Former wrestler Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka was charged on Tuesday with the cold-case killing of his girlfriend, a Brooklyn native, in Pennsylvania more than 30 years ago, who died of a skull fracture and brain injury after he allegedly assaulted her and left her in a motel room.
Snuka, 72, was charged with third-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter and held in lieu of $100,000 bail, according to the Lehigh County district attorney’s office. Snuka, born James Smith in the Fiji islands, was arrested Tuesday morning at his home in New Jersey.
In reviewing evidence, Lehigh County District Attorney James Martin said he also examined excerpts from Snuka’s autobiography, “SUPERFLY The Jimmy Snuka Story,” in which he admitted to using drugs and steroids. A 2013 investigation by a newspaper there, The Morning Call, uncovered an autopsy report that labeled her death a homicide.
Snuka’s attorney, William Moore, said the wrestler was “in poor health,” having been diagnosed with stomach cancer and dementia, and was using a feeding tube. Moore said he had not yet seen any new evidence from the case.
On May 10, 1983, Snuka’s girlfriend at the time, 23-year-old Nancy Argentino, was found on her back in an Allentown-area motel room, according to the district attorney’s office there. Argentino’s breathing was shallow and she had a fast heart rate.
Snuka, who was 39 years old and weighed 250 pounds , and two other wrestlers were in the former George Washington Motor Lodge at the time. Argentino, from Brooklyn, was rushed to the emergency room but never regained consciousness and was pronounced dead about an hour later.
Argentino had 39 contusions and abrasions throughout her body, including her arms, back, buttocks, legs and feet, which Dr. Isidore Mihalakis, the forensic pathologist who performed the autopsy, said were all sustained 12 to 24 hours before her death.
Snuka was married with four children in North Carolina at the time. Argentino would follow him on tours after the pair started a relationship, according to the district attorney’s office. They were in Pennsylvania as part of a the World Wrestling Federation tour.
According to grand jury testimony, a witness had seen Snuka assault Argentino four months earlier in a hotel near Syracuse, in which he allegedly dragged her by her hair down a hallway.
Snuka, who said he was the only person with her the last 24 hours of her life, then gave several explanations for how Argentino got hurt, contradicting himself at every turn, according to the district attorney’s office.
Among his explanations: Snuka apparently said he hit her during an argument, causing her to fall and hit her head; she fell when they were “fooling around” outside the hotel room; she hit her head on concrete after the couple “wrestled a little too much.”; and she fell when they were “clowning around” after stopping on a highway to use the bathroom.