Family of woman who died at Sky Harbor wants independent expert at autopsy
Jahna Berry
The Arizona Republic
Oct. 1, 2007 11:22 AM

The family of a New York woman who died in an airport holding room Friday wants to have an independent expert present when the autopsy is done, the family's attorney says.

Carol Ann Gotbaum, 45, was flying to Tucson to check into a rehabilitation facility for alcohol abuse and may have been in a "delicate" mental state when she missed her plane, said the family's attorney, Michael Manning of Phoenix.

"We have strong concerns about how this 110-pound woman may have ended up strangling herself, given that she was cuffed behind her back and shackled to a bench," Manning said.

An autopsy was scheduled to take place Monday afternoon, but the family has asked authorities to delay it for 24 hours so that an outside pathologist can be present, Manning said.

Gotbaum was arrested near Terminal 4 for disorderly conduct after arguing with a gate attendant. Gotbaum had been denied entry onto a US Airways Express flight bound for Tucson because she was late arriving at the gate.

She was rebooked on the next flight, but witnesses told police that Gotbaum got irate and began running through the terminal.

Police suspect that she may have strangled herself to death while trying to free herself from the handcuffs.

Manning said there is "no question" that Gotbaum was extremely upset when she missed her flight.

"People who do muster the courage to check themselves in, they need to do it before they change their mind," he said. "It's a very delicate emotional balance when you finally realize they you need help."

Gotbaum's mother-in-law is the New York public advocate, essentially a public ombudsman who helps residents deal with red tape. Gotbaum's husband, Noah, is an investor and the son of Victor Gotbaum, an influential labor leader.

The New York Post contributed to this report.