FAYETTEVILLE, Ga. (AP) - Pro wrestler Chris Benoit strangled his wife and smothered his son before hanging himself in his weight room, a law enforcement official close to the investigation told The Associated Press on Tuesday.
Authorities also said they are investigating whether steroids may have been a factor in the deaths of Benoit, his wife and their 7-year-old son. Steroid abuse has been linked to depression, paranoia, and aggressive behavior or angry outbursts known as "roid rage."
"We don't know yet. That's one of the things we'll be looking at," said Fayette County District Attorney Scott Ballard. He said test results may not be back for weeks.
Autopsies were scheduled Tuesday by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.
Authorities were investigating the deaths at a secluded Fayette County home as a murder-suicide and were not seeking any suspects. The official who described the manner of death spoke on the condition of anonymity because the information was to be released at a news conference later Tuesday.
Chris Benoit, his wife and son were found dead on Monday in their Georgia home. ( / Associated Press)
Investigators believe Benoit (pronounced ben-WAH) killed his wife, 43-year-old Nancy, and son Daniel during the weekend and then himself Monday. The bodies were found Monday afternoon in three separate rooms of the house, off a gravel road about two miles from the Whitewater Country Club.
Nancy Benoit filed for a divorce in May 2003, saying their three-year union was irrevocably broken and alleging "cruel treatment." But she later dropped the complaint, as well as a request for a restraining order in which she charged that Benoit had threatened her and had broken furniture in their home.
In the divorce filing, she said Benoit made more than $500,000 a year as a professional wrestler and asked for permanent custody of Daniel and child support. In his response, Benoit sought joint custody.
Fayette County Coroner C.J. Mowell did not return calls seeking comment. The answering service for his funeral home said he was out of town.
Asked about the condition of the interior of the house, sheriff's Sgt. Keith Whiteside said investigators found "nothing really out of the ordinary." He said Benoit was found in the home's weight room, his wife in an office and the son in an upstairs bedroom.
Neighbors said the Benoits led a low-key lifestyle.
"We would see Chris walking in his yard from time to time. He wasn't rude, but he wasn't really outwardly warm," said Alaina Jones, who lives across the street.
Jimmy Baswell, who was Benoit's driver for more than five years, placed a white wreath at the Benoits' 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 received "several curious text messages sent by Benoit early Sunday morning."
The WWE, based in Stamford, Conn., said authorities asked that it not release further information on the deaths.
Benoit, born in Montreal, was a former world heavyweight champion, Intercontinental champion and held several tag-team titles. His names in the ring included "The Canadian Crippler."
"WWE extends its sincerest thoughts and prayers to the Benoit family's relatives and loved ones in this time of tragedy," the company said in a statement on its Web site.
"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 with the World Wrestling Federation. The federation has since changed its name to World Wrestling Entertainment.
Benoit had maintained a home in metro Atlanta from the time he wrestled for the defunct World Championship Wrestling. The Fayette County Tax Assessors Office lists the value of the house, situated on more than 8.5 acres, at nearly $900,000.
The WWE canceled its live "Monday Night RAW" card in Corpus Christi, Texas, and USA Network aired a three-hour tribute to Benoit in place of the scheduled wrestling telecast.
Benoit's wife managed several wrestlers and went by the stage name "Woman." They met when her then-husband drew up a script that had them involved in a relationship as part of a story line on World Championship Wrestling, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
Benoit has two other children from a prior relationship.