The essay below, by the sisters of Nancy Argentino the companion of Jimmy Snuka who died mysteriously in their motel room more than 30 years ago was submitted to the op-ed page of the Allentown Morning Call last September, and was accepted in October. Louise and Lorraine pulled the piece this week and offered it to the Wrestling Observer Newsletter website after Morning Call opinion page editor Bob Orenstein and editor-in-chief David Erdman continued to refuse to give them a publication date. As I have reported, the term of the grand jury reviewing the homicide investigation in the Snuka-Argentino case has been extended until July. Irv Muchnick
After 32 Years, Justice in Our Sisters Death Has Larger Meaning
by Louise Argentino-Upham and Lorraine Salome
The headlines roil with stories of domestic violence by National Football League players. The topic resonates for our family as we approach 32 years since our attractive and kind sister Nancy Argentino, 23, died from a mysterious traumatic brain injury while in the Whitehall motel room of her boyfriend Jimmy Superfly Snuka, who was in town for a television taping of the then World Wrestling Federation (now WWE).
Lehigh County District Attorney James Martin has folded a reexamination of the 1983 homicide investigation in Nancys death into the work of the Seventh Investigating Grand Jury. Though another holiday season has passed with only our memories of Nancy, there is reason for hope.
The D.A.s decision followed the superb investigative work of the Morning Calls Adam Clark and Kevin Amerman, whose cold case package appeared on the front page shortly after the 30th anniversary of the May 1983 incident.
In important ways, our family already has won our three-decade quest for justice. Only a small minority of interested observers still believe that Nancy who had worked for several years as a dentists assistant and believed she was in a monogamous relationship with was a groupie. She is now regarded, accurately, as a sweet girl who made a tragic mistake in her choice of men, and paid for it with her life. Generally speaking, the public today understands a little better the dysfunctional dynamic of domestic violence and is somewhat less apt to re-victimize the victim.
Even if Jimmy Snuka is never indicted for striking Nancy in the head perhaps accidentally or more forcefully than he intended or for causing a fall that forced her head to strike hard on the wall, furniture or floor of the Whitehall motel room, he bears accountability in the legacy of his WWE Hall of Fame career. There are reports that Snuka, now 71, rarely shows his face outside his New Jersey home since the 2013 reports by the Morning Call, his hometown South Jersey Courier-Post, and author Irvin Muchnick.
Our parents were so shocked at the time of Nancy’s death. This shock, combined with their attorney not wanting to go up against the WWF’s lead wrestler or search for the evidence and bring Snuka to trial, resulted in our parents filing a civil wrongful death suit. In 1985 they won the case, resulting in a $500,000 default judgment in our familys favor in U.S. District Court. Thus far, Snuka has successfully avoided paying a dime to our parents but he cant hide from the truth.
The statute of limitations long ago expired for involuntary manslaughter, perhaps the likeliest possible count on the basis of the deteriorated physical evidence. But responsible reexamination of the admittedly circumstantial Snuka file still serves a civic purpose. It shows the public that celebrities and moneyed interests are not above the law. And it corrects shameful lapses by the district attorney and police in 1983.
In our view, just as important as the grand jurys bottom line true bill or no true bill on a Snuka indictment will be the accompanying narrative. Why did Whitehall detective Gerald Procanyn (now an investigator for the district attorney) tell writer Muchnick that Snuka told a single consistent story about Nancys injury? The record clearly shows he told many contradictory versions.
And why did the police drive the 100 miles from eastern Pennsylvania to our familys home in Brooklyn, for the purpose of pushing an innocent theory of Nancys death yet didn’t go to the trouble of driving Snuka around to locate the roadside spot where he maintained Nancy had slipped and fallen on her own?
Finally, in Snukas own autobiography, published in 2012, he goes out of his way to describe a curious detail of the climactic meeting between Vince McMahon, the wrestling company owner, and then D.A. William Platt and other police and prosecutors: All I remember is he had a briefcase with him.
This tardy probe cant bring Nancy back to us. It wont necessarily even make Snuka pay, beyond his guilty conscience, for what our winning wrongful death suit alleged he did to her. What the Seventh Investigating Grand Jury can and should do is render the verdict of history.