Source: Talk Is Jericho
On episode 259 of Talk Is Jericho, Sandra Toffoloni, the sister of Nancy Benoit, addressed the apparent murder-suicide that claimed the lives of her sister, nephew, Daniel, and brother-in-law, Chris Benoit. Notably, Toffoloni resoundingly dispelled the conspiracy theories that suggested that Nancy Benoit's ex-husband, Kevin Sullivan, was somehow involved in the murders in light of the circumstances surrounding the manner in which Nancy and Chris became romantically involved. Rather, Toffoloni indicated that Chris was indeed responsible for the deaths of Nancy and Daniel and that a number of factors played into Chris's warped mental state, which resulted in the tragic killings.
"I had reached out to Paul Heyman who I asked about, 'who is Bill Apter?' and 'what was this about?' and he's like, 'oh, why don't you just talk to Chris [Jericho] about it?' And he said, 'do you have his information?' and I said, 'actually, I do!' And so, I just texted [Jericho] and said, 'hey, that's the craziest thing I've ever heard and I want to talk to [Jericho] about it.'"
On the subject of Heyman, Toffoloni indicated that she is close with the former Paul E. Dangerously and that he has been supportive ever since the passing of her sister, nephew, and brother-in-law.
"We're very close. He [has] been a constant source of calm, surprisingly, in my life since everything happened and my sister told me many, many years ago now that if there was anyone to trust in the [professional wrestling] business or to talk to about things other than the business, the person to always trust is Paul and I took that as gospel law when she says something like that because she doesn't say things like that lightly. So he was the first person in the business that I contacted after everything had happened. And when we talk on the phone, he always laughs because 'it's like talking to your sister,' he says. 'You sound just like her, you laugh just like her.' It's very comforting to him too."
During the interview, Toffoloni divulged that Nancy was almost like a second mother to her.
"She was the biggest influence in my life. She's more like a mom, kind of, than a sister until I got a little older. Then, we could kind of cause trouble together. Then, it was more like a sister and a best friend."
According to Toffoloni, she first learned that Nancy was having an affair with Chris at Bash At The Beach (1997) when Benoit and Sullivan were starting to work stiff with one another during their career match.
"I didn't know about and coming right out of the Japan trip was Bash At The Beach in Daytona [Florida]. And that was my first actual physical meeting with Chris [Benoit]. Ironically, [it] was backstage at Bash At The Beach and I had been sitting with Kevin's kids in the family section of that match and I didn't know what was going so wrong during the match." Toffoloni continued, "but I could tell something wasn't right with the match. It was with Chris and Kevin. It was the retirement match. It wasn't just what was usually choreographed and gone through. Everyone knows that you can seriously get injured doing wrestling and the worst things can happen. And I saw Kevin sort of lose his balance after a hit from Chris in the head. I didn't know what was going on and he had boxed Kevin's ear. They were going at it hard. And then, cameras cut off and they went back into the dressing rooms and Ric, came out, Ric Flair, had come out for just a moment and put his hand in the air and waved at myself and Kevin's daughter and we got up and went back there. And they were fighting in the hallway. But someone was standing between them and Kevin said, 'come on, we're leaving' and motioned to me and I started to walk toward him and Chris stepped toward me and grabbed my arm and he said, 'your sister wants you to come with me'. And I said, 'I don't know'. I didn't know him at all! I'm like, 'umm, I'm going with my brother-in-law. What are you, crazy?' He's like, 'no, I'll call her right now'. And he did. He called my sister right then and there and I got on the phone with her. She was like, 'I want you to leave with Chris right now. Get out of there.' And that was my first introduction to Chris. It's a weird, awkward situation, but he was very calm and kind to me when I was like, 'what is going on?', just freaking out about it. Then, once I got home with my sister and got the whole rest of the story, I understood a little bit more."
Toffoloni claimed that Sullivan wrote his own breakup, as the WCW angle foreshadowed the affair.
"Right, [the storyline] led to [the affair] happening. And it [has] been said over and over in the [professional wrestling] business and behind-the-scenes and right up front, I guess that Kevin Sullivan produced and wrote his own divorce and he's great at what he does, so it really came through. But it was so much more than that. And Nancy and Chris really just fell in love, madly in love. And they were both in weird, different situations when it happened and nothing mattered though."
As for her first impressions of Chris, Toffoloni said that he seemed like a caring and quiet person who was very focused.
"He was very quiet, as we all know. And my family, we're Irish and Italian, so we're very loud and we voice everything and I've cracked jokes almost constantly. I kind of don't know what else to do if I'm not cracking a joke, so it's sort of my default mode. And he was very reserved, as you know, from Edmonton [Canada] and sarcasm, one of my go-to in my bag of tricks. Sarcasm doesn't translate too well to Canadians because they're so nice! And they don't really get when you, like, say something sarcastic." Toffoloni continued, "after about six months of knowing each other, he just constantly laughed at everything that I said. So he was kind and considerate, very quiet, very focused, and just a driven guy, but caring. He loved my sister. He wanted to be around myself [and] my parents a lot. So it was kind of a stark contrast from the relationships she had in the past."
Toffoloni stated that she noticed a change in Chris after WrestleMania 20, as he became more paranoid about being followed and his son being kidnapped.
"I think a little bit of that after WrestleMania kind of switched. I think it changed a little bit for him, getting recognized that much and [it] made him a little more self-aware of, 'if someone wants to get to me this much, what about my children?' and I think that was a little harder." Toffoloni said, "what really became noticeable was a little bit more of a sense of unsafeness and paranoia for the family. Like, he'd constantly be checking the alarm at night, constantly be checking things, and for himself, like when we would go to the gym, and do things like that, he would take different ways every time. Yeah, different routes to the same gym all the time and around the same time everyday, sometimes twice a day."
Also, Toffoloni said that Chris started to become very impatient.
"And he seemed to have a short patience for things, just not having that sensibility over certain things, like going into Publix and getting food and stuff. He didn't want to do that anymore. He could tell me what he wanted and send me or if Nancy and I were out during the day, just call and say, 'pick this up'. It was a huge personality change." Toffoloni recalled, "he used to be fairly laid back about stuff like that. There was never any issue like that, so when it did start happening, it was something I noticed immediately."
Toffoloni suggested that Nancy believed Chris's extreme concern for safety and security was simply a byproduct of the professional wrestling business.
"[Nancy] chalked it up to part of the business. As [Jericho] knows, a lot of wrestlers have had near misses and weird things happen with kidnappings and stuff and their family. One wrestler did have his child kidnapped years and years ago here in the [United] States. It was a big deal a long time ago, so she had some concerns about that, but not to the point where I couldn't take [Daniel] to Chuck E. Cheese's or something because 'what if something happens?'" Toffoloni recalled, "she kind of chalked it up to it being about that. After WrestleMania, Chris's, I guess, the way he was perceived in the public, and him being able to be in public, went from us being able to have a half-way decent dinner with a few fans coming up to us not really being able to go anywhere. He was totally a legit celebrity."
Toffoloni suggested that though Chris and Nancy had their share of issues, they did not seem to be in a bad place at the time of the tragedy. Two years prior to that infamous weekend in 2007, Nancy took out a restraining order on Chris for pushing her into a kitchen island.
"There had been, prior to that, at least, there were a couple, but at least one really high spot where he had left the house and she had a restraining order. He didn't get punch in the face physically violent, but it was intense and he had pushed her hard and into an island in the kitchen. And she had kind of been down that road before in her life and saw it coming recognized the signs and was like, 'not this time'. [Nancy] called the police and he left the house. And then, she called me and I went down there and she ended up going to an attorney and started putting paperwork together to make sure that the restraining order stuck. And it went on for about two and a half, almost three weeks." Toffoloni continued, "I ended up talking to him on the phone and he convinced me, so I encouraged my sister to talk to him on the phone. And then, they ended up working things out and everything was okay. And that was about, I think it was about two years before everything happened, so somewhere in that, I think that a lot of it had to do with working. I think he was pushing himself an awful lot at work to get that push for that title. I think that he was feeling, as a lot of wrestlers do, feeling their age. I think he was feeling his age and [Jericho] said it. He didn't have another skill. He didn't have something else that he could do, so it started to close in on him, that 'what is going to happen when all this goes away?' kind of feeling."
In Toffoloni's view, Nancy was prepared for life after professional wrestling, but Chris was not. She said that there were plans for Chris to start a professional wrestling school.
"He was a corporation or they had a corporation together and she managed his career. They already had, ironically, they already had plans for a wrestling school in Atlanta [Georgia] and she had t-shirts made." Toffoloni added, "she was ready for the next move and I don't think he was in his mind, physically, emotionally. I think he was just really scared, so I think a lot of that starting boiling over into their personal life."
Toffoloni professed that there was no single causal factor responsible for the killings, but rather many factors played into Chris's mental state at that time.
"It was a combination of a lot of things. I think, again, just a huge boulder of weight from loss and grief. I think that it was a ton of medication altering his body chemistry and his brain chemistry, alcohol, everything that was going on at that time, and possibly, yes, a little bit of a brain issue from hitting his head constantly, over, and over, and over. Would it drive someone to murder? I don't know." Toffoloni reflected, "I know there were issues in the house that he was having with himself struggling inside with things, are privy to he and I and my family and my sister that I wouldn't put on blast for everyone to know."
Toffoloni indicated that the deaths of their friends in the professional wrestling business really took a toll on Chris and Nancy.
"There were two wrestling deaths right before Nancy and Chris and both really started to put a strain on everything. I think Nancy was getting nervous that something was going to happen to him or that he was going to get hurt. With Eddie [Guerrero]'s death, it put a ton of pressure on Chris as well. And I said a long time ago to Paul that he was in a state of perpetual bereavement. He just was. He was in a state of perpetual bereavement. It just did not stop."
Toffoloni suggested that drug abuse may have been another key factor in Chris's mental state.
"There was a lot of self-medicating going on in that house, both of them. And my sister is not a saint. I've never ever claimed for that to be, but it was really, really next level after all of those events, especially after Eddie with Chris. And I know that because I was in the house and I can say that and it's not a secret." Toffoloni continued, "and I think it was a huge contributing factor to what happened. And I can say it's just my personal opinion, but it's actual facts. I mean, the autopsy says so, I had seen it prior to that, the alcohol and the medication, and not just the steroids, but everything else that had been going on. It was a huge factor."
While Toffoloni could not outright eliminate concussion as a possible contributing factor in Chris's mental issues, she remains skeptical about whether Chris had brain damage.
"I know that everyone talks about the concussion issue with Christopher, and I am certain that that maybe played a role as well. I don't really wholeheartedly take the institute's findings on his brain at 100% value either, but if it was maybe at MIT or Harvard, and not some school in West Virginia, or some house paid school in West Virginia, different story. But still, the autopsy never said, 'he has Alzheimer's - he couldn't find his way out of a paper bag [and] he couldn't remember people'. That wasn't Chris! You know the things they're saying that are linked to concussions, that wasn't Chris. That wasn't what I observed ever. That guy could get in and out of an airport in eight minutes flat and I mean any airport."
Toffoloni purported, "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. It's impossible for that to have been the case."
While Toffoloni could not rule out any number of factors that may have affected Chris's mental state at the time of the deaths, she was quick to confirm that Chris was indeed responsible for the killings and that her ex-brother-in-law, Sullivan, was not involved at all.
"I definitely know that it wasn't an outside source. Lets just let the internet calm down. My ex-brother-in-law [Kevin Sullivan] certainly wasn't involved. In fact, he just gave an interview a few weeks ago. It was very kind towards my sister and my family. He was in my life for a decade just like Chris was. And he put out there that I can't have children either and so [Daniel] is the only grandchild my mom and dad will have and he said in the interview how heartbroken he was for them and for me. And that was nice for him to say."
Toffoloni disclosed that Chris "brutalized" Nancy when he killed her.
"To be clear, it was serious rage. He brutalized my sister. And even though the police report is [available] and [there is] the Freedom of Information Act in the country and people can kind of see some things in the police report on the internet and have, but they didn't have to see what I saw and I have to put that out there as fact. He brutalized my sister and it wasn't just like, 'maybe I hit her too hard and she hit her head'. He murdered her brutally. And again, not being the Chris that I would equate with that. I couldn't reconcile the man I just talked to a week before with what I was facing when the police released the house to me." Toffoloni said, "my sister was killed Friday evening between 11 [pm] and 1 am. And then, Saturday morning, Daniel was killed. And then, Chris killed himself Sunday evening, so he spent two full days in the house with Nancy and Daniel, not alive, which is just, again, super out of character. Not just out of character. Lets be honest. That's weird. Like, that's just straight up weird."
Although Toffoloni disputed claims that Daniel had Fragile X Syndrome and was in fact a healthy child, she assumed that Chris murdered Daniel because he did not want his son to have to be in a world where his father was responsible for murdering his mother.
"When I try to talk about my nephew with that hindsight, it's difficult because I don't understand it. I say that I don't understand it because you think about a murdered child. It's the worst thing ever. But when you think about that murdered child as the one person in life you love more than anything because I did, and my sister did, and he did. So it's very hard for me to think of what had to be going on in his head and in the house or in his heart to do that. He knew for a fact that had anything ever happened to he or Nancy, that I would be there to take care of Daniel 100%. There's no question." Toffoloni added, "it would have been a difficult time, but he would have had a loving family to take care of him. And all I can think of is that it was kind of a selfish last act to do that. I'm not sure. I can't put a reasoning behind it. It's very difficult because, again, he did love Daniel very much. And all I could really think is that if Daniel ever saw or found out what he had done to his mother, it would have broken that child, so I don't know if that was going through his head. I don't know how far his thought process was even rendering his actions at that time. Like, I don't know. He may have been completely out of his mind."
Toffoloni pointed out that Chris carried on making travel arrangements for work that weekend because he had no idea he was having a total psychotic break.
"You could see where his logic was skipping in and out of reality. I think that his default mode, as we alluded to before, was to focus on work. Focus on getting the job going. Default to what he knew to do: go to the airport [and] go to work, wrestle, come home. But then, I think the psychotic break that he had was still very much happening, so he was having these moments of lucidity where 'I have to go do these things', but then he didn't even realize he's in the throes of a complete psychotic break." Toffoloni continued, "I really don't know. I can't say if [suicide] was his plan all weekend. I know that in the search engine on the computer that he had researched the quickest and easiest way to break a neck."
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