Deaths of OC MMA Fighter, Wife, Suspected to be Murder-Suicide

The LA Times, industry publications the Wrestling Observer and Sherdog and plenty of other sources report that autopsy results are leading authorities to believe that the deaths of an Orange County professional mixed martial arts fighter and his wife were exactly what they appeared to be when news broke yesterday: a murder-suicide.

Justin Levens, 28, and his wife, Sarah McLean-Levens, 25, were found dead from gunshot wounds Wednesday afternoon at their Laguna Niguel condominium. The gun was found near Levens; the Wrestling Observer's Dave Meltzer, the journalist of record for mixed martial arts and professional wrestling, quotes Jim Amormino of the Orange County Sheriff's Department as saying, "If it's a murder/suicide, he's the shooter."

Levens--who was due in court on aggravated assault charges the day he was found dead, the Register reports--was a member of the Southern California Condors, the Orange County-based team in the now-defunct International Fight League. And if current suspicions are true, the second team member to commit suicide.
In May 2007, Condors member Jeremy Williams (also based out of Laguna Niguel) died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Levens was an alternate and took Williams' place on the team. An April 2008 OC Weekly article on Williams provides a vivid, and now eerie, description of the emotion displayed by Levens after his teammate's death.

A light heavyweight with the unfortunate nickname "The Executioner," Levens was under suspension by the the California State Athletic Commission through January 2009 after testing positive with nearly 100 times the allowed level of painkiller oxymorphone in his system in July. Before the suspension, he was scheduled for a "swing match" on the "Affliction: Banned" event on July 19 of this year at the Honda Center that didn't happen due to time reasons.

Levens had two fights in 2006 for leading MMA organization UFC, including a first-round loss to Evan Tanner in April. That match was held in Anaheim at what was then still called the Arrowhead Pond; this September Tanner died under bizarre circumstances--the official cause of death was heat exposure.

Much has been made out of professional wrestlers dying young, but given the deaths of Levens, Williams and Tanner, it's hard not to wonder if it's also symptomatic of MMA; essentially pro wrestling's legitimate, unscripted cousin. Parallels between the deaths of Justin Levens and Sarah McLean-Levens--if indeed things happened the way details of the case currently suggest--and pro wrestler Chris Benoit's June 2007 suicide and murder of his wife and son are clear.


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