Professional wrestler Chris Benoit strangled his wife, suffocated his 7-year-old son and placed a Bible next to their bodies before hanging himself with a weight-machine pulley, authorities said.
Investigators found anabolic steroids in the house and want to know whether the World Wrestling Entertainment muscle man nicknamed "The Canadian Crippler" was unhinged by the bodybuilding drugs, which can cause paranoia, depression and explosive outbursts known as "roid rage."
Authorities offered no motive for the killings, which were spread out over a weekend, and would not discuss Benoit's state of mind. No suicide note was found.
"In a community like this it's bizarre to have a murder-suicide, especially involving the death of a 7-year-old," District Attorney Scott Ballard said Tuesday. "I don't think we'll ever be able to wrap our minds around this."
The Montreal-born Benoit was one of the stars of the WWE wrestling circuit and was known for his wholesome family-man image. His wife, Nancy, was a wrestling stage manager who worked under the name "Woman." They married in 2000.
When he won the world heavyweight championship in 2004, Benoit (pronounced ben-WAH) hoisted the belt over his head and invited his wife and child into the ring to celebrate. Asked by the Calgary Sun that year to name his worst vice: Benoit replied: "Quality time with my family is a big vice. It's something I'll fight for and crave."
Despite those appearances, Nancy Benoit had filed for a divorce in 2003, saying the couple's three-year marriage was irrevocably broken and alleging "cruel treatment." She later dropped the complaint, as well as a request for a restraining order in which she charged that the 5-foot-10 (1.78-meter), 220-pound (100-kilogram) Benoit had threatened her and had broken furniture in their home.
In the divorce filing, she said Benoit made more than $500,000 (EUR 371,500) a year as a professional wrestler and asked for permanent custody of Daniel and child support. In response, Benoit sought joint custody.
The bodies were found Monday afternoon in the house, off a gravel road in this suburb about 20 miles (32 kilometers) south of Atlanta.
Benoit's 43-year-old wife was killed Friday in an upstairs family room, her feet and wrists were bound and there was blood under her head, indicating a possible struggle, Ballard said. Daniel was probably killed late Saturday or early Sunday, the body found in his bed, the district attorney said.
Benoit, 40, apparently hanged himself several hours up to as long as a day later, Ballard said. His body was found in a downstairs weight room hanging from the pulley of a piece of exercise equipment.
A closed Bible was placed next to the bodies of the wife and son, authorities said.
The prosecutor said he found it "bizarre" that the wrestler spread out the killings over a weekend and appeared to remain in the house for up to a day with the bodies.
Ballard said Benoit had sent two text messages to acquaintances, one saying that his wife and son were sick. The other, to a neighbor, said the door to the house was open and that the pets were outside. The prosecutor said the messages appeared to be an attempt to get someone to the home to find the bodies after his suicide.
The boy had old needle marks in his arms, Ballard said. He said he had been told the parents considered him undersized and had given him growth hormones.
"The boy was very small, even dwarfed," Ballard said.
Toxicology test results may not be available for weeks or even months, Ballard said. As for whether steroids played a role in the crime, he said: "We don't know yet. That's one of the things we'll be looking at."
Benoit received drug deliveries from a Florida business that sold steroids, human growth hormone and testosterone on the Internet, according to the Albany County, New York, District Attorney's Office, which is investigating the business, MedXLife.com.
Six people, including two of the pharmacy's owners, have pleaded guilty in the Albany investigation, and 20 more have been arrested, including doctors and pharmacists.
Steroids have been linked to the deaths of several professional wrestlers in recent years. Eddie Guerrero, one of Benoit's best friends, died in 2005 from heart failure linked to long-term steroid use.
The father of Curt "Mr. Perfect" Hennig blamed steroids and painkillers for Hennig's drug overdose death in 2003. Davey Boy Smith, the "British Bulldog," died in 2002 from heart failure that a coroner said was probably caused by steroids.
The WWE, based in Stamford, Connecticut, issued a statement Tuesday evening saying steroids "were not and could not be related to the cause of death."
"The physical findings announced by authorities indicate deliberation, not rage," the company said, adding that Benoit tested negative April 10, the last time he was tested for drugs.
Benoit was a quiet, roughhewn figure amid the glitz and bluster of pro wrestling. He performed under his real name, eschewed scripted personas and did not bother to fix a gap where he had lost one of his front teeth. (According to the WWE Web site, he lost the tooth while roughhousing with his pet Rottweiler.)
His signature move was the "Crippler Crossface," in which he would lock his hands around an opponent's face and stretch his neck.
"You always rooted for him, because he was a good guy and he overcame the odds," said Dave Meltzer, editor of the Wrestling Observer, a weekly news letter. "It's like if you watched `Rocky,' and in the end it comes out that Rocky killed his wife and his son."
Benoit met his wife in the 1990s when she was married to rival wrestler Kevin Sullivan. As part of the scripted rivalry, Benoit and Nancy were supposed to act as if they were having an affair. A real romance blossomed, and she left Sullivan for Benoit.
Jimmy Baswell, who was Benoit's driver for more than five years, placed a white wreath at their gate. "They always seemed like they were the happiest people," he said.
World Wrestling Entertainment said on its Web site that it asked authorities to check on Benoit and his family after being alerted by friends who had received "several curious text messages sent by Benoit early Sunday morning."
"He was like a family member to me, and everyone in my family is taking it real hard," said fellow Canadian Bret Hart, a five-time champion.
The WWE canceled its live "Monday Night RAW" card in Corpus Christi, Texas, after the bodies were discovered.