An anonymous edit to Wikipedia could provide a clue about the deaths of pro wrestler Chris Benoit, his wife and 7-year-old son. Or it could simply be random Wikipedia pranksterism by a University of Connecticut undergraduate.
The changes were made to the Wikipedia article on Benoit, an internationally recognized athlete who participated in World Wrestling Entertainment, hours before police discovered the bodies in the family's suburban Atlanta home.
At 12:01 a.m. EDT Monday, the entry was changed to say he missed a championship match because of personal issues "stemming from the death of his wife Nancy."
After a Wikipedia editor rejected the change, saying a reliable source was needed to back up that claim, the entry was changed again to say Benoit's absence "according to several pro wrestling Web sites is attributed to the passing of Benoit's wife, Nancy."
Police found the bodies, in what they now say was a murder-suicide, around 2:30 p.m. EDT. That's more than 14 hours after the mention of his wife's death.
The Internet Protocol address used to make the first changes was 184.108.40.206, and is registered to Cablevision's Optimum Online, a cable broadband provider. The Wikimedia Foundation says it maps back to Stamford, Conn., home to World Wrestling Entertainment. But the group's Web site is hosted by a different Internet service provider, and it's unclear who provides it with Net connectivity.
The second edit came from 220.127.116.11, which appears to be in Australia.
It's not obvious, however, that whoever's behind 18.104.22.168 has anything to do with the Benoit suspected murder-suicide. That address has been used to vandalize a series of Wikipedia entries, and the Benoit case could be an example of a vandal accidentally posting something that happens to be true.
22.214.171.124 has also edited the entry for the town of Naugatuck, Conn., to claim that the town "Board of WINNNNNNNNNNGS" has a vice president named Arbor Tasimi, a mayor named Marc Dagz, and a deputy mayor named Visar Tasimi. (Those changes have not been removed from the article even today; so much for Wikipedia's quality control. The real mayor is named Mike Bronko and the deputy mayor is named Tamath Rossi.)
Visar Tasimi, according to a flier produced by Yale University's local affairs office, is a finance major at the University of Connecticut, and to his credit he appeared on the dean's list last semester. His MySpace.com page says he's 19 years old, straight, and likely wants to sleep with his friend's sister.
Now, having your name falsely appear in a Wikipedia entry as a local town official is no guarantee that you're the culprit. Tasimi could have friends (or enemies) who decided to give him that fictional job title. Or Arbor Tasimi or Marc Dagz could have done it. But it sure seems more likely that whoever's behind 126.96.36.199 is a juvenile prankster somewhere in Connecticut rather than a person involved in a gruesome murder approximately 1,000 miles away.
Another example of Wikipedia pranksterism from that IP address: earlier this month, it vandalized an entry about a professional basketball player by falsely claiming the athlete was "found guilty" of raping a Penthouse bikini model. The same IP address vandalized an entry on the African wild ass and injected profanities into a Wikipedia article on Stacy Ann-Marie Keibler, a comely ex-wrestling star.
Not much else is known about who's using that IP address, but it'll be a simple matter for prosecutors to send a subpoena to Cablevision to learn more, which they've already indicated will happen.
It's true that the answer could provide a vital clue into what actually happened earlier this week. But it seems more likely to uncover a perfectly normal 19-year-old teenager somewhere in Connecticut with too much time on his hands--and who is utterly dreading a knock on his door from the cops right about now.
Update as of 12:02 a.m. PDT Friday: There's now a post on Wikinews claiming to be from the author of the original change to Benoit's entry, saying "it was an incredible coincidence." But there's no way, at least so far, to tell whether that post is by the same person.
Update as of 9:35 a.m. PDT Friday: The IP address used to post the apology appears to be the same one that was used to post the initial death notice, a strong indication that it's the same person or people. No word yet on whether a certain group of Connecticut teens convinced of their own hilarity (Tasimi did not respond to our e-mail) have been visited by the local police.
Update on Monday, July 2: In an e-mail to CNET News.com over the weekend, Visar Tasimi denied having anything to do with the edits, adding that he was currently on vacation with his family. The Dean's List student said he was "astounded" to hear what had happened and none too pleased to find his name "mixed up in this mess."