Benoit's Dad, Doctors: Multiple Concussions Could Be Connected to Murder-Suicide

Benoit's dad, doctors say brain trauma influenced suicide, murder of family.

ByABC News
January 8, 2009, 1:19 AM

Sep. 5, 2007— -- Chris Benoit, the world-famous wrestler, was an enormous public success, but Benoit also appeared to be a devoted parent, according to his father, Michael Benoit.

"What you saw in the ring was not the Chris Benoit on the outside," Michael told ABC's Bob Woodruff. "He loved to be at home, playing with his children. That's where he wanted to be."

So, when Michael first learned the horrific news of his son's death, the details made no sense to him.

"He phoned me on Father's Day, which was a week before [his death]. And he said, 'Unfortunately, Dad, I'm on the road. It's Father's Day today, I wish I was home, with my family,'" Michael recalled. "A week later, we end up with this tragedy."

It was in his own home, over a June weekend, that the seemingly happy family man did the unthinkable. Benoit suffocated his wife and son, then killed himself, and his father is still shocked by what happened.

"We would've never, never dreamt that Chris was capable of doing this," he said.

Devastated in his grief, and plagued by unanswered questions, a surprising single phone call offered Michael a small ray of light. Four days after the tragedy, Michael says Chris Nowinski, of the Sports Legacy Institute, contacted him.

"I told him I think there was something worth investigating," said Nowinski. "That I thought brain injuries may have played a role in what happened and it was worth doing the studies."

"I was grasping for anything," Michael said. "The world was very black. I mean, we were, we didn't even know how to deal with this."

Nowinski has studied the long-term effects of concussions on the brain. It's a life mission for the former professional wrestler who has struggled with the effects of his own multiple concussions.

"It was the cumulative effects from all of [the concussions], combined with the fact that the last one I didn't know that I needed to rest my concussion when I got it," Nowinski said. "So, for three weeks, I kept wrestling night after night with bad headaches, and in a fog every night, and it made that one a lot worse."