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Verbal Agreement Reached Over Chris Benoit Estate

ATLANTA (AP) --A verbal agreement has been reached in the fight over the estate of pro wrestler Chris Benoit, who killed his wife, 7-year-old son and then himself in June, Benoit's father said Wednesday.

"In principle, it's there. It just needs to be documented," Michael Benoit said in a telephone interview from Alberta, Canada.

Benoit said the agreement calls for the proceeds from the estate to "pretty much" be evenly split between his son's two children from a previous marriage - a 15-year-old boy and a 10-year-old girl - and the family of his slain wife Nancy. Michael Benoit, who has been acting on the children's behalf, declined to provide the exact terms.

Benoit said attorneys fees and expenses of roughly $500,000 to $600,000 will reduce the ultimate value of the estate, which consists of two homes, several bank and investment accounts and other assets. One estimate of the estate has put its value at $1.5 million to $3 million.

"There's lots of things that need to take place, properties that have to be disposed of, tax returns that have to be filed, a whole number of things over the next three to five months," Benoit said.

Cary Ichter, Michael Benoit's attorney, and Richard Decker, an attorney for Nancy Benoit's mother, did not return several phone calls Wednesday seeking comment.

Lawyers for Nancy Benoit's mother, Maureen Toffoloni, filed a petition in August asking a court to determine the order of the deaths, which they argued could affect whether she was entitled to any of the estate.

Investigators have repeatedly said that Chris Benoit killed his wife, then their son and himself during the weekend of June 22, 2007, at their suburban Atlanta home.

District Attorney Scott Ballard has said the wrestler used a cord to strangle his wife, then killed his son with a choke hold, then placed Bibles next to the bodies and hanged himself on a piece of exercise equipment.

Under that scenario, the estate would pass to Benoit's surviving two children, according to Ichter.

But if the boy was killed first and then the wife, under Georgia law at least some of the estate would pass to Toffoloni, lawyers in the case have said.

That's because of a forfeiture statute that takes into account the fact that Benoit was the killer. As such, the law for purposes of estate distribution would consider Benoit to have died before his wife and son.

Ichter has said that if the boy was killed first, the estate would pass to the wife and, since she was killed, it would then pass to her family.

An attorney for Toffoloni, of Daytona Beach, Fla., has said he doesn't believe the order of deaths is clear, and that is why he asked the Fayette County court to make a determination based on the law.

Michael Benoit said Wednesday he always believed the Toffoloni family should get some of the estate.

"It's beyond me why we needed to spend $600,000 to get here," he said.

Investigators have not given a motive for the killings, but the question of whether steroids played a role has lingered. Anabolic steroids were found in Benoit's home, and tests showed Benoit had roughly 10 times the normal level of testosterone in his system when he died.

Some experts believe that use of testosterone can contribute to paranoia, depression and violent outbursts known as "roid rage."

Benoit's father believes years of head trauma his son suffered while in the ring contributed to the killings.

"It goes far beyond the steroid issue," Michael Benoit said Wednesday.

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