Nancy Benoit's sister, Sandra Toffoloni, is speaking out six years after the Benoit Family Tragedy rocked the wrestling world on June 25, 2007. The 2 Count's Dina M conducted the interview that we recap below.
Please be advised this was very difficult for me. This story was my first "big story" as a full-time pro wrestling journalist and one that is extremely hard to rehash, even to this day. Please check out the Nancy and Daniel Benoit Foundation at this link. Let's also give The2Count.com a lot of credit as the original interview is published at this link.
Her relationship with Chris Benoit:
We bonded instantly, which wasn’t easy with Christopher. I don’t know if it is the difference of being Canadian… or that almost all he knew in life was wrestling; but when we would talk, as young as I was, it was like student and teacher. Books he should get, bands he would love, movies and TV that were a must watch! It was crazy how much of the same things we liked and enjoyed! We got along instantly like peas and carrots. The fact that he loved my sister SO desperately was the first thing, obviously, that we had in common.
When she first got wind the relationship between Chris and Nancy got complicated:
I lived in Atlanta and my sister asked me home almost every one of my days off. I want to be clear: Chris was not an abusive husband. But there were, what we call in the industry, though don’t often talk about, “high spots”. She had been there, in that position before, and refused to put up with it at all, especially with Daniel in their home. So I went with her after one of these “incidents” to file an order of protection.
What she means by "high spots":
Yelling, screaming, name calling, shoving, pushing, breaking stuff.
If Nancy ever feared for her and Daniel's safety:
Yes, when she first filed for divorce.
Why Nancy dropped the divorce proceedings and restraining order:
Because, like with any marriage where there are issues, they made up and wanted to reconcile, especially for Daniel.
Was Daniel's health an issue for Chris and Nancy:
Daniel did not have Fragile X. I have his medical records. He was NOT sick.
Her last conversation with Nancy:
I spoke to Nancy on Thursday June 21, 2007, the day before she passed. I used to visit with my sister on Sundays and Mondays, which were basically the days that Chris was away. I had told her that, this particular week, my schedule would not allow me to visit with her before Monday. I lived in North Carolina at the time. We were both concerned about my best friend’s friend’s grandmother who had become very ill in Florida. I was trying to figure out a way to get to Florida and visit with “Nana”, as we used to call her, and support my friend. Nancy told me that she would take care of flying me down there and she also said that I was very tired and stressed out and needed to unwind and do something for myself. We talked about mascaras and she told me that I needed to get a good quality mascara for myself. We also talked about Daniel and how he was graduating from horse camp. We talked about David (Chris’ older son) and how he was growing. Nancy also spoke to me about her home improvement plans for the upcoming summer. Chris and Nancy were considering having another baby but Nancy had said that she wouldn’t have one until I moved closer to them. They then suggested that a house be built for me on the acreage right by their own home. Chris was actually stoked about it. Nancy was hoping to travel with Chris on occasion if they could have someone close by to take care of the children. Once we hung up, Nancy called me back a little later to tell me that she had put some money in my bank account so I could do something for myself that upcoming Monday: get a massage, a pedicure, buy some mascara. This is how generous my sister was and that was the last time I ever spoke to her. She had no clue as to what was about to happen.
Chris becoming paranoid and rumors of Late-Onset Schizophrenia:
This turn of events was not sudden. Early in 2006, they were looking into putting Daniel in a private Christian school, the best school in the area. Many athletes’ children attended this particular school and the high level of security was related to the caliber of the families of the children that went there. In order to get Daniel in that school, Chris and Nancy had to attend church service regularly. Although my sister and I were raised strictly Catholic, Chris did not subscribe to any one particular religion. He developed an interest in Eastern religion and philosophy while wrestling in Japan. This interest got stronger when it was time to get Daniel into private school. When my brother-in-law wanted to do something or learn of something, he fully invested himself into it. His dedication to his career and his relationship with my sister are proof of this. I used to tell him where to look and what books to read that may be of some interest to him.
Before all that, Chris had suffered multiple losses of friends. Eddie Guerrero’s death in 2005 shocked us all, no one was prepared for that. It was devastating for Nancy but it was devastating for Chris on a whole other level. Eddie’s passing came after a long line of huge losses and Chris was in a state of perpetual bereavement. His as well as Nancy’s closest friends passed away and it always seemed to be drug or steroid-related.
After Eddie passed away, Chris and Nancy discussed the possibility of Chris leaving the WWE and starting his own wrestling school. As a matter of fact, it had become more than a possibility. A business plan had been developed and merchandise had been designed. However, the WWE was prepared to give Chris a big push and put him into another championship match so Chris began training harder and pushing his body further. Chris did a lot of self-medicating. My brother-in-law made every show, he went to every production meeting, never missed a call, never missed a flight and always drove himself or made travel arrangements. Chris wasn’t schizophrenic. Someone with schizophrenia wouldn’t be able to do all that. He had a serious drug problem, used a lot of steroids and was certainly not alone in that at the time. The paranoia was a direct result of the abuse of steroids. The last 2 weeks I spent with Chris, we used to go to the gym and go tanning together. At some point, he began acting weird and I wondered what was wrong with him. He would find 30 different routes to drive to the gym which he never did before. This is not schizophrenia! This was a result of combining steroids with pain medication and, later on, alcohol. I had never seen him like this before. The final blow came in mid-June 2007, just a few days before everything happened, when Sherri Martel passed away. That devastated Nancy just as much as Eddie’s death had devastated Chris. I remember my sister telling me “I don’t know how much more of this I can take and I don’t know how much more of this Chris can take”.
What she believes happened that led to the double murder suicide:
First of all, at that time, the wellness policy program was ineffective. I’d like to think that it’s changed but I’m not sure it has. Everyone joked about it. There was no way Chris could have tested clean unless the sample wasn’t his. It is my understanding that “roid rage” typically does not last an entire weekend. It is my belief although I was not there that he and Nancy got into a terrible argument that escalated to the point of serious violence. In spite of what the public has heard following the autopsy reports, let me tell you that my sister was brutalized. My sister’s death was a direct result of “roid rage.” He completely lost it. The Chris Benoit I had known for a decade loved my sister so much that he would never – even in the worst episode of high spots – have hurt my sister this bad. I believe he totally blacked out. I also believe that, when he came out of it and realized what he had done, he went out of his mind. He probably couldn’t believe what he had done to Nancy. He realized what he had done and medicated even more and drank and wondered how he would explain this to Daniel. He probably became so grief stricken with his own actions that he didn’t want to live anymore. I can understand him taking his own life, especially knowing he would get capital punishment if he were tried and found guilty of my sister’s murder. However, I can’t put a reason on why Chris killed Daniel. I myself am unable to have children and my sister and Chris always made me feel better about this fact by sharing so much of my nephew’s life with me. I was very, very close to Daniel. Chris knew I would have taken care of and loved that child with everything I had. I would have kept David and Megan in his life as well and he knew all that.
You know, evidence showed that on the Sunday before he committed suicide, he was booking flights to get to the show he was scheduled to appear on in Beaumont, Texas. This shows that there was a moment, however brief, that he thought he could get away with it. I don’t believe in the brain damage theory. He killed 2 people and believed he could go wrestle. The concussion theory doesn’t really stick with me. Yes, my brother-in-law had concussions, he hit his head for a living and I understand that. But way beyond that, he had a very serious drug and steroid problem. Unfortunately, a lot of athletes still do to this day. It’s spiraling out of control. The medical examiner told us after the autopsy that Chris was on his way to death within 10 months. His heart was huge, about 3 times normal size, and it was ready to blow up at any moment. It can’t be told to me that this wasn’t the determining factor behind what happened. I wasn’t there that weekend but I was during the last decade. Chris could have never done what he did had it not been for the steroids and prescription drugs.
Chris being erased from WWE history:
It’s a very difficult question to answer. I feel that their original reaction in dedicating Monday Night Raw to Chris’ memory on the same very day the bodies were discovered was a huge PR nightmare for them. They made this 2-hour tribute show with a 15 minute tribute in the opening minutes. How they got all this together so quickly, I don’t know. If anything it’s a testament to the swiftness of their production crew.
I think it’s too soon to make a decision about whether or not it will ever be okay for them as a company to bring Chris back up. I still know a lot of people in the business and hear a lot of things. Although a case was recently made for Chris to be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, the mere mention of it was quickly squashed. Let me be the first to say this: Chris was the best at what he did professionally. He was very dedicated to his craft, his career and this company. But he is a murderer. He choked the life out of his own son and he brutalized my sister in ways that are unimaginable. Sadly, when you do something like that, the rest of what you did in your life no longer matters and that was a decision HE made. Bringing Chris back up again would crush my parents. It’s way too soon to even mention that idea. It’s been 6 years but it feels like yesterday to us. Maybe one day it will be okay to once again recognize him for the career he did have but, in the meantime, he created the legacy that now haunts the industry. I think that as a company as business-savvy as WWE, they know better. They see what happens when we get angry. Vince McMahon took a public oath on the air to never mention Chris’ name again. Legally and public-relations wise, I think that they’re scared of what might happen if they go back on that oath. Vince McMahon won’t go back on his word. There is no way they would even think about it without consulting with us first. No matter how much lobbying Chris’ family or the fans can do. Mike Benoit knows what Chris did was horrible. If my child would do what Chris did, I too would try to excuse his behaviour. So I understand why Mike Benoit would want a physical REASON for what his son did; and utilizing Concussion Syndrome to explain away Chris’ actions would provide that. Though I sympathize with their pain, it simply is NOT the entire truth. If Chris were to resurface in any way, it would have to be much further down the road. We are not even close to a healing point. A lot of people would expect me to be hateful and spiteful to Chris and his legacy but the Chris I want to remember is the brother-in-law I knew up until the year before all this happened. Unfortunately, I don’t have any contact with David and Megan, Chris’ children, but they too have to be considered. It must be a huge burden for them to carry the Benoit last name in Canada. I love them and miss them very much.
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