Woman Dies At Airport

Tuesday, October 2nd 2007, 4:34 pm
By: News On 6

PHOENIX (AP) The family of a woman who died after being detained at the Phoenix airport has hired an attorney to monitor the police investigation into her death, a private investigator to watch the official autopsy and a pathologist to conduct a separate examination of the body.

Carol Anne Gotbaum's family accuses police of manhandling the 5-foot-7-inch woman when they arrested her Friday.

Authorities have said Carol Anne Gotbaum, who was handcuffed and shackled to a bench, may have accidentally strangled herself.

An autopsy was being conducted Tuesday. Preliminary results could be available later in the day but complete results, including toxicology tests, could take one or two weeks, said David Boyer, acting director of the Maricopa County Medical Examiner's Office.

Carol Anne Gotbaum, 45, was headed to an alcohol treatment program in Tucson, Ariz., when officers arrested her for disorderly conduct. Police said she was late for a flight and became angry when a gate crew didn't let her on the plane. Officers handcuffed her behind her back and took her to a holding room, where she kept screaming, authorities said.

Carol Anne Gotbaum ``appears to have been manhandled by the Phoenix Police Department,'' said Betsy Gotbaum, the victim's stepmother-in-law. ``She cried out for help at the airport, but her pleas appear to have been met by mistreatment.''

Betsy Gotbaum also is New York City's public advocate, an elected watchdog of city government.

Michael Manning, who was hired by the family to monitor the police investigation, said he sent a private investigator to keep an eye on the medical examiner's autopsy, and that a pathologist hired by the family was to conduct another examination afterward.

Police spokesman Sgt. Andy Hill said officers placed Carol Anne Gotbaum in a room without a surveillance camera. After about five to 10 minutes, officers no longer could hear her voice and went to check on her. Gotbaum was found unconscious with her hands ``pressed against her neck area,'' Hill said.

Carol Anne Gotbaum had been shackled to a bench as well as handcuffed, Hill said.

Hill said officers followed established policy while detaining Gotbaum. Police also said that police procedures for arresting someone at the airport haven't changed since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

``Everything, so far that we know, is according to policy,'' Hill said.

The Phoenix Police Department's Professional Standards Bureau is conducting an internal investigation, a standard procedure following an in-custody death.

Manning said it doesn't seem possible she could have killed herself.

``It doesn't make any sense,'' he said. ``She was handcuffed behind her back and shackled to a table. It doesn't make sense that she could have physically managed to strangle herself.''

Manning, a high-profile lawyer who represented the government against failed savings and loan executive Charles Keating, has previously won settlements against Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio in wrongful-death lawsuits.

He said the family hasn't decided whether it should sue Phoenix police.

``We're not going to jump to any conclusions without any evidence,'' he said. ``We want to see what the autopsy reveals. We want to see what exactly happened to her.''