Former wrestler Jimmy 'Superfly' Snuka pleads not guilty in 1983 death

Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka visits a radio show in on January 9, 2013, in New York City.

Story highlights

  • Jimmy Snuka of is charged with third-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter
  • In 1983, his girlfriend was found unresponsive in an Allentown, Pennsylvania, hotel room
  • He wasn't charged then, but a 2012 autobiography spurred the victim's family to urge a prosecutor to revisit the case

(CNN)Former professional wrestler James "Superfly" Snuka pleaded not guilty Monday to charges of third-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter in connection with the death of his former girlfriend, the Lehigh County, Pennsylvania, District Attorney's Office said.

In September, Snuka was charged with killing Nancy Argentino, his girlfriend, more than 30 years ago. On May 10, 1983, paramedics responded to a call placed by Snuka to an Allentown, Pennsylvania, hotel and found Argentino, 23, unresponsive.
Lehigh District Attorney James Martin said Snuka told investigators different stories about what happened the night Argentino died. They ranged from Argentino falling as they were "fooling around" outside the hotel room, to Argentino slipping and hitting her head as the two were "clowning around" by the side of a highway. While Argentino's family won a wrongful death lawsuit against Argentino in 1985, authorities didn't charge him in the death.
    Snuka's career continued to prosper, and he eventually ended a well-lauded career as a member of the World Wrestling Entertainment Hall of Fame. A new turn in the case came as Snuka published his 2012 memoir, "Superfly: The Jimmy Snuka Story." Argentino's family contacted Martin, who instructed his team to examine the book. Excerpts were presented to a grand jury, which eventually decided to press charges against Snuka.
    In a statement released when the charges were announced, Martin wrote, "(The grand jury heard) excerpts from Snuka's autobiography in which he talked about his frequent use of alcohol, steroids and cocaine and wrote '... in 1983, my personal life started getting a little crazy.' "
    The former wrestler was booked at the time of the charges in the Lehigh County Jail and released on a $500,000 bond, Martin said.