Jimmy ‘Superfly’ Snuka testifies he can’t remember his mom’s name
ALLENTOWN, Pa. — Pro wrestler Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka testified at his mental competency hearing on Friday and often seemed confused as he was questioned by a judge who will decide whether he can stand trial on charges he killed his girlfriend in 1983.
Snuka, who turned 73 on Wednesday, said he was in his 80s. He didn’t know it was 2016. He couldn’t remember the name of his lawyer or identify the current U.S. president or any presidential candidates. And he seemed befuddled about the reason he was in court.
The former WWE star was far more sure-footed when he talked about his long career in the ring, describing his signature move, the Superfly Splash ("I said a prayer, climbed to the top of the cage and `Super flied’ off"), and he told Lehigh County Judge Kelly Banach that he had suffered multiple concussions.
"They always say it’s fake, but, to me, I don’t think so," Snuka said.
The wrestler did, however, allow that "promoters run the show" and pre-determine the outcome of the matches.
Banach, who questioned Snuka for more than an hour Friday afternoon, must determine whether he will be tried on murder and involuntary manslaughter charges in the death of Nancy Argentino of New York. He has pleaded not guilty.
The hearing eventually was adjourned until June. It is expected to last one more day.
The defense contends Snuka is unfit to stand trial, partly because of the head trauma he suffered over a long career in the ring. A psychologist testified for the defense last week that Snuka suffers from dementia and that his mental condition is deteriorating. But a psychiatrist hired by prosecutors said Snuka’s brain shows normal signs of aging and suggested he might be faking symptoms.
As Snuka underwent gentle questioning from the judge Friday, he often called her "dear" and "hon" as he seemingly struggled to answer basic questions.
Snuka initially told Banach he didn’t know why he was arrested last year. Pressed to describe what it is that prosecutors said he did, Snuka replied, "Going back to Nancy."
The wrester, a Fiji native who lives in New Jersey, had been at a World Wrestling Federation taping at the Allentown Fairgrounds in May 1983, and told police shortly after Argentino’s death that he had returned to their Whitehall Township hotel room to find her unresponsive in bed. She was pronounced dead at a hospital several hours later.
An autopsy determined she died of traumatic brain injuries and had more than three dozen cuts and bruises, and it concluded her injuries were consistent with being hit with a stationary object. But the district attorney declined to press charges, and Snuka continued his high-profile pro wrestling career.
Prosecutors reopened the investigation after a 2013 report in The Morning Call newspaper raised questions about the case. He was charged in September.
His attorney has called Argentino’s death an "unfortunate accident."
Snuka, who was wrestling professionally as recently as last year before a stomach cancer diagnosis and other ailments laid him low, talked extensively Friday about his long career.
He claimed he’d gotten kicked in the head while wrestling and had his head rammed into wrestling rings’ poles — for real — but that he never complained because "maybe the next time, when we meet again, then it’s my turn to kick him."
At one point, as Banach probed whether Snuka was capable of assisting in his own defense, she asked him whether he would jump off the top of a building if his lawyer told him to.
"I have done it," quipped the high-flying star known for diving from the ropes.