Arturo Gatti case re-analyzed in Brazil

Updated: September 8, 2011, 2:24 PM ET
Associated Press

SAO PAULO -- Brazilian prosecutors said Thursday that they are looking again into the death of boxer Arturo Gatti.

Brazilian investigators had ruled Gatti's 2009 death a suicide, but a spokesman with the Pernambuco state prosecutor's office told The Associated Press the case is being analyzed again. That comes after private investigators in the U.S. presented evidence challenging whether the Italian-born, Canadian-raised boxer had killed himself.

Spokesman Jaques Cerqueira said prosecutor Paula Ismail may ask for the U.S. investigators' findings, which indicated Gatti was killed. She could bring murder charges or decide to uphold the original investigation's findings that Gatti killed himself.

"She will make an announcement after she is done analyzing the evidence presented after the initial investigation," said Cerqueira, who noted that the case was never technically closed.

He said Ismail could also ask for additional investigation.

Forensic experts hired by Gatti's former manager in the U.S. used crime scene photos, interviews, autopsy reports and computer-generated simulations to challenge the initial criminal investigation in Brazil on numerous fronts.

Eduardo Trindade, a lawyer assisting Gatti's family, said he wants the panel's report presented to prosecutors in Brazil and would push for an indictment of Gatti's wife, Amanda Rodrigues Gatti. She was initially arrested on suspicion of strangling him but was cleared by the first police investigation. No other suspects have been identified.

Responding to a question, Cerqueira said charges against Rodrigues Gatti were possible.

Questions surrounding Gatti's death prompted a second autopsy at the request of the boxer's family in Canada in 2009. Michael Baden, former chief pathologist for the New York state police and host of the HBO show "Autopsy," observed the procedure on behalf of the family and said coroners didn't rule out homicide as a cause of death. Canadian officials have not released the second autopsy results.

No one answered the telephone at the office of the last known attorney for Rodrigues Gatti in Brazil on Thursday. But the widow told the Canadian Press in Canada on Wednesday that she is convinced her husband took his own life.

"You'll have to wait for the second autopsy," she said. "But I know it was (a suicide). It would be easier for me to explain to myself that it wasn't a suicide, but I'm positive it was."

The report Wednesday came a day after a civil trial began in Montreal to determine who inherits Gatti's multimillion-dollar fortune. At the center of the debate is the validity of two wills with different beneficiaries.

In July 2009, three weeks after the 37-year-old Gatti was found dead in a hotel room in a seaside resort in northeastern Brazil, police ruled his death a suicide.

They had initially arrested Rodrigues Gatti, saying she had strangled him with her purse strap as he drunkenly slept. The lead police investigator at the time did not say why he decided the death was instead a suicide. A judge ordered the release of Rodrigues Gatti, citing the police investigation and writing that "the victim took his own life, committing suicide by hanging."

In a 2009 phone interview conducted as she was leaving her jail cell, Rodrigues Gatti said she believed her husband took his own life because he was afraid she was going to leave him following a violent disagreement in public the night before his death.

"We had an argument in the street. Then he pushed me and I hurt myself. 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," Rodrigues Gatti said at the time. "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."

Rodrigues Gatti dismissed the results of the private probe because it was paid for by Pat Lynch, Gatti's former manager.

The private investigators presented a report filled with findings showing Gatti didn't kill himself.

They said a severe laceration on the back of Gatti's head couldn't have happened during a fall to the floor, and the position he was found in, with his head halfway wedged under a cabinet, was not consistent with a hanging. The investigators also said the handbag strap he allegedly used wasn't strong enough to hold his weight for more than a few seconds, far shorter than the several hours alleged by police based on interviews with his wife.

The laceration was caused by a blunt instrument and could have incapacitated Gatti before he was strangled, they said. Also, two hand towels covered with blood, presumably from the head injury, were never tested by Brazilian authorities, according to Brent Turvey, an Alaska-based forensic scientist who took part in the private investigation.

Gatti developed a large following in New Jersey, where he lived and trained beginning in the early 1990s. Nicknamed "Thunder," he fought some of his most memorable fights at Atlantic City's Boardwalk Hall, including a trilogy of slugfests with fellow 140-pounder Micky Ward beginning in 2002 that endeared him to fans.


Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

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