Published January 13, 2015
An autopsy conducted on a woman who died after being handcuffed and detained at the Phoenix airport 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.
Authorities have said Carol Anne 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 comment on whether Tuesday's examination supports or refutes that theory.
Gotbaum was arrested for disorderly conduct after she was kept off a flight.
Gotbaum's family accuses police of manhandling her. They hired an attorney to monitor the police investigation into her death, a private investigator who watched the official autopsy and a pathologist who started a second autopsy Tuesday night.
Gotbaum, 45, was on her way to an alcohol treatment program when police stopped her. Authorities said she was late for a flight and became angry when a gate crew would not 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.
Michael Manning, who was hired by the family to monitor the police investigation, said the private investigator who watched Tuesday's 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."
Police spokesman Sgt. Andy Hill said officers followed established policy while detaining Gotbaum. The Phoenix Police Department's Professional Standards Bureau is conducting an internal investigation, a standard procedure following an in-custody death.
Manning said he is still interviewing witnesses and the family has not decided whether it should sue Phoenix police.