PHOENIX – A New York woman who died in police custody at Sky Harbor International Airport had been dead for more than two hours before authorities told her husband, newly released records show.
Airport officials on Thursday released audio recordings of three telephone calls that Noah Gotbaum made to airport communications and other material on the events surrounding his wife's death Sept. 28.
Carol Anne Gotbaum, 45, was on her way to alcohol rehabilitation in Tucson when she was arrested after causing a disturbance during a stopover at Sky Harbor. Authorities said Carol Gotbaum, who had become upset over missing her connecting flight, was shackled and left in an airport holding room and found unconscious minutes later.
Noah Gotbaum, a member of a prominent New York City family, had called the airport three times that afternoon, telling officials he was concerned about his wife's whereabouts because she was depressed and suicidal.
"They're not dealing with some lout who's just drank too much on an airplane,'' he said. "That's not what's going on here.''
Records of the time of the calls indicate she was already dead more than an hour before his first call was made at 4:39 p.m. Transcripts of the three calls had been released last week.
He was notified about his wife's death shortly after his third call to the airport, which came around 6 p.m., officials said Thursday. During one of the calls, an officer tells a dispatcher while Gotbaum is on hold that he needs to find ``somebody who's professional'' to break the news.
Sgt. Andy Hill, a Phoenix police spokesman, said it's not uncommon to delay notifying relatives about a death.
"We want to notify them as soon as we can, but we also want to have information to give them,'' Hill said.
Typically an investigative supervisor notifies the family about a death or assigns someone to do so, Hill said. The officer who took Gotbaum's calls would not have been authorized to give out that information, Hill said.
The Maricopa County medical examiner has not determined how she died, but the case has drawn national attention to how Phoenix police handled the incident.
Noah Gotbaum is the son of a prominent New York labor leader and stepson of Betsy Gotbaum, the city's public advocate, an elected position that involves helping improve services to citizens.