Reporter’s Notebook: Jimmy Snuka Murder Indictment, 96 Hours Later

Published September 5th, 2015, Uncategorized

The 2013 ebook, JUSTICE DENIED: The Untold Story of Nancy Argentino’s Death in Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka’s Motel Room, annotates our original article and benefits a women’s shelter in Nancy’s memory. You can order the ebook for $2.99 on Amazon Kindle (http://amzn.com/B00CPTP6VM) or a PDF copy by email (send $2.99 via PayPal to nancyargentino@gmail.com). One hundred percent of the proceeds are donated by the Argentino family, in Nancy’s memory, to the women’s shelter in development at the Salerno, Italy, church Centro Evangelical dei Fratelli.

 

 

By Irvin Muchnick

One television news clip I haven’t been able to upload is the good follow-up to the Jimmy Snuka murder indictment story on Wednesday night by Todd Quinones of CBS 3 in Philadelphia. The station’s assignment editor told me it can’t put the video online because of the terms of use of the opening clip — Snuka doing his Superfly dive in a wrestling ring years ago — which is owned by WWE.

The CBS 3 piece includes my briefly noting that in 1992, Lehigh County coroner Wayne Snyder (who was deputy coroner at the time of Nancy Argentino’s death in 1983), told me that upon examining the body and talking to the forensic pathologist, “I immediately suspected foul play and so notified the district attorney.”

Reporter Quinones goes on to say that William Platt, then the D.A., has declined comment this week. Platt is now a senior state judge. He said he could not comment, as opposed to would not comment.

And it is possible that the code of judicial conduct in Pennsylvania specifically prohibits a judge from making a public statement in such a situation. It is likelier that Platt determined for himself that anything he says could be prejudicial to the parties of a case for third degree murder and involuntary manslaughter.

However, it is certain that, under subpoena, Judge Platt could be compelled to share his memories of the May-June 1983 non-prosecution of Jimmy Snuka.

***

I have already mentioned on Twitter, and here reemphasize, that there is a potentially important new evidentiary find in the story of how Snuka skated for 32 years. The find is by another journalist whose hard work I respect, and I don’t want to step on it. Stay tuned.

***

Charming rhetorician that I am, I’ve called Gerald Procanyn, now an investigator in the D.A.’s office, a liar. The correct measured term for this is “unreliable source.”

Especially for those readers just now jumping into this story, let’s unpack the laughable set of untruths Procanyn uncorked in our face-to-face interview in the spring of 1992. (A Whitehall Township detective on the Snuka-Argentino investigation in ‘83, Procanyn was chief of detectives nine years later. He never subsequently returned my messages in which I endeavored to query him about his serial unreliability, which was exposed within days, and in some cases, hours, via documents and other interviews.)

 

  • Procanyn recited Snuka’s account of Nancy falling on her own while peeing by the roadside on a stop on the drive into town.

That Procanyn would mention no other theories for what caused Nancy’s fatal traumatic brain injury could be written off to discretion.

What cannot be written off to discretion was Procanyn’s insistence that this was the one and only theory. As I wrote in my original article: “Procanyn said Snuka’s story never wavered, and no contradictory evidence was found.”

The detective said Snuka was credible, steadfast in his account, and consistent right down the line. Yet, on less than a tank of gas in Whitehall and Allentown, and with a reading of investigators’ reports, I encountered Snuka’s ramblings to the chaplain and nurses at Allentown Sacred Heart Medical Center, and to the police themselves, that Nancy was injured either at a roadside location (which, by the way, was never identified nor even sought) or in the room she and the wrestler shared at the George Washington Motor Lodge. The roadside location either had a stream some yards away, which Nancy jumped across, during which she tripped; or there was a guard rail right alongside the car, on which she struck the back of her head. In mix-and-match fashion, Snuka proceeded to scramble elements so that Nancy sometimes fell on her own and sometimes was pushed by him. And they were either engaged in a lovers’ quarrel, or horsing around, or neither.

Tim Blangger, then an Allentown Morning Call reporter, who was reporting the story when it broke, told me that Procanyn grabbed him by the shoulders that day and reenacted how the police believed Snuka shoved Nancy.

 

  • After the roadside fall, Snuka and Nancy thought nothing of it and proceeded to drive into town, check into the motel, and pick up takeout food. (Dazzling me with details here, Procanyn named the City View Diner.)

In his 2012 autobiography, Snuka said Nancy was knocked out cold, and he slapped her face to restore her to consciousness.

Whoever then drove his purple Lincoln Continental into greater Allentown is ambiguous. Nancy was supposed to be the driver at all times, as Snuka did not have a license.

 

  • The Argentino family had some correspondence with D.A. Platt regarding the settlement of Nancy’s bills from the hospital and for transporting her body to Brooklyn for the funeral. Otherwise, the family was never heard from again.

The Argentinos sent two different private investigators to Lehigh County. In 1985 they successfully sued Snuka, winning a $500,000 default judgment, in a wrongful-death civil action in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia. Documents in that case file, some of them contemporaneous local police records, would inform the Morning Call’s 2013 “cold case” article.

 

  • The incident a few months before Nancy’s death, at a Howard Johnson’s motel just outside Syracuse, was trifling, a misunderstanding. “It was just a nervous desk clerk,” Procanyn told me.

The Syracuse episode was widely and sensationally publicized at the time (indeed, much more so than Nancy’s death would be). Snuka pitched a fit because he couldn’t find his drugs, and he was blaming Nancy and/or the housekeeping staff for misplacing them or throwing them out.

Contemporaneous newspaper accounts had Snuka nude, raving, and out of control, and a terrified Nancy running down the hallway clad only in a bedsheet wrapped around her. Eight deputy sheriffs and a police dog were required to subdue and cuff Snuka. He would plead guilty to violent felony assault with intent to cause injury, and receive a conditional discharge on counts of third degree assault, harassment, and obstruction of a public official.