EXPERTS SAY STRANGULATION, NOT SUICIDE, KILLED GATTI IN 2009
MONTREAL -- The wife of former Canadian boxing champion Arturo Gatti says the stunning findings of a private probe into his death don't change her opinion he killed himself.
A privately funded investigation by a panel of forensic evidence experts concludes the former junior welterweight champion was murdered two years ago in Brazil.
The report was released in New Jersey on Wednesday, one day after the beginning of a civil trial in Montreal that will determine who inherits Gatti's multimillion-dollar fortune.
Gatti was 37 when he was found dead at a vacation home in July 2009 in the Brazilian seaside resort of Porto de Galihnas.
His widow, Amanda Rodrigues, was categoric on Wednesday that her husband took his own life.
"You'll have to wait for the second autopsy but I know it was (a suicide)," Rodrigues told a crush of reporters at the Montreal courthouse.
"It would be easier for me to explain to myself that it wasn't a suicide but I'm positive it was."
The results of the second autopsy, done in Quebec, have not been released.
The New Jersey report came after a 10-month investigation that was initiated to challenge the official version that Gatti committed suicide.
"This case must be reopened if authorities in Brazil have an iota of moral, ethical and legal concern for their reputation," said noted forensic pathologist Cyril Wecht, who termed the version produced by the initial criminal investigation "pure, unadulterated fiction."
Brazilian authorities initially considered Rodrigues a prime suspect and arrested her, but released her soon after and concluded Gatti had hanged himself with a handbag strap.
Eduardo Trindade, a lawyer assisting Gatti's family, said Wednesday he would have the panel's report translated and presented to prosecutors in Brazil within the next month or two and would push for Rodrigues to be indicted.
While no one at Wednesday's news conference in New Jersey explicitly accused her of being involved in murder, several speakers stopped just short.
"If she was there alone, who committed the homicide?" said Paul Ciolino, a Chicago-based investigator hired by Pat Lynch, Gatti's former manager.
"He was murdered because he had some dough. It's the oldest motive in the world."
Rodrigues is involved in a legal battle with Gatti's family over her late husband's fortune, estimated at $6 million by Ciolino.
The possible impact of the findings on the civil trial is unclear but they have not been submitted as exhibits.
An attempt by Gatti's family to delay the start of the trial to have a look at the findings was denied by Justice Claudine Roy last week.
Carmine Mercadante, a lawyer representing the Gatti family at the civil trial, said he had no comment on the New Jersey results.
"I'm not going to comment on that because I have a civil case over here and it wouldn't be fair," he said.
Mercadante said he will not appeal Roy's decision and will look at the New Jersey report to determine whether he can do anything else.
Rodrigues dismissed the results of the private probe because it was paid for by Lynch.
She said she'd wait for the release of a news documentary into her husband's death being conducted jointly by television networks in the United States and Canada.
"I'm sure they're going to say the right thing because they're not being paid by me or the other side," Rodrigues said.
The trial continued Wednesday with friends of Gatti describing the couple's relationship.
At the centre of the debate is the validity of two wills with different beneficiaries.
Lawyers for the Gatti family claim the boxer did not understand a 2009 will, drawn up weeks before his death. It leaves everything to Rodrigues.
They argue that a previous will -- a copy of which has not been found -- is valid and leaves the fortune to his family.
Back in New Jersey, the team of experts used crime scene photos, interviews and autopsy reports as well as computer-generated simulations to challenge the official version on numerous fronts.
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, they said.
In addition, the handbag strap he allegedly used wasn't strong enough to hold 78 pounds for more than a few seconds, far shorter than the several hours alleged by police based on interviews with Rodrigues.
The laceration was caused by a blunt instrument and could have incapacitated Gatti before he was strangled, Wecht said.
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.
The Italian-born, Canadian-raised 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.
Some of those bouts played on TV monitors on the walls of Global Boxing Gym during Wednesday's news conference.
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