James Reiher Snuka (born James Wiley Smith; May 18, 1943 – January 15, 2017) was a Fijian American professional wrestler. He is better known by the ring name Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka.
Snuka wrestled for several promotions from the 1970s to 2010s. He was best known for his time in the World Wrestling Federation (WWF, now WWE) in the 1980s and was credited with introducing the high-flying style of wrestling to the WWF. He was inducted into the WWF Hall of Fame in 1996. Snuka was the inaugural ECW World Heavyweight Champion (a title he held twice) in Eastern Championship Wrestling (later Extreme Championship Wrestling). His children, Sim Snuka and Tamina Snuka are both professional wrestlers.
Snuka was indicted and arrested in September 2015 on third-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter charges, in relation to the May 1983 death of his girlfriend, Nancy Argentino. Snuka pleaded not guilty, but was ultimately found unfit to stand trial in June 2016 due to being diagnosed with dementia. As his health declined, the charges were dismissed on January 3, 2017. Snuka died twelve days later at the age of 73.
Death of Nancy Argentino
On May 10, 1983, a few hours after defeating José Estrada at a WWF TV taping at the Lehigh County Agricultural Hall in Allentown, Pennsylvania, Snuka placed a call for an ambulance. When emergency personnel arrived at his room at the George Washington Motor Lodge, they found that his girlfriend, Nancy Argentino, had been injured. She was transported to Allentown's Sacred Heart Medical Center, where she died shortly after of "undetermined craniocerebral injuries."
The coroner's report stated that Argentino, 23, died of traumatic brain injuries consistent with a moving head striking a stationary object. Autopsy findings show Argentino suffered more than two dozen cuts and bruises – a possible sign of serious domestic abuse – on her head, ear, chin, arms, hands, back, buttocks, legs, and feet. Forensic pathologist Isidore Mihalakis, who performed the autopsy, wrote at the time that the case should be investigated as a homicide until proven otherwise. Deputy Lehigh County coroner Wayne Snyder later said, "Upon viewing the body and speaking to the pathologist, I immediately suspected foul play and so notified the district attorney."
Snuka was the only suspect involved in the subsequent investigation. Although charges were not pressed at the time against Snuka, the case was left officially open. In 1985, Argentino's parents won a $500,000 default judgment against Snuka in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia. Snuka appears not to have ever paid, claiming financial inability. On June 28, 2013, Lehigh County District Attorney Jim Martin announced that the still-open case would be reviewed by his staff. On January 28, 2014, Martin announced that the case had been turned over to a grand jury.
On September 1, 2015, 32 years after the incident, Snuka was arrested and charged with third-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter for Argentino's death. It is the oldest case to result in charges in Lehigh County's history. On October 7, 2015, Snuka's lawyers agreed to forego a preliminary hearing, which the prosecution contended was a waste of court resources, given the thorough grand jury investigation. In return, they received transcripts and other evidence from that investigation, which defense attorney Robert J. Kirwan II said would be much more helpful in preparing Snuka's case than a hearing would have been.
On November 2, 2015, Snuka pleaded not guilty before Judge Kelly Banach. A hearing to determine Snuka's competency for trial began in May 2016. Snuka's attorneys argued that a forensic psychologist found Snuka's mental and physical health to be deteriorating. Prosecutors countered by showing a tape of Snuka performing wrestling moves at a May 2015 match. On June 1, 2016, Judge Banach ruled that Snuka was not mentally competent to stand trial for the murder and that a new hearing would be held six months later to re-evaluate his competency, though his attorneys maintained that his condition wouldn't improve over time. Judge Kelly Banach dismissed the charges on January 3, 2017, deeming Snuka not mentally fit to stand trial.