JUSTICE DENIED: The Untold Story of Nancy Argentino’s Death in Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka’s Motel Room includes never-before-published photos and documents. It can be purchased for $2.99 at http://amzn.com/B00CPTP6VM. Readers without Amazon Kindle-compatible devices can get a PDF file copy by sending $2.99, via PayPal, to [email protected]. All proceeds benefit the My Sister’s Place women’s shelter and resource center in White Plains, New York.
by Irvin Muchnick
One way to look at the kind-of-sort-of-reopened case of Nancy Argentino’s 1983 death in Room 427 of the George Washington Motor Lodge in Whitehall, Pennsylvania, which she was sharing with her boyfriend Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka, is that Lehigh County district attorney James Martin will be studying anew whether Snuka got away with murder.
But as a lawyer would say, that “assumes facts not in evidence.” I, myself, am not a lawyer; I am a journalist. As such, my goal is to clean up the first, second, and third drafts of history. However hard it was to state with certainty that Snuka should have been indicted 30 years ago for, at minimum, involuntary manslaughter, it might be harder still today. But that is not why I do what I do. What I do is make the record show that Jimmy Snuka made an ass of himself in trying to explain what happened to Argentino. Let the record further show that Lehigh County law enforcement made asses of themselves trying to explain why they didn’t make a case against Snuka.
Martin has told Nancy’s surviving sisters that he and his chief deputy, Charles Gallagher, are taking a “fresh look” at the file. That’s good. But former Whitehall detective, now Lehigh County DA investigator, Gerry Procanyn, has not been disqualified from the process. That’s bad. Below, I’ll again explain why.
The Allentown Morning Call and its reporters Adam Clark and Kevin Amerman did a terrific job reviving this cold case with a Sunday front-page package last month. What concerns me now, however, is that the Call is finished rocking the boat in this matter. Local sources tell me that the paper is likely not to write any further about the discrepancies of the original Snuka investigation, but simply to report the outcome of the Martin-Gallagher-Procanyn “fresh look.”
In that event, something like the following will surely ensue: The DA’s office will announce it has found nothing new; Clark and Amerman will duly transcribe the statement; and their bosses will send the story off for nomination for a regional press award they will not deserve.
I hasten to add that the reason they would not deserve an award is not that they would have failed to secure a Snuka indictment — which was in 1983, and remains in 2013, a matter of prosecutorial discretion.
The reason the Morning Call will have fallen short, in my estimation, is that it has failed to press crucial information about Procanyn that is still not known by its readers. Clark and Amerman have quoted Martin as calling my criticisms of Procanyn “unfounded.” But they have yet to report what the most important of those criticisms is.
[CORRECTION: I was mistaken in stating that the Call has quoted Martin on my criticisms of Procanyn — but the correction makes the newspaper look even worse. See the August 1 P.S. post, https://concussioninc.net/?p=7942.]
So, once more unto the breach.
In 1992 I made a reporting trip to the Allentown area for the Village Voice, for which the Snuka-Argentino mystery was part of my assignment. The first official I interviewed there, then-coroner Wayne Snyder, reacted with immediate excitement when he learned of my mission. The quote crafted for publication was “I immediately suspected foul play and so notified the district attorney.” But it was Snyder’s music, his body language, as much as his words, that grabbed me. Snyder said he spent time watching Snuka wrestle on television for the then-WWF and figured out the move he’d probably used on Argentino. That was far-fetched: if Nancy did die as a result of an altercation, the fatal act was not an exotic wrestling maneuver but a prosaic shove. But my point is, Snyder was engaged.
Procanyn was a different story. I was fully prepared for the detective to elaborate all the problems the police and the DA might have encountered in pushing a circumstantial case surrounding an incident only one living person saw. I was not prepared for the gratuitous shovels of horse manure Procanyn directed at me. He said Snuka was a sympathetic, credible, consistent witness. Subsequent investigation established that this simply was not so. The Superfly was and is a carny; and on June 11, 1983, as I like to put it, he told between three and a half and five versions of how Argentino fell and hit her head.
Add to that the other marks on Nancy’s body, indicative of battering, and the lazy Whitehall police investigation — they didn’t even drive Snuka around to try to identify where he said his girlfriend fell by the roadside — and the stench became Danish, along with equine.
Yet the Allentown Morning Call, for all its exceptional digging to find the Argentino autopsy and the Snuka police interrogation, has not gotten around to reporting my allegation that Procanyn lied to me 21 years ago. I don’t know why.
In a polite email exchange today, Call editor David Erdman said, “We will continue to follow the story, of course, and write as developments happen – either news developments or aspects we develop independently in our reporting.”
In my own view, independence is very important. And so is omission.