“I don’t believe he’s faking it. I don’t think he’s smart enough to fake it,” Banach said, per the Allentown Morning Call, adding that Snuka was not mentally fit to assist in his own defense over an incident that happened decades ago.
With the ruling, Snuka’s case has been stayed for at least six months. Snuka will return to the courtroom Dec. 2 for a review, and “that cycle could repeat indefinitely, until Snuka’s condition improves or prosecutors drop the charges,” the Morning Call writes.
Banach heard testimony from expert witnesses, lawyers and Snuka himself over the four-day hearing. One of the experts, a forensic psychologist named Frank Dattilio, found that Snuka suffers from severe dementia and wasn’t even aware that he’d been charged with murder, claims that were backed up with examples provided by Snuka’s wife, Carole. Prosecutors countered that Snuka was faking his dementia, and a forensic psychiatrist testifying for the prosecution claimed the wrestler never suffered a concussion during his 40-year career. But Snuka’s attorney pointed to the wrestler’s signature move — the “Superfly Splash” — as an example of how easily he could have suffered numerous head injuries over his career.
“You do that over and over again … you’re going to get your bell rung a few times,” attorney Robert Kirwan said, per the Morning Call.
Snuka was arrested on murder and manslaughter charges last year after the Morning Call unearthed previously unseen autopsy records in the May 1983 death of 23-year-old Nancy Argentino. Snuka, then at the height of his fame, claimed he returned from a wrestling event at the Allentown Fairgrounds and found Argentino struggling to breathe in their hotel room, but the autopsy found she died of traumatic brain injuries after suffering more than two dozen cuts and bruises on her head, ear, chin, arms, hands, back, buttocks, legs and feet, injuries consistent with being hit by a stationary object.
Snuka first told police that he had shoved Argentino earlier that day, which caused her to tumble and hit her head. But he later changed his story, telling police that Argentino had slipped and hit her head while the two stopped to go to the bathroom on the side of a highway. Snuka was labeled as a person of interest by the Whitehall Township Police Department but no criminal charges were filed even though the autopsy report said the case should have been investigated as a homicide. Argentino’s family members won a $500,000 wrongful-death lawsuit against Snuka in 1985, though he never paid them, claiming poverty.