As expected as more and more details come out, the media has jumped all over the Benoit story. And while the evidence that we know of doesn’t position Benoit in any position for sympathy (nor does he deserve it at this point), it’s the stories of the last 48 hours that have reminded me why I knew I would never make it in journalism, and why I can’t stand the vast majority of it to this day.I guess what angers me the most is the assumptions and possibilities that have been considered in trying to piece together the crime being reported as if they were fact. Investigators and forensics people have to consider tons of evidence in order to come up with an accurate depiction of what actually happened when none of the people doing this were there to see it take place. In doing that, you end up considering hundreds of possibilities in order to determine why they’re not possible, and for those that remain, dig deeper to eliminate even more, and to give credibility to those that remain. It’s a long and involved process, especially without any witnesses or immediately known motive.
Yet for some reason, we seem to have full details of what happened to who and during what timeframe within hours of the discovery of the crime scene. Before midnight EST, less than an hour after RAW’s tribute show had ended, details were already being released that Chris was the murderer of Nancy and Daniel, and that the bodies were found in separate rooms. Immediately a flag gets raised – with all three victims dead, no witnesses, and the believed causes of death, there could be speculation of who killed who, but nothing obvious. While it’s unlikely that a seven year old would have killed his mother, it is possible that an adult woman could be physically capable of killing her child. But since there was a strong male and his death appeared to be a suicide (meaning he was the last to die), then he becomes the lead suspect. Or, as many of the media outlets wrote, the murderer.
As Monday rolls into Tuesday, the reported stories and snippets coming from various sources become some real-life macabre version of Clue: Chris killed Nancy first on Friday then his son on Saturday, and himself on Sunday. Chris killed his son first on Friday, his wife on Saturday, and himself later Saturday. Chris killed his wife on Saturday, watched the wrestling event he was supposed to be performing at on television with his son on Sunday, then killed him later that night, killing himself early Monday morning. Garbage bags, alarm clock cords, weight belts – and none of it is “wrong” because the media outlets that report it state that the police are “investigating the possibility” of it. Of course they’re investigating the possibility of it. They’re investigating the possibility that Kevin Sullivan, still bitter over losing Nancy and having to put over Chris in WCW, came in through an unlocked door, killed Nancy and Daniel, waited for Chris to come home, killed him, then hung him from his weight room to make it look like a suicide. They threw it out in a few minutes, but they investigated it. I think. But you get the point.
The point was that we had Chris Benoit convicted of the crime before the police made any kind of official announcement except that the three of them were dead, in separate rooms, and weren’t shot or stabbed. In an effort not to get scooped, especially on a high profile case like this, news outlets will throw out every scenerio they can possibly report legally so that if by chance somewhere down the line one of their reports turns out to be accurate, they can say that they were the first to report the breaking news.
And then there’s Scott Ballard. The Fayette County District Attorney seems to enjoy the spotlight, granting seemingly any interview possible that gets his name in the paper or a little TV face time. Starting the drama immediately by being quoted that the murder of a child “tore my guts out”, he then – almost in pro wrestling-like fashion – built the suspense by saying “the details, when they come out, are going to prove a little bizarre.”
OH BOY OH BOY I CANT WAIT
Building to a Tuesday 3PM press conference, AP got info from “a law enforcement source speaking on condition of anonymity” that gave causes of death to all three (strangle – Nancy, smothered – Daniel, hanging – Chris), and reported that Chris did it. Still without any timeframe though. AP would later speak with “people close to the investigation” and give a vague timeframe and weapons used to commit the crimes: Nancy, electrical cord, Saturday; Daniel, bag, Sunday; Chris, hanging (no more detail than that), Monday. At the same time, a gossip website somehow managed to scoop thesmokinggun.com by releasing the documentation of Nancy’s petition for divorce and request for an order of protection back in 2003. The petition and the order were both rescinded by Nancy a few months later, but BANG – we have motive now. Mind you, there were no reported events of domestic violence on the record and that the divorce petition and order of protection mentioned threats that Chris made and that he destroyed property in the house, but made no mention of there ever being any physical contact.
Now, I’m not saying that Nancy wasn’t justified in filing what she did or that her concerns weren’t legit at the time. But the problem with that is that there are people who would use something like this unethically for whatever reason – more of a financial allowance, a new car, a rewrite of the will, etc. Again, not saying that Nancy would do that, but unfortunately the actions of others in the past has to leave the shadow of doubt over the validity of any kind of claim like this. There’s no proof needed to file that claim (physical abuse could be backed up by medical records or police records), just a sworn affidavit. And when filed against a professional wrestler who is (obviously) much stronger than she is and works in a profession where violence and rage are common? No judge in the country would question that. The problem there is that the document essentially means nothing, but the fact that it exists automatically makes it true, and paints a violent history, whether deserved or not.
Ballard, not surprisingly, was the key man when the 3PM press conference took place. He stated that law officials believed the asphyxiation theory (never stating with what, however) with a timeframe of Nancy on Friday night, Daniel on Saturday morning, and Chris’ hanging on Saturday night (instead of Sunday, which had been reported an hour earlier). He mentioned signs of a struggle with Nancy, with Nancy’s hand and feet bound with tape and blood under her head. He mentioned Nancy was found in an upstairs living area, while Daniel was found in his bedroom, both with bibles placed next to their bodies. Ballard mentioned that Benoit hung himself with a cord.
He brought up that steroids were found in the house, along with “lots” of what is believed to be legal prescription medication was found in the house. What kind of medication? Don’t know – that may be released to the media at a later date. Important to mention during the press conference, but potentially not important enough to give details about. Maaaaaaaybe something bad. Maaaaaaaybe something good.
OH BOY OH BOY I CANT WAIT
Text messages were sent by Benoit to one of Benoit’s co-workers. What did they say? We can’t get into that right now.
OH BOY OH BOY I CANT WAIT
[The WWE knew the details of the text messages and were going to release them on their website, but were asked not to by local law officials. Ballard would later state in an EXCLUSIVE~! interview with ESPN.com that one of the two “alarming” text messages stated that his wife and son were sick. “Of course, they were dead,” Ballard was quoted as saying. Yet when WWE.com would later post the five (not two) text messages that were sent from Chris and Nancy’s phones, none of them had anything to do with any illness excuse; four were similar messages stating the Benoit family’s physical address, while the fifth mentioned that their dogs were in an enclosed area and that the garage side door was open, presumably to give whomever received the messages instructions on where to find the crime scene, and how to enter the house without force. More on Ballard and ESPN.com in a minute.]
It was mentioned that Benoit had been previously arrested (for DUI) but had no prior history of domestic violence. It was also mentioned that there was no suicide note.
The final note from the press conference goes back to Ballard, who weighed in on the bizarreness (is that a word?) and to remind us, once again, his feelings about Daniel.
“In a community like this, it’s bizarre to have a murder/suicide, especially involving the death of a seven-year-old child. That’s what struck me the most in all this: There’s a seven- year-old little boy who’s dead. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to wrap my mind around that completely.”
“It struck me as somewhat bizarre that he would even be in the home with their deceased bodies all that time… I’m baffled why anyone would kill a seven year old. I don’t have any idea at all about a motive.”
SEVEN YEARS OLD. IF YOU HAVE FORGOTTEN, DANIEL WAS SEVEN YEARS OLD. SEVEN IS A NUMBER BETWEEN SIX AND EIGHT. IT IS AN ODD NUMBER. SEVEN YEARS OLD. DEAD SEVEN. SEVEN SEVEN SEVEN.
I mean come on, people. There’s a lady upstairs that was bound at the head and feet and was strangled with… well, something. An electrical cord, I guess. But meh – shit happens, you know? SEVEN YEARS OLD.
I’m sure that Ballard, at that very moment, wished he had seven fingers on his hand just so he could hold them all up as he was making that point. Holding up both hands just looks kind of dumb, and after all could potentially block someone’s camera shot.
Ballard would later speak to ESPN.com, as I mentioned above, about the supposed text message (to clarify, Benoit did contact WWE to tell them that his wife and son were sick, but that had nothing to do with the text messages that were sent that raised suspicion to the company that led them to contact authorities) and about some new information about SEVEN YEAR OLD Daniel, whom is SEVEN YEARS OLD. Ballard mentioned that Daniel had needle marks on his arm, and stated that he believed that he was being given human growth hormone by his parents because of concerns that he was undersized for his age. He knew this because he found a note that said “Nancy, can you give Daniel the growth hormone tonight? I won’t be in until later, and I’m a bit concerned that if he misses this dosage that he’ll remain this size.”
Just kidding – Ballard guessed. A person later came out in a news story to say that she had been in contact with Benoit years prior and learned that Daniel had Fragile X Syndrome, but that didn’t stop Ballard to make a generalized assumption – and state it to a national media outlet – without a toxicology report or any other information. Again, not saying that it’s not possible that what Ballard is assuming is true, but for a DA to state that he believes this to be true in an interview so early into the investigation is irresponsible and makes him look like he’s taking the Nifong route.
After the press conference, the rumors seemed to die down somewhat. The focus turned more towards reaction – what Vince McMahon and WWE would do on Tuesday night with their show tapings, and the eventual outpouring of generalized steroids=this hyperbole from columnists and talking heads looking to be topical or to (in the case of some sports writers) take the focus off of their sports (which have been facing heavy scrutiny from the federal government) and towards wrestling. And, of course, no mention of any death in wrestling can go by without some chart or statistic mentioning the mortality rate of professional wrestlers compared to other sectors of society.
But the following day, Ballard was at it again, using his expert forensics experience to appear on Good Morning America and state that he believed Daniel was killed by a choke hold. Of course, this plays perfectly into Benoit’s profile, being a wrestler. It allows for a stereotype to be fit – violent wrestler uses violent wrestling move to kill. Whether true or not, it doesn’t matter at this point; the Benoits are dead, so unlike say… oh, I don’t know, maybe a couple of lacrosse players, Ballard can use his junior detective kit and get on TV as much as possible. That way, when election time rolls around again, everyone will know his name. Hey – do you know who your county’s district attorney is?