MARCH 28, 2008 – In the call to 911 just before the corpses of Chris Benoit and his wife and son were discovered last year, World Wrestling Entertainment’s chief of security twice stated the wrong day for the wrestler’s final cryptic text messages, an investigation by author Irvin Muchnick has revealed.
This finding raises new questions about the circumstances surrounding WWE’s Benoit tribute show, which aired on the USA cable network on Monday night, June 25, 2007. The company has defended the show by maintaining that it did not yet know that Chris Benoit had strangled his wife Nancy with a cord, snapped 7-year-old Daniel’s neck with a variation of his “Crippler Crossface” wrestling hold, and suspended himself by the throat from a basement gym weight-machine pulley.
The recording of the call to the Fayette County (Georgia) 911 Communications Center, obtained by Muchnick through a public records request, shows that at 1:16 p.m. Eastern time Monday, WWE’s Dennis Fagan requested a “welfare check” on the Benoit home. Benoit had missed WWE events in Beaumont, Texas, on Saturday night, and in Houston on Sunday night. After first missing his Saturday flight from Atlanta to Houston, he also failed to arrive on the Sunday morning flight that WWE officials scheduled for him, according to the company’s June 26, 2007, news release.
The WWE timeline further notes that in the early morning hours on Sunday, Benoit left a series of text messages for two other wrestlers highlighting his street address in Fayetteville.
But in the Monday call captured on the 911 audio, Fagan, a retired New York City Police Department detective who directs WWE security, gives a chronology that is off by 24 hours. He says, “At three o’clock this morning there was a message left for one of the other wrestlers. And basically it says, ‘The dogs are in the backyard. The back door is open. Goodbye.’ And that’s it.”
Author Muchnick said: “I have played the recording repeatedly to determine if Fagan spoke ambiguously or in confusion. The fair conclusion is that he did not. For example, if the theory is that he meant Sunday morning rather than Monday morning, because he had just been referring to Benoit’s failure to show up for the Sunday pay-per-view, that theory is dispelled by Fagan’s repetition of the error a few seconds later. In a completely neutral context. Fagan emphatically says a second time, ‘That message was left at three o’clock this morning …’”
The audio, lasting a little less than three minutes, can be heard at http://muchnick.net/Benoit911.mp3.
While Fagan’s misstatement is clear, Muchnick said, the reason for it is not. “I reached Fagan by phone yesterday [Thursday]. He immediately told me that he would have nothing to say about the matter and that I would have to talk about it with Rich Hering [WWE’s vice president for governmental relations].”
Muchnick added: “I hesitate to say Fagan lied to 911, because the possibility exists that he did not willfully tell an untruth. But in that case, other disturbing questions arise. If WWE executives did not get their own chief of security faithfully briefed on the facts prior to his being assigned to call 911, then what does that tell us about how urgent an effort they were making to get to the bottom of what had happened to the Benoit family over the weekend?
“Critics would speculate that WWE chairman Vince McMahon knew that the incident was a double homicide/suicide well before he went on the air at 8 p.m. Eastern time with the tribute to Benoit on Monday Night Raw. This new information that Fagan, seven hours earlier, had participated in the creation of an inaccurate record in his 911 call fuels those accusations.”
In an email to Muchnick, Gary Davis, WWE’s vice president of corporate communications, did not dispute the facts of this report. “I’m unsure of the point you’re trying to make,” Davis said.
Muchnick is author of Wrestling Babylon: Piledriving Tales of Drugs, Sex, Death, and Scandal. He is one of four co-authors of Benoit: Wrestling with the Horror That Destroyed a Family and Crippled a Sport, and is working on the forthcoming Chris and Nancy: The True Story of the Benoit Murder-Suicide and Pro Wrestling’s Cocktail of Death. All are published by ECW Press (http://ecwpress.com).