Friday, July 31, 2009
Police: Gatti hung himself from stairs
RIO DE JANEIRO -- Boxer Arturo Gatti's body was exhumed Friday to allow the Quebec coroner's office to perform a new autopsy at his family's request.
The development comes a day after Brazilian police classified Gatti's death as a suicide.
Until Thursday, police in the northeastern Brazil city of Recife considered it a homicide, with his wife as the prime suspect. Now, police say Gatti hanged himself with a handbag strap from a staircase column more than seven feet off the ground.
Gilles Ethier, deputy chief coroner of the western part of the Province of Quebec, said Gatti's family had retained an American pathologist, who will assist with the autopsy Saturday morning at the Montreal morgue.
"Clearly, it's necessary for us to pursue the investigation," Ethier said. "Of course, it's a little more complex for the pathologist because the body has been embalmed."
Gatti's Montreal funeral was July 20.
Many of his friends and family have expressed disbelief at the suicide ruling, and Canadian Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon said in a statement Friday that government officials will seek more information from Brazilian authorities on the Gatti investigation and its findings.
Ellen Haley, a spokeswoman for Main Events, the longtime promoter of Gatti's bouts, said in a statement "we do not believe that he took his own life."
She said members of the Gatti family, along with his boxing manager Pat Lynch, will carry out their own investigation. "We believe that once the results of that investigation are revealed, the truth will come to light and justice will be done," Haley said.
Gatti's wife, 23-year-old Amanda Rodrigues, was released Thursday after being held since July 12 in Recife. She and Gatti arrived with their 10-month-old son a few days before in the resort town of Porto de Galinhas, where they rented a two-level apartment.
"The exhumation does not surprise me at all. It makes perfect sense," Rodrigues' attorney, Celio Avelino said by telephone. "Gatti's family was first told by police that Amanda had killed him, and now they are saying he committed suicide. Of course, family and friends have doubts and are demanding another autopsy -- as they should."
"I am absolutely sure, that the second autopsy will reconfirm that he committed suicide," he said.
Repeated calls to Rodrigues went unanswered.
Milena Saraiva, a Recife police spokeswoman, provided more information Friday about Gatti's death.
Police ultimately concluded he hanged himself in the apartment early on July 11 from a wooden staircase column that was 7.3 feet off the ground. He stood on a stool and kicked it out from underneath him, police said. The autopsy report said Gatti was suspended for about three hours before his body fell to the floor.
Rodrigues said she was sleeping with the couple's son in an upstairs bedroom. She told police she went downstairs about 6 a.m. to get milk for the boy, saw Gatti's body on the floor and assumed he was drunkenly sleeping. It was not until she went back downstairs at 9 a.m. that she discovered Gatti was dead and called police. Saraiva said no suicide note was found.
"The first investigators to arrive at the scene only saw his body on the floor and the bloodied strap near his body," Saraiva said. "They assumed his wife strangled him."
Saraiva said 17 witnesses told police the couple got into a loud fight on a street near the beach in Porto de Galinhas the night before Gatti died. Saraiva said Gatti had seven cans of beer, along with two bottles of wine, over the course of dinner and partying at a bar.
Witnesses told police Gatti at one point picked up Rodrigues, who weighs about 100 pounds, by her chin with his right hand and tossed her to the ground.
Saraiva said at that point a security guard for a local hotel intervened, only to be punched in the face by Gatti. A small crowd that had gathered around the scene grew angry, with some throwing stones and even a bicycle at the boxer, the police spokeswoman said.
One stone hit Gatti in the back of the head, causing a wound that police originally said was caused by a small steak knife that was found near his body -- and which police showed off to reporters the day after Gatti's death.
The fracas eventually broke up, and Gatti and Rodrigues returned to the apartment in separate taxis.
In an telephone interview with The Associated Press as she walked out of jail Thursday, Rodrigues said Gatti may have killed himself because he feared she would leave him after their fight, one of many during a rocky two-year marriage.
"I believe that when we got home and he saw that he hurt me, he thought I would leave him, that I would tell him to just let me go, that I would separate from him," she said. "He did that in a moment of weakness. He was drunk, maybe he didn't know what he was doing, maybe he thought I would leave him the next day."
According to records at the Court of Quebec's criminal and penal division, Gatti was charged on April 16 for violating a restraining order that had been filed against him. Records didn't indicate who filed the restraining order, but Gatti's mother, Ida, confirmed it was Rodrigues who had taken one out against him.
Gatti, a Canadian who captured two world titles in his 16-year pro career, retired in 2007 with a record of 40-9.
"This case has been resolved," Saraiva said. "While the evidence at the scene first led us to think Gatti was murdered, the autopsy results and a detailed crime scene analysis simply pointed to a different outcome."