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Phoenix New Times
By Stephen Lemons
Fri., Nov. 9 2007 at 11:40 AM
The results are in on the autopsy of Carol Anne Gotbaum, the 45-year-old mother of three who died September 28 in police custody at Phoenix’s Sky Harbor Airport. In the opinion of Maricopa County Medical Examiner Ann L. Bucholtz, Gotbaum expired “as a result of asphyxia by hanging.” She adds that “contributing factors were acute ethanol and prescription medication intoxication.” Bucholtz lists the manner of death as an accident. You can read the report, here.
Bucholtz does not explain how exactly Gotbaum was able to “hang” herself. However, in her visit to the holding cell at Sky Harbor where Gotbaum was found dead shortly after being arrested for disorderly conduct, Bucholtz notes that the officer who discovered Gotbaum slumped over, “described her facing the wall, her hands together in the front near the left side of her neck.” She goes on to say that, “He does not recall seeing the position of the leg iron chain, however her hair was loose about her shoulders and it would have been easy for it not to have been observed.”
The autopsy goes into detail describing injuries to Gotbaum’s neck, specifically, a “ligature abrasion pattern” that’s “on the right neck and has an upward deviation towards the right ear.” I’m no Quincy, M.E., and Bucholtz was not immediately available for comment when I called the M.E.’s office, so draw your own conclusions.
Regarding the blood work, the report indicates Gotbaum tested positive for ethyl alcohol 0.24%, which would be way over the legal B.A.C. (Blood Alcohol Content), if that’s a direct correlation to the .08 the cops use, and I don’t know that it is. The report also says Gotbaum’s blood tested positive for citalopram, an antidepressant, and duloxetine, which is listed online as being used for MDD or Major Depressive Disorder. She also had a cough-suppressant and antihistamines in her system, as well as ibuprofen.
Ultimately, the report is an unsatisfactory read, and it doesn’t really answer the question of how Gotbaum was able to pull this Houdini move in PHX PD custody. Mike Manning was unavailable for comment when I phoned him just now. As soon as I get more, I’ll pass it on.
We’re working on getting the report into a PDF format so you can read it yourself. Should have that up soon.