September 2, 2015
By Sarah Cassi
As news broke that star wrestler Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka was being charged in the 1983 death of his mistress, a common refrain was asking why it took 32 years to get to that point.
Snuka is charged with third-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter in the death of Nancy Argentino. He is free after posting 10 percent of $100,000 bail.
At the news conference on Tuesday, Lehigh County District Attorney Jim Martin cited two important factors in the case: a detective standing next to Martin at the podium that day, and a recent grand jury whose presentment served as the affidavit for Snuka’s charges.
Detective Gerald Procanyn began investigating Argentino’s death back in 1983 as a Whitehall Township detective, and continued after he became a detective with the district attorney’s office.
Procanyn did not respond to an interview request, but Martin singled him out during the news conference.
“He’s been tenacious in investigating this case for over 32 years now,” Martin said.
Police work can only lead to so much, though, which is where the recent grand jury comes in. Grand juries can compel someone to testify, but was not a resource that existed in 1983, Martin said.
Snuka appeared before the jurors with an attorney and refused to testify, but “some additional witnesses came forward. More information was uncovered,” Martin said on Tuesday.
The additional witnesses included Snuka’s now ex-wife, who was married to him at the time of Argentino’s death.
Sharon Georgi told detectives about a series of beatings by Snuka in the fall of 1983 that led to her hospitalization, court records say. Georgi also described what Snuka told her about Argentino’s death, although that was not outlined in the grand jury presentment.
The grand jury also heard testimony about detectives’ interview in January with Debbie Rogers, wife of Buddy Rogers, a fellow former wrestler and Snuka’s manager. Debbie Rogers said Snuka beat Georgi in October 1983; the Rogers’ lived next door to Snuka.
Rogers provided her notes of the incident, as well as photos of Georgi’s injuries, records say. Both Georgi and Rogers testified about Snuka’s use of alcohol and drugs, which was also outlined in his autobiography.
“The grand jury is a useful tool for a prosecutor,” Martin said.
Finally, both the grand jury and Martin cited Snuka’s autobiography, published in 2012, is a key piece of evidence in the case.
In “Superfly: The Jimmy Snuka Story,” Snuka claimed the pair were driving to Allentown, when they stopped so Argentino could use the bathroom on the side of the road. Snuka said Argentino fell and hit her head, but that she was conscious afterward and they drove to the Lehigh Valley.
In the book, Snuka said, “The only thing I know for sure is that I didn’t hurt Nancy. I couldn’t believe what had happened.”