SPORTS

Brazil investigator: Gatti was a suicide

09/09/2011 04:54 EDT | Updated 11/09/2011 05:12 EST
SAO PAULO - The Brazilian police official who oversaw the 2009 investigation into the death of boxing champ Arturo Gatti said Friday he remains convinced that Gatti killed himself.

Investigator Paulo Alberes said, however, that if asked by prosecutors, he would rexamine the case and take into account the findings of private investigators in the U.S. who released a report this week and said they are certain the former Canadian boxing champion was murdered.

“Our investigations were conclusive in that this was a suicide,” Alberes said. “First of all, there was nothing disturbed in the hotel room. If this was a homicide, there would have been a fight. Also, the marks on his neck where characteristic of a suicide.”

Police initially said two-time world champion Gatti had been murdered by his wife, Amanda Rodrigues Gatti, saying she strangled him with a handbag strap as he drunkenly slept and their infant son lay in a room in the suite.

They arrested her shortly after his death and she was held in jail for 18 days.

But police reversed course and determined that Gatti killed himself. Rodrigues Gatti was then freed by a judge and no other arrests have been made, though prosecutors say that the case was never technically closed.

In a 2009 phone interview conducted as she was leaving jail, 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.

Rodrigues Gatti is in Canada for a civil trial concerning Gatti’s estate. The trial will determine who inherits Gatti’s multimillion-dollar fortune. At the center of the debate is the validity of two wills with different beneficiaries _ one will giving Rodrigues Gatti everything.

Alberes said that he thinks the fight over the money is what prompted the private investigation in the U.S.

“The family (of Gatti) isn’t satisfied that the boxer’s wife and son will inherit the millions of dollars left by him,” he said. “But we cannot imprison an innocent person.”

It was not known if Rodrigues Gatti still has a lawyer in Brazil. Messages left at the office of the lawyer who represented her in 2009 were not returned. But she told The Canadian Press earlier this week that her husband took his own life.

Prosecutor Paula Ismail, at the same press conference as Alberes, said again that she would look at the results from the private investigation in the U.S. and may order Brazilian police to reinvestigate the case, and that she could eventually file murder charges if appropriate.

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.

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.

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 (63-kilogram) Micky Ward beginning in 2002 that endeared him to fans.

MORE:cpSports