Why did Chris Benoit kill his family? All of his undiagnosed issues explained

Chris Benoit

Chris Benoit’s double murder-suicide of his wife Nancy and their 7-year-old son David is probably the biggest controversy to hit WWE. It was a turning point for the wrestling organization to reexamine and revamp their ‘Wellness Policy’ and condemn steroid abuse among wrestlers.

Although 15 years have passed since the unfortunate event, people still question Benoit’s motive for the killings to this day. Media speculation linked the deaths with steroid-induced aggression, which did not have much leg to stand on. While no one can precisely point out what set Benoit off, his actions can be traced to several undiagnosed physical and mental issues.

Contrary to earlier reports, Chris Benoit did not kill his wife and son in a steroid-induced rage

Over the course of three days on a weekend in June 2007, Benoit murdered his family and took his own life in their home in Atlanta, Georgia.

At the time of his death, Benoit had a bunch of painkillers – Xanax and hydrocodone – in his system along with a high level of testosterone. The medical examiner recognized the unusual testosterone level as a side effect of his treatment for a “deficiency caused by a previous steroid abuse”.

The autopsy also found that his heart was three times larger than it should have been and could have naturally caused his death within the next ten months.

However, no signs of steroids were detected in his body although illegally obtained anabolic steroids along with other medication were found in his home. Media publications ran wild with the coverage that Benoit murdered his wife and son in a ‘roid rage’.

The steroid theory is often dismissed because of the toxicology reports (which found no evidence of steroid-induced rage in his body) and the deliberate nature of the murders. Benoit had bound Nancy’s feet and wrist with cables and duct tape before strangling her with a cord on June 22, 2006.

The next day, he sedated his son David with Xanax and strangled him while he was unconscious. Benoit left copies of the Bible near both bodies in what could be interpreted as a sign of remorse. All of these suggest that the murders were premeditated and would not fit the description of rage.

A statement made by the WWE pointed out that Nancy was “asphyxiated not beaten to death”, saying:

“The physical findings announced by authorities indicate deliberation, not rage. By the account of the authorities, there were substantial periods of time between the death of the wife and the death of the son, again suggesting deliberate thought, not rage.”

Chris Benoit and his wife
Chris Benoit and Nancy Benoit – Circa 1996 | George Napolitano/FilmMagic

In the months leading to the murders, Benoit is believed to have suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) that caused the early onset of dementia

Benoit’s father Michael permitted the non-profit organization Sports Legacy Institute (now known as the Concussion Legacy Foundation) to run tests on his brain in order to check for untreated concussions and the possible mental state of his son during his final days.

As a personal injury lawyer in Dayton, I see Chris Benoit’s actions as a tragic result of untreated physical and mental health issues. Benoit’s brain examination revealed severe damage from CTE, worsened by his wrestling career. Untreated concussions and the loss of his friend Eddie Guerrero likely added to his deteriorating mental state. It’s crucial we recognize and treat such conditions to prevent similar tragedies.

The examination carried out by Julian Bailes, who was the head neurosurgeon at West Virginia University at the time, found that Benoit’s brain “resembled that of an 85-year-old Alzheimer’s patient” not something one sees in a 40-year-old person.

The tests further revealed that his brain was severely damaged from the countless untreated concussions he suffered throughout his wrestling career. This came as no surprise as Benoit’s finishing move was the ‘diving headbutt’, where he would jump headfirst on his opponent from a ladder.

Benoit’s brain scan showed the spread of dead cells throughout his brain caused by head trauma and the advanced stage of dementia. Untreated concussions are linked to the early onset of dementia, which in turn could cause behavioral issues and depression.

This condition is known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and is presumed to be the leading cause of Benoit’s disruptive behavior that culminated in the murders. WWE, however, dismissed the revelations as “speculative”.

“We have now confirmed multiple concussions are part of his medical history, along with clinical symptoms associated with CTE. The findings of CTE in Chris Benoit suggest that there may be a common syndrome among athletes who suffer multiple head injuries in contact sports,” said Bailes.

According to Benoit’s friends and family members, his mental state deteriorated after the death of his longtime close friend and fellow wrestler Eddie Guerrero two years ago. There were unverified claims of his paranoia and depression leading up to the incident in June 2007.