Whatever your personal opinion may be on the sport of bodybuilding or whether “roid rage” is a thing, you have to admit there have been an extraordinary number of murders, assaults, and other violence associated with members of the sport, both male and female. In a great deal of these cases, the offenders were described as being completely nonviolent before they started using steroids. Although some believe that roid rage is a myth, research shows that even light usage of steroids causes aggression.
That is not to say that everyone who uses them becomes violent, though. Obviously, bodybuilding isn’t the only sport that has participants who use steroids or exhibit issues with violence. We can only hope that as more brains are studied and more is learned about chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), we can one day understand more fully why people do the things that they do.
10 John Riccardi
Connie Navarro and her friend Sue Jory were gunned down in Navarro’s West Los Angeles condo in 1983. The suspect was her ex-boyfriend, bodybuilder John Riccardi. John disappeared the day after the murders and went into hiding for the next eight years. He wouldn’t be located until he was featured on a segment of America’s Most Wanted. Viewers of the show were able to provide tips that eventually led authorities to a condo in Houston. Riccardi had apparently been living a life of luxury and was supporting that lifestyle by committing burglaries. Money, jewels, and other items were found upon his capture.
Although he denied harassing Navarro after their breakup or having anything to do with her death, witnesses testified that Riccardi became increasingly malicious toward her. He was ultimately found guilty on two counts of first-degree murder and sentenced to death. That sentence would eventually be overturned by the Supreme Court of California and changed to life in prison with no chance of parole.
Another casualty in this crime was Connie Navarro’s then-15-year-old son, David Navarro. He stated that Riccardi broke into their home a week before the murders occurred, pointed a gun at him, and handcuffed him. Fortunately for David, he was staying with his father the night that the murders took place. He believed that he would have been a victim as well if he had been at home that evening.
David would later come to be known as Dave Navarro, guitarist and member of the rock band Jane’s Addiction. He would also tour with the Red Hot Chili Peppers. He is currently host of the popular television show Ink Master. Dave feared for his own life in the years before Riccardi was captured and felt like his fame would make it easy for his mother’s murderer to find him. He also said that at one time, he used heroin as a way to numb the pain from his mother’s death.
In search of further healing, Dave produced a film about the whole experience called Mourning Son. He was quoted as saying, “One of the ways in which trauma survivors get past trauma is to walk through the ugliness.” During his work on the film, he chose to visit Riccardi in prison. While he expected that he would feel anger at the man who took his mother’s life, he realized, “He’s just some old dude, dying in jail.”
9 Bertil Fox
September 30, 1997, would be a day that would forever change the life of bodybuilder Bertil Fox and leave a 20-year-old beauty queen and her 36-year-old mother dead.
Fox, a two-time Mr. Universe who was known as “Brutal Fox” during his career, had previously been engaged to beauty queen Leyoca Browne. Her mother, Violet, owned a dress shop on the island of Saint Kitts. Fox entered the shop on that fateful day. An argument ensued, shots were fired, and both women were killed.
Fox claimed that the deaths were accidental and occurred while he was struggling with Violet over the gun. However, testimony from his best friend during the trial told a completely different story. He stated that Fox admitted to him that he killed the two women but never made the statement that it was self-defense or accidental. Fox said that Violet was pushing him out the door, so he pulled out the gun and started firing. A seamstress who was also working in the shop at the time gave testimony that incriminated Fox as well. Even though the evidence was compelling, his first trial ended with a hung jury.
Fox received a second trial, was found guilty of murder, and was sentenced to hang. His lawyers appealed, and the death sentence was overturned. He was then sentenced to life in prison.
8 Sally McNeil
Sally McNeil and her husband, fellow bodybuilder Ray McNeil, were both ex-Marines. Eight volatile years of marriage came to a bloody end on Valentine’s Day in 1995. Ray showed up at their Oceanside, California, home after 10:00 PM that evening, and Sally was not happy. She had apparently been stewing over his whereabouts while she was waiting on him to return home. As he stood at the stove cooking chicken, she began shouting and asked where he had been. The argument escalated, and one of Sally’s children stated that she heard a gurgling sound, as if her mother were being choked.
Shortly after that, Sally went to a closet, removed a 12-gauge shotgun, and shot Ray once in the abdomen and once in the jaw. When she called 911, operators could hear him in the background saying, “Why, oh God why?” Still alive when police arrived, Ray denied choking her. He was declared dead a couple hours later. She was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to 19 years to life. Blood tests would show that she had one type of steroid in her system, and he had five different kinds in his at the time of his death.
In the years leading up to the murder of her husband Ray, Sally showed a pattern of becoming more and more violent and unbalanced. In the year 1990 alone, she found herself in the middle of numerous assaults and bouts of aggression. She was arrested for pulling a pistol on her first husband and using a crowbar to break out the windows of his car. A few days later, she would drop a 32-kilogram (70 lb) weight from the balcony onto Ray’s car as he was leaving. On another occasion, the police were visiting her home to check on the well-being of her children. She proceeded to fight with the police officers and eventually had to be sprayed with mace to stop the progression of violence. Last but not least, she was banned from competing in bodybuilding competitions when she battered a woman in the stands who she suspected of sleeping with her husband. In 1993, she assaulted a police officer after they were called to a bar where the bouncer told her to stop dancing on a table. They said she went “berserk.”
In better times, Ray was among the top 20 professional bodybuilders in the nation in his weight class. He was also named Mr. California in 1991. Sally twice won the US Armed Services Physique Championship in the late 1980s. She would also participate in amateur wrestling in order to earn money, such as female submission wrestling and apartment wrestling, where she would wrestle with men. The nickname she used for these events was “Killer Sally.” How ironic.
7 James Batsel
They followed him into his garage under cover of darkness, and once the garage door closed, things proceeded to go wrong fast.
Henry Jeffcoat, owner of a local Atlanta all-nude nightclub, was returning home from work around midnight on February 10, 1993. Once he realized that would-be robbers had followed him into his garage, he pressed a button in his car that would alert police that he needed help. Jeffcoat was able to draw his weapon, open fire, and wound one of the robbers before he was shot nine times in the back and died. The attackers were able to kick a hole in the garage door and escape into the woods before the police arrived.
After following up on a tip, police were able to make an arrest in the murder and attempted robbery of Henry Jeffcoat. To say that the community was shocked when they found out who the suspects were would be an understatement. James Batsel and Mark McKenna were SWAT officers in nearby Riverdale.
McKenna, who was wounded in the attack, cooperated in the investigation in return for a sentence of life without parole. He would help link them to a string of unsolved crimes and identify members of the crime ring. It was made up mainly of bodybuilding police officers from area agencies, and most were regulars at a local Gold’s Gym. One member said that he only joined because he was told that the victims would be drug dealers and that the money would be dirty. They called themselves “white boys against crime.”
The gunman, James Batsel, also pleaded guilty. He blamed steroid use for the crime, stating that he had been using 3,200 milligrams of steroids a week. At the time of his crimes, he was said to weigh 135 kilograms (298 lb), with only two percent body fat.
6 Craig Titus And Kelly Ryan
At the beginning of their association, we can imagine that Melissa James would have been excited about being the personal assistant to Craig Titus and Kelly Ryan, who were stars in the professional bodybuilding world. The married couple were well-known and had achieved a great deal of success in their chosen field. We can also imagine that there had to be good times along the way between the couple and their assistant. What is hard to imagine is what went so horribly wrong between them at the end.
Melissa James would be found burned beyond recognition in the trunk of Kelly Ryan’s Jaguar on a desert road outside of Las Vegas on December 14, 2005. It would be established that she had been beaten, drugged, stunned with a Taser, and injected with morphine before she was strangled and burned. Her head had also been wrapped in duct tape. During the autopsy, the coroner was able to peel away the tape and found that it had formed a macabre “death mask.” The coroner was never able to determine the exact cause of death or even if Melissa was alive when she was placed into the trunk of that car.
The couple went on the run after the murder, and a nationwide manhunt would ensue. Nine days later, they would be found at a nail salon in a suburb of Boston and arrested. They initially claimed that Melissa died of an overdose, so they burned her body and left town. They did so because they were afraid that the publicity would harm their careers. Murder does have a tendency to do that.
Craig admitted to having an affair with Melissa that Kelly knew nothing about and to using steroids and other drugs. He accepted a plea deal for second-degree murder, kidnapping, and arson. His sentence was 21 to 51 years. Kelly also accepted a plea deal for arson and battery with a deadly weapon. Her sentence was six to 26 years.
5 Daniel Lugo And Adrian Doorbal
This story is so bizarre that Hollywood made a movie about it, starring Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson and Mark Wahlberg, called Pain & Gain. The movie was a comedy, but the reality was anything but.
The real story is about crimes that were committed by Daniel Lugo and Adrian Doorbal, who knew each other from the Sun Gym in Miami Lakes, Florida. During the day, they would pump iron and brainstorm about ways to make money. Lots of money. They came up with what they thought would be the ideal plan. They would kidnap wealthy people and force them to sign over their cash, properties, and other valuable assets.
John Carl Mese was part owner of Sun Gym and was also a certified public accountant. He would notarize the money transfers, and Lugo and Doorbal would act as the muscle. Jorge Delgado, another associate, helped them find their first victim. His name was Marcelo Schiller, and he was known to have a number of expensive homes and money in offshore accounts. Delgado was also in possession of the entry code to one of Schiller’s houses.
After making a number of unsuccessful attempts at kidnapping him, they finally succeeded on November 15, 1994. They transported Schiller to a warehouse, where he was held for the next four weeks. They tied him up, taped his eyes shut, and forced him to sit in his own urine. When it was time for him to sign the documents that would transfer his property over to them, they would burn him with cigarette lighters and shock him with Tasers until he signed all of their papers—all without being able to see what he was signing. By the time it was over, the men had moved millions of dollars of Schiller’s assets over to them. Once he was cleaned out, they attempted to stage an automobile accident with him behind the wheel. Schiller survived, but he wouldn’t tell police about what had happened until many weeks later.
After living it up from their first score, the men decided it was time for another one. This time, they chose Frank Griga, who made his $5 million fortune from telephone sex lines, and his girlfriend Krisztina Furton. They were taken, beaten, and drugged with horse tranquilizers. Unfortunately, the torture of Griga ended in his death. They tried to salvage the situation by getting his girlfriend to give them security computer codes. This would also end in failure. They had given her so many tranquilizers that her small frame couldn’t handle it, and she died as well.
Anxious to rid themselves of the bodies, they dismembered them and tried to burn them in 208-liter (55 gal) drums. When that didn’t go as planned, they put the remnants in buckets and tossed them into a drainage ditch. Authorities were able to identify some of the remains from the serial numbers on Krisztina’s breast implants. Lugo and Doorbal were both found guilty.
4 Gordon Kimbrough
Gordon Kimbrough and Kristy Ramsey worked together, lived together, and competed in bodybuilding competitions together. They had both won awards individually and won the USA Pairs title as a couple in 1991. They were well-known in the San Francisco bodybuilding community.
Their personal relationship, however, seemed doomed pretty early on. He admitted to affairs with other women and to pushing and slapping her. When it became more than she could bear, they separated. Apparently, in hopes of making things work out, Kristy asked Gordon to get counseling for his anger issues. Although he reportedly said, “To me it was no big thing, but to her it was,” he agreed to the counseling.
As things smoothed out, they decided to get married. Kristy would soon find out that she was pregnant, but they decided together to terminate the pregnancy. He stated, “The wedding was already planned, and the dress was already made.”
Before the wedding could take place, Kristy met and became involved with another man. When she told Kimbrough that she wanted to end their four-year relationship and call off the wedding, he became enraged. On June 20, 1993, he reportedly hit her on the chin, wrapped an electrical cord around her neck three times, knotted it, and stabbed her in the throat twice with a kitchen knife. When police arrived, he was found holding a syringe to his neck, as if contemplating suicide.
In an unusual move, Kimbrough testified in his own defense, swearing that the murder had been committed in a fit of passion. He was hoping to get a lesser sentence but was ultimately convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to 27 years to life.
3 Jamie Fuller
Jamie Fuller, 16, of Beverly, Massachusetts, was a novice bodybuilder who started taking steroids to bulk up at the age of 14. His friends and family noticed an immediate change in his behavior and personality. The disturbing story of his life would be told in a made-for-TV movie called No One Would Tell in 1996.
Amy Carnivale was Jamie’s pregnant 14-year-old girlfriend. After finding out that she had gone to see another boy, he flew into a rage. He had recently taken large dosages of testosterone as well as an anabolic steroid pill and also drank a large amount of beer. He would later say that he couldn’t control his aggression after ingesting all of that.
His friends would testify that on August 22, 1991, Fuller got Carnivale to go into the woods with him. He then placed his hand over her mouth, said, “Amy, I love you,” and then stabbed her in the stomach and cut her throat. As she fell to the ground, she mumbled the words, “I love you,” and it made him so furious that he stomped on her throat. Once she was dead, he walked out of the woods with blood on his arms and told his friends, “It’s done.” He proceeded to tie a cinder block to her body and threw her over a fence and into a pond. He reportedly laughed when he heard her bones crunch as she fell. He then threatened to kill his friends if anybody told what he had done. He was convicted and sentenced to life.
2 Bruce Nadler
Dr. Bruce Nadler was well-known to amateur and professional bodybuilders alike in New York. He was an avid bodybuilder as well and billed himself as the “World’s Strongest Plastic Surgeon.” Nadler was known to have performed over 700 gynecomastia surgeries to correct the overdevelopment of breasts in male bodybuilders who use steroids. It is quite unusual for a physician to have a favorable view of steroid use like he did. He would say that he was his own test laboratory and felt certain that he could come up with the right combinations and dosages to avoid side effects.
He was eventually investigated by the New York State Board of Professional Medical Conduct and forced to surrender his medical license after being charged with misconduct. The charges stemmed mainly from the fact that he was prescribing anabolic steroids, growth hormones, and other medications that are used by bodybuilders.
We can imagine that losing the prestige of being a leading cosmetic surgeon would be pretty difficult. One day, you’re on top of the world, making lots of money, and the next, it’s all taken away. After his forced retirement, Nadler chose to regroup and fall back on his second passion. In 2005, he wrote a book called The Nip Tuck Workout: Exercise through the Eyes of a Plastic Surgeon, moved with his wife Terri to Los Angeles, and opened Nip Tuck Fitness, LA, in Beverly Hills.
This is where the story gets a little murky, as there hasn’t been very much written on what exactly happened on February 2, 2008, and more importantly, why it happened. We do know that Bruce and Terri were found in their home, deceased from gunshot wounds. It would be ruled a murder-suicide that was committed by Bruce. Some speculated that he was depressed because he couldn’t continue doing what he loved most, but we don’t know for sure. He appears to have taken that answer with him.
1 Chris Benoit
On June 25, 2007, the world of professional wrestling was rocked to its core. One of its most popular wrestlers, his wife, and his child were found dead in their home in Fayetteville, Georgia. Benoit’s wife Nancy was found bound and strangled. His seven-year-old son Daniel had been drugged and strangled. There were bibles found near their bodies. Benoit was found hanging from a weight machine in his home gym. After the shock wore off, it would be determined that Benoit had murdered his wife and child and then killed himself. It appeared that the murders and suicide were spread out over the course of the weekend. The incident was a complete shock to family, friends, and colleagues.
According to Chris’s father, he knew from an early age that his son wanted to be a wrestler. Before he turned pro, Chris was a bodybuilder and amateur wrestler. He stayed focused and would lift weights every day in order to make his dream a reality. That dream would be realized at the age of 18, when he became a professional wrestler. From there on out, his career exploded. He was known around the world and won many titles. At the time of his death, he was still at the height of his career, which made his suicide all the more puzzling. Known by friends and family as a devoted father and husband, the double murder of his wife and child really didn’t make sense.
Trying to understand what happened, researchers desperately wanted to study Benoit’s brain. They had seen so many instances of professional athletes having severe damage to their brains called chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Benoit’s father resisted the idea at first, but when so many bad things were being said about his son, he agreed to let them do their study. They found extensive damage to Chris’s brain, likely caused by all the hits to the back of the head with things like chairs, ladders, and cables during his wrestling career. He’d probably suffered from untreated concussions over the course of his lifetime. When the toxicology report was released, and steroids were found to be in his system, speculation arose about the possibility of “roid rage” occurring and causing him to snap. Unfortunately, there can be no decisive, clear-cut proof about what actually caused this tragedy.