jury also said it heard ev­i­dence that Snuka beat Ar­gentino four months be­fore her death and re­peat­edly as­saulted his wife, Sharon Snuka, in 1993. Snuka has long main­tained his in­no­cence. Snuka was known for div­ing from the ropes in a ca­reer that spanned four decades. He was ad­mit­ted into the World Wrestling En­ter­tain­ment Hall of Fame in 1996, ac­cord­ing to the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s web­site.

Jimmy ‘ Su­per­fly’ Snuka.

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