ALLENTOWN, Pa. (AP) — The trial for former professional wrestling star Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka in the death of his mistress more than three decades ago has been postponed with a defense attorney saying his client is not competent for the proceedings.
Robert Kirwan II filed a motion in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Country Court for a competency hearing for the 72-year-old resident of Camden County, New Jersey, who was scheduled to go on trial in March.
Snuka has been charged with third-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter in the death of 23-year-old Nancy Argentino, of New York, who was found dead in May 1983 after authorities were called to their hotel room near Allentown. Snuka has pleaded not guilty and his lawyer has called Argentino’s death an “unfortunate accident.”
Kirwan told Judge Kelly Banach on Friday that the former WWE wrestler’s mental health has declined steadily in recent months and he no longer understands the charges or even knows that he was arrested.
“He had no idea what charges he faced,” Kirwan said, and added, referring to Argentino’s death, that “He has no recollection of the incident.”
Chief Deputy District Attorney Charles Gallagher called for an independent evaluation of Snuka’s fitness for trial, but Banach said she wanted to research the law to see whether that was required.
Gallagher said he will challenge the defense motion for a competency hearing, noting that the defendant’s mental health was considered during the grand jury process. He also suggested that Snuka “has had a career in entertainment,” only to be told by the judge that “He’s also had a career in head trauma theater.”
Snuka, who had been at a World Wrestling Federation taping at the Allentown Fairgrounds, told police shortly after Argentino’s death that he had returned to the couple’s Whitehall Township hotel room to find her unresponsive in bed. An autopsy determined she died of traumatic brain injuries and had more than two dozen cuts and bruises, and said her injuries were consistent with being hit with a stationary object. Snuka wrote about Argentino’s death in his 2012 autobiography, maintaining his innocence and saying the episode had ruined his life.
Snuka was known for diving from the ropes and even the top of steel cages in a career that spanned four decades. He was admitted into the World Wrestling Entertainment Hall of Fame in 1996, according to the organization’s website.