As a panel of private investigators, pathologists, and scientists sat in a row at the Global Boxing Gym in North Bergen to reveal the results of a 10-month investigation into the mysterious death of local boxing hero and former world champion Arturo Gatti in July of 2009, highlights of Gatti’s last of three fights against Micky Ward, the boxer made famous in last year’s Academy Award-winning film “The Fighter,” were shown in a huge projection television.
It was almost fitting that the highlights of the last fight of the famed “Trilogy” between the two warriors, held May 18, 2002 at Mohegan Sun Arena, would be shown as the results of the investigation were being discussed.
All anyone had to do was glance up and catch a glimpse of the late Gatti in the ring against Ward in an epic war and you would realize one thing. That guy never quit in the ring, no matter how badly he was getting his head handed to him – and in turn, that guy would never dare take his own life.
So in essence, the findings of these highly respected investigators, doctors, scientists, criminologists, what have you, were in reality not necessary, especially to everyone who ever knew the 37-year-old two-time world champion, who spent most of his adult life living in Hoboken and Jersey City.
If you knew Gatti or even ever saw him fight, you knew that there was no chance in hell that he would take his own life via hanging, like what Brazilian police reported. The police reported that it was a suicide three weeks after Gatti’s wife, former Union City resident and Brazilian native Amanda Rodrigues, was first arrested and charged with his murder, only to be released without a charge after Brazilian police did an about-face. They said Gatti committed suicide via hanging with a strap from his wife’s purse.
The panel of 10 experts was totally unanimous in their findings at Wednesday’s well-attended press conference. Plain and simple, Gatti was murdered.
Paul Ciolino and Joseph Moura, two veteran private investigators hired by Gatti’s manager Pat Lynch of Union City, went through an extensive investigation into the boxer’s death.
“No one would ever know without a complete investigation,” said Ciolino, who has been involved in private investigative work for more than 30 years. “This is the result of 10 months worth of work and what we found.”
Ciolino and Moura both traveled to Brazil to investigate the scene of Gatti’s death.
“We had no control over the crime scene,” Ciolino said. “There were all sorts of problems. The body was moved. Evidence was moved.”
“We spent two days at the crime scene and we knew within two days that the crime scene did not fit the crime and was not what the Brazilian police said it was,” Moura said.
Experts proved that Gatti was first injured with a blow to the back of the head that caused him to bleed profusely, although pathologists do believe that Gatti was apparently strangled to death.
“Mr. Gatti appeared to be the victim of an assault prior to his death,” said expert Brent Turvey. “There was a blunt force laceration to the back of his head and abrasions and contusions to his left arm with torn skin. The blunt force injury was inflicted by another party. Plus, the strap was not around Mr. Gatti’s neck. Someone had to remove the strap.”
Dr. Stanley Zydlo is a medical expert dealing with emergency medicine. Dr. Zydlo was one of the emergency doctors that the series “E.R.” was based on and he was a consultant on the show.
“The strap in question was 24 inches long and Mr. Gatti’s neck was 18 inches,” Zydlo said. “We had the strap tested and it could only support 70 pounds of pressure for less than five seconds. It makes it impossible for him to hang himself with that strap. His wife said she got up at 6 a.m. and saw no blood. Did the blood come from nowhere?”
At that point, gruesome and graphic photos of the death scene were shown, with Gatti’s body on the floor and blood all around it.
“I think he was struck from behind, then had a ligature placed around his neck and he was strangled,” Zydlo said. “It was not self-hanging or suicide. It was definitely a homicide.”
Dr. Cyril Wecht, a famed forensic pathologist who worked on the autopsies of people like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Jon-Benet Ramsey, believed the Gatti autopsy was “bungled so badly.”
“I find it difficult for a country such as Brazil to have introduced such awful results in a case like this,” Wecht said.
Because she was the only person to gain entrance to the room by use of a key card, the investigators hinted that Rodrigues was somehow involved with the homicide. However, Rodrigues told other media after the press conference that she denied any involvement.
She was quoted as saying, “You’ll have to wait for the second autopsy but I know it was [a suicide].”
Too much to explain
“Too much is inexplicable in this case,” said former FBI agent and criminologist Stephen Moore at the Gatti press conference. “These people knew better. An improper conclusion was made and they went with it.”
Brazilian attorney Eduardo Trinidade insisted that the case is not closed and that he will present the evidence compiled by Ciolino and Moura to the Brazilian officials.
What happens next remains a question, but at the very least, Pat Lynch has a piece of mind that his prized fighter didn’t end his own life as he always believed.
As did so many thousands of others who will always remember Arturo Gatti for being a never-say-die fighter until his dying day.
Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com.
You can also read Jim’s blog, with more on the Gatti investigation, at www.jimhaguesports.blogspot.com.