Elderly Wrestling Legend Verne Gagne Investigated in Death at Nursing Home

Verne Gagne is one of the legends of professional wrestling, a pioneer of the sports-entertainment hybrid who was influential both in the ring and out of it. (In the above video he's wrestling Killer Kowalski in 1953.) Gagne is now 82 years old and suffering from Alzheimer's Disease, and he's being investigated in the death of his nursing home roommate.

In January, a 97-year-old man named Helmut Gutmann suffered a fall at the Friendship Village retirement community in Minnesota. Gutmann died 20 days later, and now multiple news outlets are reporting that he fell because his roommate -- Gagne -- threw him to the ground.

According to a story at MinnPost.com, "Gagne picked up the diminutive and frail man and hurled him violently to the floor, breaking his hip." Gutmann's wife also lives at Friendship Village and said she was shocked, but added:

"You can't blame the person that did it," she said. "[Gagne] doesn't know what he's doing. I feel so sorry for his family, because they are faced with a terrible problem of what to do."

A member of Gagne's family reacted angrily when told that MinnPost.com was publishing the story:

"He has only one minute of memory retention," the woman said. "And even though nobody is saying that this is the reason that this man died, you're going to publish this? Unbelievable. You take a man who has given nothing but his time and his energy to this state, he loses his mind, and you're going to do this?"

The story has been picked up by the Minneapolis Star Tribune and the local Fox affiliate, and Gagne's Wikipedia entry was apparently the first place where information about his involvment in Gutmann's death was published. Police are reportedly investigating, and it is not clear whether any charges will be pressed.

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