2007_09_cottonwood.jpgA Phoenix medical examiner's autopsy conducted on the body of New York resident Carol Anne Gotbaum was inconclusive. Gotbaum died in police custody at Phoenix's Sky Harbor Airport on Friday, after she became upset when she missed a connection to Tucson, where she was planning on checking into the Cottonwood de Tucson alcohol rehabilitation center. Police suggested that she died while struggling to break free of her handcuffs; her family, which includes stepmother-in-law Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum, believe she may have been manhandled and wonder why a disturbed woman weighing 105 pounds was handcuffed behind her back and left alone.

The Maricopa County Medical Examiner's office had delayed its autopsy at the request of the Gotbaum family, which wanted its own independent pathologist present. The family hired Dr. Cyril Wecht to observe the autopsy, but his flight did not arrive on time, so he will conduct a second autopsy. Wecht recently handled the private autopsy of Anna Nicole Smith's son Daniel. The battle over Gotbaum's body became heated, as the Gotbaum family's lawyer Michael Manning accused the medical examiner of not releasing the body immediately. The body was eventually released to Wecht, but Manning is questioning the Maricopa County Medical Examiner's "integrity." The Post reports that Wecht's results will be ready "in a week or so."

The Daily News mentions Gotbaum's "desperate last call". Witnesses say that she was overheard telling her husband, Noah in New York, "They are not letting me on! It's all falling apart!"

Noah Gotbaum called back, desperately trying to persuade the U.S. Airways Express agent to calm his wife and let the mother of three board the plane for the $42,000-a-month Cottonwood de Tucson rehab program, friends and witnesses said.

"It will be okay. She just needs to take her medication. ... She hasn't taken it today," an airline worker said Noah Gotbaum begged. His wife was taking prescriptions for anxiety and depression, sources said.

The airline agent called Phoenix police, who soon grappled with and cuffed the distraught 45-year-old, then shackled her to a bench in an airport holding area Friday.

Gotbaum, who reportedly attempted suicide twice before, was supposed to meet a friend during the connection in Phoenix, but the friend never showed up. Airlines workers tell the News that she "had lunch solo at the terminal, got drunk and didn't hear her connecting flight being called for Tucson."

The NY Times has an editorial about Gotbaum's death, remarking, "It is not clear what, if any, mistreatment occurred, but among the questions that need answers are the cause of her death, and why an obviously troubled woman was not placed under better supervision. Since Sept. 11, 2001, there have been widespread reports of airport security officials mistreating travelers and quickly escalating minor incidents further than they needed to go."