I turn with great reluctance to criticism of the investigation of the Chris Benoit double murder/suicide by the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office.
I respect law enforcement agencies and the difficult job they face day in and day out. We Monday morning quarterbacks have an advantage over the people charged with calling the audibles at the line of scrimmage on Sunday afternoon. Then, too, there’s the fact that the Benoit crime itself was open-and-shut, even though the surrounding narrative is less clear. Finally, the sheriff of a bedroom-community county with very little experience with a heinous crime of this nature was severely underresourced in comparison with the indomitable World Wrestling Entertainment propaganda machine.
Unfortunately, there are just too many vagaries in the sheriff’s report not to call attention to them at this point. I don’t expect the report to answer all the existential mysteries of why a man in Benoit’s position would go berserk. I do, however, think that the crime investigators had the burden of telling a reasonably coherent story of the events of June 22-24, 2007, and their aftermath, and that they’ve fallen short in significant respects. Benoit was a public figure and his family tragedy had public implications. Therefore, simply comforting the already comfortable at WWE — whether deliberately or accidentally — is not good enough.
In upcoming posts I’ll explore all the areas in which I’ve found the authorities’ account, so far, to be inadequate. Some have been mentioned before on the blog in passing; others, not yet at all.
But let’s start by once again reviewing the Chavo Guerrero/Scott James information. WWE contends that company executives didn’t know about Benoit’s final series of text messages to Guerrero and James — starting before 4 a.m. on Sunday, June 24 — until 12:30 p.m. on Monday, June 25. But does anyone really believe that Guerrero and James just sat on this information about their good friend (and a valued performer who was uncharacteristically no-showing important bookings) for more than a day? If not, who did they tell? And who did the people Guerrero and James told proceed to tell? And what was done as a result, both by individuals and by the corporation?
I’ve posed this set of questions to sheriff’s investigators in various ways (as I have to Guerrero and James themselves). The summary report released in February is silent on this. To date, the sheriff has not shared with me any further information or insights, or accepted my invitation to posit a theory.
A corollary issue concerns Scott James’ 9:26 a.m. Sunday text message to Benoit, “When do u land?”
In the wake of Benoit’s texts to him, which began four and a half hours earlier, it makes no sense at all for James to have been expecting Benoit to be on an Atlanta-to-Houston flight. (Let’s set aside for the moment that no evidence has surfaced, other than a vague claim in one version of the timeline, that Benoit ever was even booked on a Sunday morning flight.) Either James was hoping against hope that the worst hadn’t happened or … he was transmitting the 9:26 text for some other reason.
When I raised the James text in my conversation with Detective Ethon Harper on March 31, the detective said, “That is very interesting.” Nine days later Harper elaborated: “I was referring to the way you were interpreting the text. During our conversation, I felt you were trying to say the text was planned or planted by Scott under some type of direction from the WWE.”
In more recent emails, reinforced by voicemail, I have reiterated my desire to publish an official explanation of the James text, as well as the Guerrero-James 30-plus-hour notification gap.