ATLANTA - In the days before pro wrestler Chris Benoit killed his wife and child and hanged himself, the couple argued over whether he should stay home more to take care of their mentally retarded 7-year-old son, an attorney for the wrestling league said Wednesday.
"I think it's fair to say that the subject of caring for that child was part of what made their relationship complicated and difficult, and it's something they were both constantly struggling with," said Jerry McDevitt, an attorney for World Wrestling Entertainment. "We do know it was a source of stress and consternation."
McDevitt said the wrestling organization learned from the couple's friends and relatives that the Benoits were struggling with where to send the boy to school since he had recently finished kindergarten.
He also said Benoit's wife didn't want him to quit wrestling, but she "wanted him to be at home more to care for the kid. She'd say she can't take care of him by herself when he was on the road."
The child suffered from a rare medical condition called Fragile X Syndrome, an inherited form of mental retardation often accompanied by autism, McDevitt said.
Over the past weekend, authorities said, Benoit strangled his wife, suffocated his son and placed a Bible next to their bodies before hanging himself with a weight-machine cable in the couple's suburban home. No motive was offered for the killings, which were discovered Monday.
Anabolic steroids were found in Benoit's home, leading officials to wonder whether the drugs played a role in the slayings. Some experts believe steroids cause paranoia, depression and violent outbursts known as "roid rage."
The WWE, based in Stamford, Conn., issued a news release Tuesday saying steroids "were not and could not be related to the cause of death" and that the findings indicate "deliberation, not rage." It also added that Benoit tested negative April 10, the last time he was tested for drugs.
Also Wednesday, Benoit's personal physician said the wrestler did not give any indication he was troubled when he met with the doctor hours before the start of the weekend.
Benoit had been under the care of Dr. Phil Astin, a longtime friend, for treatment of low testosterone levels. Astin said the condition likely originated from previous steroid use.
Astin prescribed testosterone for Benoit in the past but would not say what, if any, medications he prescribed the day of their meeting.
"He was in my office on Friday to stop by just to see my staff," Astin said. "He certainly didn't show any signs of any distress or rage or anything."
"I'm still very surprised and shocked, especially with his child Daniel involved," Astin said. "He worshipped his child."
District Attorney Scott Ballard said the autopsy indicated that there were no bruise marks on the child's neck, so authorities are now assuming he could have been killed using a choke hold. "It's a process of elimination," he said.
The Benoits' argument over their son was not the only friction in their marriage. Nancy Benoit had filed for a divorce in 2003, saying the couple's three-year marriage was irrevocably broken and alleging "cruel treatment." She later dropped the complaint.
Meanwhile, authorities in Georgia were investigating a link between Benoit and a Florida business that may have supplied him with steroids.
Prosecutors in upstate New York who have been investigating the company's drug sales said Benoit received deliveries from Signature Pharmacy and MedXLife.com, which sold steroids, human growth hormone and testosterone on the Internet.
Six people, including two of the pharmacy's owners, have pleaded guilty in the investigation, and 20 more have been arrested, including doctors and pharmacists.
"That's something that sounds like we ought to be investigating," Ballard told the AP on Wednesday.
A lawyer for MedXLife co-owner Dr. Gary Brandwein scoffed at allegations that his client's company sold steroids to Benoit.
"I've only read that in the paper. I have no direct information about that whatsoever," Terence Kindlon said Wednesday, adding that prosecutors in Albany County, N.Y., were trying to "distract everyone's attention from the fact that their case is disintegrating."
Brandwein, a 44-year-old osteopath from Boca Raton, Fla., has pleaded not guilty to six counts in New York state court related to the criminal sale of a controlled substance. He was accused of signing and sending prescriptions without ever seeing patients.
Telephone messages left for attorneys for Brian Schafler and Greg Trotta - two other co-owners of MedXLife - were not immediately returned Wednesday. The two men have pleaded guilty to felony third-degree diversion of prescription medications and prescriptions, admitting they helped get drugs in 2006 for customers in upstate New York who had no medical need for them.
McDevitt said the drugs found in Benoit's house were legitimately prescribed. "There's no question, none of these drugs are out there, none of these drugs came from Internet pharmacies," he said.
In addition to causing paranoia and explosive outbursts, steroids can also contribute to deep depression, according to experts.
"Just as you have the extreme high of when you're on steroids, you can get the opposite," said Dr. Todd Schlifstein, a clinical assistant professor at the New York University School of Medicine. "You can have a dramatic difference in mood swings. You can feel there's no hope, there's no future."