07/05/2007 at 12:35 PM EDT
Backstage at the Philips Arena in Atlanta last April 29, wrestler Brad Armstrong caught up with his old friend Chris Benoit, who minutes before had successfully defended his championship title at the WWE Backlash event. "I hate to bug you, but after you get showered and cool down, if you have a minute, the kids would love to meet you," said Armstrong, referring to his 6-year-old daughter and her pals. No problem, answered Benoit. "I'll stay dressed and show them my championship belt." When the kids trooped in, Benoit knelt down to get face-to-face with a little boy named Ben. "Hey, buddy, how old are you?" he asked. Seven, came the reply. "I have a son who's 7 also," Benoit said, putting his giant belt on the child and posing for a picture.
Could that possibly be the same Chris Benoit who police in Georgia say is behind the stunning double murder and suicide that claimed the lives of his wife, Nancy, and son Daniel? Fayette County investigators released new details of the crime scene to PEOPLE on July 2: Daniel, with what were described as old needle marks on his arm, was found in his bed in his pajamas with his stomach down and head turned to the side; he suffered internal damage to the throat but no sign of trauma around his neck. "By the process of elimination, I arrive at a choke hold [as the cause of death], says District Attorney Scott Ballard, "but that's just a supposition." Benoit himself, shirtless on the floor of a mirrored basement exercise room, had wrapped a torn white cloth around his neck at the end of his three-day rampage June 24 before looping a cable from a weight machine around his neck and releasing a 240-lb. stack of weights. "The cable pulled up on his neck and strangled him," says Ballard.