NORTH BERGEN, N.J. — Former junior welterweight champion Arturo Gatti was murdered two years ago in Brazil, a panel of forensic evidence experts said Wednesday as it presented the results of a 10-month investigation 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 Gatti's wife a prime suspect and arrested her, but released her soon after and concluded Gatti had hung 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 an indictment of Amanda Rodrigues Gatti.
But the wife told the Canadian Press on Wednesday – one day after the beginning of a civil trial in Montreal that will determine who inherits Gatti's multimillion-dollar fortune – that the findings do not change her opinion. She was categoric at the courthouse that her husband took his own life.
"You'll have to wait for the second autopsy," she said. "But I know it was (a suicide). 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.
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," he said, "because I have a civil case over here and it wouldn't be fair."
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. 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 Gatti dismissed the results of the private probe because it was paid for by Pat Lynch, Gatti's former manager. 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," she said, "because they're not being paid by me or the other side."
The trial continued Wednesday with friends of Gatti describing the couple's relationship. At the center 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 Gatti. They argue that a previous will – a copy of which has not been found – is valid and leaves the fortune to his family.
While no one at Wednesday's news conference in New Jersey explicitly accused her of being involved in murder, several speakers stopped barely short of that.
"If she was there alone, who committed the homicide?" said Paul Ciolino, a Chicago-based investigator hired by Lynch. "He was murdered because he had some dough. It's the oldest motive in the world."
Gatti's fortune is estimated at $6 million by Ciolino.
Using crime scene photos, interviews and autopsy reports as well as computer-generated simulations, the team of experts in New Jersey challenged 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 his wife.
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.