No one will ever know the full horror of what happened the weekend Chris Benoit killed his wife, his son and himself in their suburban Atlanta home. But it seems that Benoit's son Daniel was, at least, spared some of the pain. The results of toxicology tests released July 17 by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation show that Daniel, 7, had the antianxiety drug Xanax in his system, meaning that he was sedated before being asphyxiated by Benoit on June 23. Those findings "are somewhat comforting," says Richard Decker, an attorney representing the family of Benoit's wife, Nancy, 43. "To think Daniel might not have known or been conscious when he died is, in a strange way, a relief."
The report also surprised those who predicted that massive amounts of steroids in Benoit's body would explain what happened (some medical reports say anabolic steroids can trigger violent acts). While Benoit, 40, had 10 times the normal level of the steroid testosterone in his body (as well as therapeutic amounts of Xanax and hydrocodone, a painkiller), there was no evidence of alcohol or anabolic steroids. "There are thousands of men walking around now with the same levels of testosterone," said Georgia's Chief Medical Examiner Kris Sperry, who noted such dosages are commonly prescribed to replenish low testosterone levels. "There is no way to know if the combination of the drugs affected his behavior."
Scott Ballard, the district attorney working the case, acknowledged the findings weren't all that helpful. Benoit's reasons for taking testosterone "may have been legitimate," says Ballard. "It's important to know what external factors may have influenced people's actions." Learning the wrestler's motives will, in the end, not offer much solace to the family of Nancy Benoit (whose body contained therapeutic amounts of Xanax and hydrocodone). On July 14 they held a memorial service in Daytona Beach, Fla.; her sister Sandra remembered little Daniel as a boy "who kissed sweetly, hugged tightly and laughed happily." Chris Benoit's name was never mentioned. The family "is trying to remember the good times, but they backslide into grief and despair," says Decker. "They're taking it one day at a time."
- Reported by Jeff Truesdell,
- Amy Green,
- Isoul Harris.