PHOENIX – A private investigator observing an autopsy of a woman who died after being detained at the Phoenix airport said bruises were scattered across her body, indicating there was a struggle, an attorney for the woman's family said.
The autopsy conducted Tuesday on Carol Anne Gotbaum was inconclusive, and toxicology results needed to determine a cause of death will not be available for a few weeks, a county medical examiner said.
Gotbaum's family accuses police of manhandling the New York woman when they arrested her Friday. They have hired the private investigator, an attorney to monitor the police investigation and a pathologist who performed a second autopsy Tuesday night.
Authorities have said Gotbaum, who was handcuffed and shackled to a bench, may have accidentally strangled herself Friday. David Boyer, the acting director of the Maricopa County Medical Examiner's Office, would not say whether the official autopsy supports or refutes that theory.
"The doctor in this case is waiting for all testing to be done before she would rule on the cause and manner" of death, Boyer said. He said it will be a few weeks before toxicology tests are completed on Gotbaum, who was arrested for disorderly conduct after she was kept off a flight at Sky Harbor International Airport.
Michael Manning, who was hired by the family to monitor the police investigation, said the private investigator who watched the official autopsy said numerous bruises were scattered across Gotbaum's body.
"The body shows signs of a struggle," Manning said. "There are ligature marks, and some of those ligature marks match the chain that they used to chain her to the bench."
Manning said renowned forensic pathologist Cyril Wecht, whom the family hired to conduct the second autopsy, was "going to prepare his report and get back with us in a week or so."
Gotbaum, 45, was on her way to an alcohol treatment program in Tucson when police stopped her. Authorities said she was late for a flight and became angry when a gate crew wouldn't let her on the plane.
Officers handcuffed Gotbaum behind her back, shackled her to a bench and left her alone in a detention room. Police said she was later found unconscious and not breathing with the chain from the shackle pulled against the front of her neck. It appeared that Gotbaum got tangled as she tried to manipulate the handcuffs from behind her to the front, police said.
Police spokesman Sgt. Andy Hill said officers followed established policy while detaining Gotbaum. Police also said their procedures for arresting someone at the airport haven't changed since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
The Phoenix Police Department's Professional Standards Bureau is conducting an internal investigation, a standard procedure following an in-custody death.
Manning said Gotbaum started drinking heavily about three years ago, and her family noticed a serious problem with alcoholism about a year ago, Manning said. He said she left her three children with her husband, Noah, and headed to Tucson to get better.
"When she landed in Phoenix, she talked with her husband," Manning said. "She said, `I want to do this for us. I want to do this for our kids. I'm committed to this. I'm so happy....' Everything was going swimmingly well when she landed."
Manning said he's still interviewing witnesses and the family hasn't decided whether to sue Phoenix police.