In 2007, WWE wrestler Chris Benoit murdered his wife Nancy and their seven-year-old son Daniel, strangling them both, before hanging himself in a double murder suicide which shook the professional wrestling world to its very core.
Nine years on, there remains speculation over what pushed the previously respected 40-year-old Benoit to commit such atrocities, with theories ranging from years of steroid abuse causing him to kill his family in a fit of rage or, the more weighty opinion, that his decades of a highly stiff wrestling style and concussion issues had left him severely brain damaged.
For instance, tests conducted on Benoit’s brain by Julian Bailes, the head of neurosurgery at West Virginia University, reportedly showed: “Benoit’s brain was so severely damaged it resembled the brain of an 85-year-old Alzheimer’s patient.”
Now, Sandra Toffolini, the sister of Nancy Benoit, has spoken out about the double murder suicide and revealed a number of details about her brother-in-law Chris Benoit that haven’t previously been mentioned in the press, Inquistr reports.
Speaking on WWE superstar Chris Jericho’s podcast Talk Is Jericho, Toffolini said she noticed ‘changes’ in Benoit as early as 2004 and that ‘roid rage’ and the pressure of winning the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania 20 added to the aggressive behavior he would show towards Nancy.
Although she noted on the podcast that Chris was ‘kind and considerate, very quiet, very focused, and just a driven guy—but caring. He loved my sister,’ she also pointed out that there was always an intensity beneath the surface, which got worse over time.
On how his behaviour changed over the years, Toffolini said:
What really became noticeable was a little bit more of — like a sense of — unsafeness and paranoia for the family. He’d just would like, be constantly checking the alarm at night, constantly be checking things, and for himself. Like when we would go to the gym and do things like that, he would take different ways every time, different routes, The way we would go in the morning is not the way we would go after dinner, and never ever before had that been.
He used to be fairly laid back about stuff like that, there was never any issue like that, so when it did start happening I noticed immediately. It was a huge personality change, not crazy-huge where everyone else would notice, but people that was around him a lot would notice. I didn’t really understand what was happening and to be frank, I still kind of look back on it…was it a precursor to everything that happened — I don’t know.
She went on the say that Nancy was ‘brutalised’ by Benoit’s roid rage and, at one point, Nancy got a restraining order against him.
She added that the concussions Benoit suffered over the years and the loss of his close friends like Eddie Guerrero and Ray ‘Big Boss Man’ Traylor played a big part in his behavior as well.
On what she thinks drove Benoit to murder, Toffolini added:
I think that it [drug abuse] was a huge contributing factor to what happened. The autopsy said so, I had seen it prior to that — the alcohol and medication, not just the steroids but everything else that had been going on — it was a huge factor.
I know that everyone talks about the concussion issue with Christopher, maybe that played a role as well, the autopsy never said he had Alzheimer’s, that he couldn’t find his way, the things they are saying related to concussions wasn’t Chris and wasn’t anything I observed ever. That guy could get in and out of an airport in eight minutes flat, and I mean any airport.
It wasn’t that, it was a combination of a lot of things. A huge boulder of weight from loss and grief, I think it was a ton of medication altering his body chemistry, his brain chemistry, alcohol, everything that was going on at that time. I know there were issues in the house that he was having, again, with himself. Struggling inside with things that are privy to he and I, and my family and my sister, that I wouldn’t put on blast for anyone to know.
But that coupled with the facts of what I know from being there immediately after that weekend, and seeing everything, it wasn’t the act of someone with brain damage. It wasn’t, it’s impossible for that to have been the case. I understand the necessity to want to put it on something and say, ‘this is why he did it, this is the reason right here.’ Because the daily pain of not knowing why and not really knowing what happened, is crippling.
I can’t put it on any one thing; it was a combination of many things, outside factors, and an inner struggle that he had been going through for quite some time after Eddie and everyone else…he almost had this look in his eye — it wasn’t more of who’s next, it was more of, am I next — in his eyes.
She also claimed that before the murders, Chris ran a Google search on the easiest way to break someone’s neck.
Toffolini’s comments are a fascinating insight into Chris Benoit and his final days, and the entire podcast is well worth a listen. You can check it out here.