In a news story that has gotten international coverage due to the WWE connection, a 13-year-old boy, Devalon Armstrong, has been charged with the murder of his 5-year-old half-sister, Viloude Louis, after she died from her half-brother apparently using a series of professional wrestling moves on her, causing the broken ribs, internal bleeding and lacerated liver that led to her killing.
Initially, Devalon's story was that Viloude had complained of stomach ache, went upstairs to brush her teeth and 30 minutes later he found her still in the bathroom, lying on the floor, still in pain from the stomach ache. He then said that he helped her downstairs, laid her on the sofa and called 911 when she stopped breathing.
However, when interviewed by police later, Devalon admitted to practicing World Wrestling Entertainment style moves on his sister, like body slams, punches to the stomach and elbow drops. He continued for two to three minutes even after Viloude complained of being hurt, only stopping when his mother called him to check on how the babysitting was going.
Devalon told investigators that he knew WWE was fake, but seemed to take pleasure talking about the wrestling moves that he had used to kill his half-sister and their physical abuse.
"The death of Viloude Louis is a tragedy, and our condolences go out to her family.
WWE urges restraint in reporting this unfortunate incident as if it were the result of a WWE wrestling move. As in similar cases, criminal intent to harm and a lack of parental supervision have been the factors resulting in a tragic death.
Authorities have already charged the accused with second degree murder and determined that this was not an accidental death due to a wrestling move."
The incident is reminiscent of the murder of 6-year-old Tiffany Eunick by her 12-year-old playmate Lionel Tate in 1999, who callously inflicted a multitude of injuries that led to her death including a lacerated liver, a fractured skull, fractured rib and swollen brain, by mimicking wrestling moves.
The fallout from that crime was messy for WWE, as it led to the Parents Television Council launching a campaign against the company over the levels of sexuality and violence on their SmackDown! TV show, and led to some advertisers withdrawing their commercials from airing during WWE programming. However, WWE eventually won a $3.5 million settlement from the PTC and obtained a public apology from their founder Brent Bozell III for defamatory statements the group made to WWE's sponsors in order to damage the promotion and, at the same time, raise money for themselves and promote their own organization.
It's unlikely that WWE will face such a backlash this time around, given that they produce much more family friendly programming than they did 14 years ago. The question is whether they could do more to prevent such incidents from happening again. There are already calls for WWE to be more aggressive with their "Don't try this at home" message found on all their DVDs and videogames. That would certainly be a positive proactive move, as would being more careful about how their babyfaces are portrayed, who sometimes come across as being bigger bullies than the heels they face.
Unfortunately, at the end of the day, there is no foolproof solution, as the very nature of the WWE product is marketing cartoonish, simulated violence to young children. It's sadly almost inevitable that one day there will be another fatality just like this where an adolescent enacts his violent fantasies on a defenceless younger child, even if WWE takes every feasible measure to try and prevent such an occurrence from ever happening again.