Video: Probe starts into woman's airport death

updated 10/2/2007 8:45:01 PM ET 2007-10-03T00:45:01

An autopsy on the woman who died after being handcuffed and detained at a Phoenix airport was inconclusive Tuesday, and a medical examiner said it will take at least a few more weeks before officials can determine how she died.

The family of 45-year-old Carol Anne Gotbaum accuses police of manhandling the woman when they arrested her Friday. They 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.

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

David Boyer, the acting director of the Maricopa County Medical Examiner's Office, said it could take a few weeks to a month before toxicology tests are completed.

Gotbaum was headed to an alcohol treatment program when officers arrested her for disorderly conduct. Police said she was late for a flight and became angry when a gate crew did not let her on the plane. Officers handcuffed her behind her back and took her to a holding room, where she kept screaming, authorities said.

Police spokesman Sgt. Andy Hill said officers placed Gotbaum in a room without a surveillance camera. After about five to 10 minutes, officers no longer could hear her and found her unconscious with her hands "pressed against her neck area," Hill said.

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."

Michael Manning, who was hired by the family to monitor the police investigation, said it does not seem possible Gotbaum could have killed herself.

He said the family has not decided whether it should sue Phoenix police.

Hill said officers followed established policy while detaining Gotbaum.

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

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