The One and Only Law Enforcement Voice in VICE TV’s ‘Dark Side of the Ring’ Episode on the Jimmy ‘Superfly’ Snuka Murder Case Was a Local Police Chief Who Got Fired the Year I Broke the Story

Muchnick Discusses Jimmy ‘Superfly’ Snuka Murder Case on ‘Hannibal TV’
April 22, 2020
How Jimmy Snuka Got Away With Murder. How the Allentown Morning Call Helped Cover Up the Historical and Ongoing Corruption in Lehigh County Criminal Justice. Here’s the Story VICE TV’s ‘Dark Side of the Ring’ Was Afraid to Tell.
April 26, 2020

PREVIOUSLY:

“Time For a Deep Dive Into the VICE TV / ‘Dark Side of the Ring After Dark’ Censorship of My ‘Live-to-Tape’ Interview About the Ongoing Jimmy ‘Superfly’ Snuka Murder Cover-Up in Lehigh County, Pennsylvania,” https://concussioninc.net/?p=14399

“Muchnick on Irish Podcast ‘Off the Ball’ Pro Wrestling Edition, Discussing Jimmy ‘Superfly’ Snuka’s Murder of Nancy Argentino and Other Topics,” https://concussioninc.net/?p=14403

“VICE TV’s ‘Dark Side of the Ring’ Producers: We’re Not Responsible For the Train Wreck That Was VICE TV’s ‘Dark Side of the Ring After Dark’ on the Jimmy Snuka Murder Case,” https://concussioninc.net/?p=14410

“What to Make of the Intriguing Testimony of Sam (Tonga Kid) Fatu in the ‘Dark Side of the Ring’ Episode on the Jimmy ‘Superfly’ Snuka Murder of Nancy Argentino?”, concussioninc.net/?p=14417

“Muchnick Discusses Jimmy ‘Superfly’ Snuka Murder Case on ‘Hannibal TV’,” https://concussioninc.net/?p=14437

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by Irvin Muchnick

Frederic Conjour — a retired local police department chief who was the only cop or prosecutor on camera in the April 14 Dark Side of the Ring episode purporting to uncover the truth behind the 1983 death of Nancy Argentino in Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka’s hotel room — got fired from the force in January 1992.

This was just months before, during my seminal reporting trip to the Allentown, Pennsylvania, area, a detective who had been working under Conjour, Gerald Procanyn, lied materially and repeatedly about core aspects of the long-”open” Snuka investigation, casting serious suspicion that the whole scenario amounted to a cover-up of Argentino’s murder.

On January 18, 1992, the Allentown Morning Call reported that the newly elected executive of Whitehall Township dismissed Conjour after 12 years as chief of police. According to the newspaper, executive Elizabeth Buchmiller said the department under Conjour was inefficiently run and suffered from low morale. Additionally, the chief was accused of favoritism in handing out duty assignments.

A public controversy had erupted in 1988 over the failure of Conjour and his wife to pay local garbage collection taxes. From that year through 1990, they were delinquent in paying county, school, and township taxes.

Throughout the same period, the Morning Call wrote, seven township police officers characterized the department as “in disarray because of manpower shortages, inadequate equipment, community growth, and poor organization.”

In a case ultimately settled in 1994 in U.S. District Court, Conjour sued the township for wrongful termination. His attorney of record is listed as “William H. Platt II.” This is likely the son of William H. Platt, the Lehigh County district attorney who had passed on prosecuting Snuka for murder in 1983. The senior Platt went on to become a senior judge in Pennsylvania Superior Court before retiring in 2018.

In an interview on the Dark Side of the Ring documentary about Snuka, Conjour defended the work of local law enforcement and argued that the wrestler’s multiple 1983 versions of how his girlfriend Argentino had been fatally injured would have been of no significance in a decision over whether to arrest and prosecute him at the time.

In a potential blockbuster revelation, Conjour also acknowledged the possibility of another passenger in the car with Snuka and Argentino, Sam Fatu, who told DSOTR that there was no stop by the roadside in the drive into town for the woman to relieve herself. According to one of Snuka’s multiple accounts, Argentino slipped and hit her head during such a stop, and that was when she sustained the head injury from which she died. In his other versions, Snuka said his girlfriend had been hurt during “horseplay,” a “lovers’ quarrel,” or other forms of physical confrontation at variously cited locations.

There is no record of the Whitehall police ever attempting to locate the spot where Argentino was purported to have slipped on the roadside. Further, her clothing showed no traces of dirt or bramble. But her body did show marks throughout that were consistent with mate abuse, according to the forensic pathologist’s report.

During my 1992 Allentown reporting trip — the basis of an article published online that became a chapter of my 2007 book Wrestling Babylon — the coroner of Lehigh County, Wayne Snyder, who had been deputy coroner in 1983, told me, “Upon viewing the body and speaking to the pathologist, I immediately suspected foul play and so notified the district attorney.”

On an interview for the Grilling JR podcast of Conrad Thompson, the day after the DSOTR Snuka episode, executive producers Jason Eisener and Evan Husney said they had been frustrated by their inability to land interviews with other Lehigh County law enforcement figures involved in the original and ongoing Snuka investigations.

But forget about having them on camera: the show didn’t even name Detective Procanyn, the Whitehall police teller of untruths in 1992; Platt, the district attorney who had controversially decided not to prosecute Snuka; or James Martin, an assistant under Platt in 1983 who became his long-time (and still in office) successor as DA.

To podcaster Thompson, the DSOTR producers defended Conjour, whose appearance on the documentary was widely criticized for being unreliable and whose on-camera demeanor was described as evasive. Eisener explained that Conjour was just doing his best with a bad hand; the ex-chief was “in a difficult position, defending things that happened and memories of people from 30 years ago.”

The plain truth is that Snuka case has nothing to do with “defending memories.” It has to do with an ugly body of compelling, if  circumstantial, homicide evidence, which the cops and prosecutors willfully ignored, spun, and set aside during the original investigation and for decades afterward.

The other DSOTR producer, Husney, credited Conjour with having later gone on to “help form” the Transportation Security Administration after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. It is not clear what Husney was referring to. He did not respond to my email asking him to elaborate on Conjour’s career; to clarify whether DSOTR knew Conjour had been fired by Whitehall Township prior to putting him on camera (and, if so, why such fundamental information wasn’t shared with viewers); and to answer other questions about the documentary’s serious shortcomings as a work of journalism.

Dark Side of the Ring interviewed me for the Snuka episode but used none of the footage in which I discussed the original journalistic investigation that would focus scrutiny on the local law enforcement authorities.

Thirty-two years after the incident, Snuka was indicted for third-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter. A year and a half after that, a Pennsylvania judge dismissed the charges on the grounds that Snuka, by then 73 and perhaps suffering from cumulative brain damage sustained during his wrestling career, was mentally incompetent. Twelve days later, on January 15, 2017, Snuka died of stomach cancer.

After the VICE TV documentary aired, with all my key information left on the cutting-room floor, the network booked me for an after-show called Dark Side of the Ring After Dark. The producers of After Dark represented the program to me as a “live to tape” production, but the broadcast wound up censoring almost everything I said — about Snuka’s overwhelmingly likely guilt, and about the Allentown Morning Call-enabled cover-up of the corrupt actions of the Whitehall police and the Lehigh County district attorney’s office.

On their podcast interview, Jason Eisener and Evan Husney disavowed After Dark. Husney said the after-show was produced by a separate company.

In the wake of the controversy, After Dark appears to have been canceled. There was no after-show following this week’s episode of the documentary series, and there is no future listing of it in the next several weeks of VICE TV’s published program schedule.

WRESTLING BABYLON: Piledriving Tales of Drugs, Sex, Death, and Scandal(ECW Press, 2007)

JUSTICE DENIED: The Untold Story of Nancy Argentino’s Death in Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka’s Motel Room(ebook, 2013)

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