Police back off statements of wife's role
RIO DE JANEIRO -- Arturo Gatti's wife will remain in jail pending a judicial decision despite the release of an autopsy report casting doubt on whether the former champion boxer was killed.
Police, meanwhile, are backing off strong statements that Gatti's wife was unquestionably responsible for his death. Earlier they said she undoubtedly strangled him with her purse strap as he drunkenly slept.
The lawyer for Amanda Rodrigues -- whom police have said is the only suspect in the fighter's July 11 death -- petitioned for her release through two legal channels.
Pernambuco state judge Fausto Campos on Monday denied the request that she be released because she was cooperating with police. He ruled, though, that her writ of habeas corpus must be examined by a three-judge panel, leaving open the possibility she will be freed. The panel meets each Tuesday, but the court did not say when Rodrigues' request would be heard.
The judge's decision came on the same day about 1,000 people turned out for Gatti's funeral in his adopted hometown of Montreal.
Gatti was found dead in the apartment he was renting with Rodrigues in the seaside resort of Porto de Galinhas in Brazil's northeast. The pair, who had a tumultuous marriage, had arrived there a few days before Gatti's death for a second honeymoon. The couple brought their 10-month-old son, who was unhurt and is in the care of Rodrigues' family in Brazil.
On Saturday, authorities released an initial autopsy report that said Gatti could have died in an unexplained accident, been murdered, or committed suicide. The report indicated Gatti died of asphyxiation after his body was "suspended and hanged."
Police said from the beginning they think Rodrigues strangled Gatti as he slept -- and they have said they think the crime scene was altered before Rodrigues reported Gatti's death. Her attorney, however, said the fact Gatti's body was found suspended proved his client's innocence.
"The report was telling the truth," Rodrigues' attorney, Celio Avelino, told The Associated Press. "The report said he was hanged. She could never suspend and hang a man that size."
But a Gatti family friend rejected out of hand the chance the fighter committed suicide.
"Nobody believes whatsoever that there's even a one percent chance of a suicide. He lived life to the fullest," said Ivano Scarpa, a close family friend who spoke during the funeral service in Canada.
Rodrigues, in a handwritten note given to the AP last week, proclaimed her innocence and said it would be proved within days.
Police inspector Paulo Alberes said he could no longer comment on the case until the investigation was complete -- an abrupt reversal from many detailed statements investigators have given about Gatti's death.
"I cannot confirm that she is a suspect," Alberes said. "I can tell you that she is still imprisoned as of right now. That is it."
The investigator said police hope to have their final report prepared by next week. The initial investigation report was legally required to be handed over to prosecutors by Wednesday, but police received an extension on that deadline.
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press