COVER STORY SNEAK PEEK: Chris Benoit's Family Secrets

COVER STORY SNEAK PEEK: Chris Benoit's Family Secrets
Chris Benoit
Peter Kramer/Getty

updated 07/05/2007 at 09:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/05/2007 12:35PM

As the search for a motive intensifies in the case of Chris Benoit, this week's PEOPLE goes into the home life of the WWE superstar who killed his wife, Nancy, his 7-year-old son and himself.

Friends searching for clues to what went wrong have focused on Benoit's relationship with Nancy Benoit, 43, who often complained she felt like a single mother because of her husband's constant touring.

Former neighbor Melissa Coppage recalls asking Nancy recently if she had any vacation plans. "She said, 'No, it's all wrestling, all the time.' "

But several of Benoit's friends describe the 40-year-old as a devoted father and husband – who, apparently at Nancy's request last year, took a four-month leave from work to be with her while she recovered from surgery.

"He wasn't a monster," Benoit's friend and former wrestler Dean Malenko tells PEOPLE. "We're talking about a guy who, a month ago, was in Jacksonville and rather than drive down to Orlando, where he needed to be the next day, he took a flight to be home with [his son] Daniel."

In 2003, Nancy filed for divorce from Benoit, saying he had threatened her. But the couple then reconciled.

Questions about the health of the couple's son, Daniel, also remain central to the mystery. Two days after the bodies were discovered, the WWE suggested through its attorney that the boy may have suffered from a medical condition known as Fragile X syndrome, a form of retardation often accompanied by autism.

COVER STORY SNEAK PEEK: Chris Benoit's Family Secrets

But the child's maternal grandparents, speaking through their lawyer, said Daniel had "no health problems that they could discern," and investigators subsequently said the boy's medical records showed no evidence of any serious illness.

Still, the pro-wrestling organization, through its attorney Jerry McDevitt, insists the boy's health was an issue and "a source of tension in the relationship between Chris and Nancy."

For more on this story, including exclusive photos of the Benoit family, a look at the WWE and profiles of other wrestlers who died young, pick up this week's PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday

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