Thursday, September 02, 2010

Jeremy Wood Coverage: Dying for A Dream: Wrestler Killed While Training

----Here is a transcript of the story that aired tonight.


20-Year-old killed while training to be pro wrestler
Autopsy showed bleeding on the brain
Police unable to pinpont what happened to cause the injury

(Newport, AR) Weeks after his son died suddenly, Richard Hagler is still in search of answers.

"I need to know how he was hurt," said Hagler outside his Batesville, AR home. "I need to know the truth."

Hagler's son, Jeremy Wood was weeks into training to be a wrestler, when he suddenly collapsed.

Days later, he died.

By all accounts Wood was a healthy 20-year-old.

He just returned home to Arkansas in March, after serving six months in Iraq with the Army.

Wood came home, and wanted to pursue his passion to become a pro wrestler.

What no one knew, was that he'd die for that dream.

"We'd go to Memphis to watch wrestling," recalled Hagler. "We'd go to Louisiana to watch wrestling. We'd go to St. Louis to watch wrestling."

By the time Wood was four years old, the boy who was always smiling had charted his life.

He knew he wanted to join the US Army and become a wrestler.

"Everybody said he ain't got the agility, the speed, but they underestimated him," said Hagler.

Wood's passion for wrestling was enough to convince local promoters to let him start announcing matches.
"He loved getting in there and announcing the people that were coming in, but he wanted to be one of them that announced to come in," Hagler said.

When Southern Wrestling Alliance in Newport told Wood he could train to wrestle with them, he jumped at the chance.

After only a few lessons, something went wrong.

"He came home and my mom said he complained of a headache a little bit and he took him some Tylenol and went to his room," said Hagler.

Wood returned to the arena the next day.

The 911 call to Newport police came in around 8pm on August 11th.

"He had been complaining of a headache prior to that, dizziness, and they found him on the ground," said Lt. Patrick Weatherford of the Newport Police Department.

Wood was rushed to the hospital where doctors found bleeding on his brain.

"They said he'd either been hit or dropped on his head," said Hagler. "There was no other way he could have got it."

A week later, the Iraq war veteran who was training for his dream, died.

"Sad, sad," said Hagler. "You can't describe it. I can't put it in words."

Adding to his pain, no one can tell him how his son was injured.

"The only people who know what happened are the people who are there, and Jeremy," said Hagler.

But around Newport, rumors are flying like wrestlers from the top rope.

Hagler points to the bruises found on his son's chest as proof of something violent.

"They whooped the (expletive) out of him the first night," said Hagler. "He went back for more the second night."

WREG On Your Side Investigators tracked down the owner of SWA.

Sam Lassiter denies Wood was the victim of a beatdown.

"I can't think of a soul that would want to harm that boy," said Lassiter sitting in a restaurant in Newport. "If I knowed of a soul that harmed that boy, I'd have told the authorities."He says the wrestler training Wood, was the same one who trained and wrestles against Lassiter's own son.

"As far as he's concerned, I trust him with my son's life every Saturday night," Lassiter insisted.

Police say they've interviewed nearly a dozen witnesses in their investigation.

All of them back Lassiter's story.

"So far we don't have anybody, no witness that is able to point their finger at a particular act that occurred, a particular incident that could have caused this injury," said Lt. Weatherford.

A preliminary autopsy ruled Wood's death accidental.

But Hagler believes somebody has to know more and doesn't have the guts to tell.

"They're cowards," said Hagler. "They're sorry for not doing it. Everybody has a right to know what happened."

They're answers Lassiter wishes he had.

"As a father and parent, this one's tore me up pretty much," said Lassiter, his voice trailing off. "Pretty much."

Hagler says his only comfort now is knowing that his son died in the ring he loved.

"He died chasing a dream he wanted," said Hagler. "That's more than most people do."

Police say this is the first time they've been called to SWA's arena because of an injury.

Once the final autopsy report is done, police will turn the file over to the prosecutor.

So far, investigators say there's no sign anyone broke any laws in the death of Jeremy Woods.

Coming up Friday at 5pm WREG On Your Side Investigators talk to wrestling promoters who say something has to change before this sort of case happens again.

Credit: Scott Noll,