June 25, 2007, will forever be remembered as the day the legend of Chris Benoit came to an abrupt, violent and psychotic end: The pro wrestler beloved by millions was found dead in his home, along with the bodies of his wife, Nancy, and their 7-year-old son, Daniel. He was scheduled to appear on the WWE Vengeance pay-per-view on June 24, where he was to fight CM Punk for the vacant ECW World Championship; he no-showed the event and sent cryptic texts to friends within the company. Police were called, and the Benoit family was discovered dead on June 25.
It’s been nine years since this horrific tragedy, and while some people have been able to compartmentalize their feelings for Chris Benoit The Murderer in order to better enjoy Chris Benoit The Pro Wrestler, many more still have trouble separating the two. Chris Jericho, a longtime friend of Benoit’s, recently welcomed Sandra Toffoloni, the younger sister of Nancy Benoit, onto his Talk Is Jericho podcast for her first major interview since the double-murder/suicide, and she worked through her feelings over the course of a powerful, emotional 90-minute interview.
In it, Toffoloni, who frequently stayed with the Benoits and was very involved with raising Daniel, discusses the restraining order Nancy had put on Chris two years before her death and the ongoing struggles of their marriage, as well as revealing that Nancy had already planned Chris’ post-retirement career: they were to open a wrestling school in Atlanta called Benoit Academy, even going so far as to have T-shirts made. “She was ready for the next move, and I don’t think that he was, in his mind, physically or emotionally — he was just really scared, so a lot of that boiled over into their personal life,” Toffoloni told Jericho.
Toffoloni spoke of Benoit’s “state of perpetual bereavement” following a slew of deaths of people close to him, including Mike “Johnny Grunge” Durham, Victor “Black Cat” Mar, Ray “Big Boss Man” Traylor, Sherri Martel and his best friend, Eddie Guerrero. “He always had this look in his eye that it wasn’t so much of ‘Who’s next?’ as it was ‘Am I next?'” she recalled, describing “a lot of self-medicating going on in that house … really, really next-level,” saying it was a “huge contributing factor to what happened.”
She says she is “certain” concussions played a role in Benoit’s murderous weekend, but she thinks there is more to it than that:
“It’s upsetting because the big push for ‘concussion, concussion, this is why he did it because the Chris Benoit we know could never have done this—they want to put it on something so they don’t have to blame Chris anymore. But it was a combination of a lot of things. It was just a huge boulder of weight from loss and grief, it was a ton of medication altering his body chemistry and brain chemistry, and possibly, yes, a little bit of brain issue from hitting his head over and over and over. Would it drive someone to murder? I don’t know. I can’t say definitively yes that’s what did it.
“I know there were issues in the house he was having with himself struggling inside with things that are privy to he and I that I wouldn’t put on blast for anyone to know, but that coupled with the facts of what I know from being there immediately after that weekend and seeing everything, it wasn’t the act of someone with brain damage. It’s impossible. I understand the necessity to want to put it on something and say, ‘this is why he did it,’ because the daily pain of living with not knowing why and not knowing what happened is crippling, for lack of a better term.”
Toffoloni goes on to rebuke the idea of Benoit killing his family in a “moment of rage,” commenting:
“What a lot of people didn’t get to see is how much he and my sister loved one another. If there was a moment of rage on Friday night — and to be clear, it was serious rage. He brutalized my sister. It wasn’t just like, ‘Maybe I hit her too hard and she hit her head.’ He murdered her. Brutally. But when I try to talk about my nephew, it’s difficult, because I don’t understand it. You think about a murdered child and it’s the worst thing ever. But when you think about that murdered child as the one thing you love in life more than anything, because I did, and my sister did, and he did, it’s very hard for me to think about what was going on in his head and in his heart to do that. He knew for a fact that had anything ever happened to he or Nancy, I would be there to take care of Daniel, 100 percent. There was no question about that. It would have been a difficult time but he would have had a loving family to take care of him.
“All I can think of is that it was kind of a selfish last act to do that he just — I’m not sure. I can’t put a reasoning behind it. He did love Daniel very much, and all I could really think was if Daniel ever saw or found out what [Chris] had done to his mother, that would have broken that child … [Chris] spent two full days in the house with Nancy and Daniel, not alive. Let’s be honest: That’s weird. That’s straight-up weird. There’s no justification for that.”
You can hear the full episode of Talk Is Jericho below — it’s definitely worth your time: