Monday, December 31, 2007

Don't All 44 Year Olds Celebrate Their Birthday By Getting Smashed And Hopping Behind The Wheel?

When you're Jim Leyritz, former World Series (of baseball) hero, and you're out bar-hopping with a tasty Playboy model, perhaps you forget that you are human, and that you are just as capable of being tomorrow's headline as anybody else.

This all happened on Friday, but I stayed away from it at first. I didn't want to use his name as an excuse to publicize his stupid act. But a young mother is dead now - rumors are that they had friends in common - and the details of Leyritz's senselessness keep coming in.

NY Daily News has been keeping track of them:

Bottom line: Leyritz is facing serious time in jail.

When will we learn? Don't get smashed and get behind the wheel. Just do not do it.

Rest In Peace, Rosetta Peacock, 12/31/1977 - 12/30/2007

Rosetta Peacock would have turned 31 today. Instead her saddened family will be making her funeral arrangements. The Irvington, NJ woman was standing in her bedroom last night when a stray bullet pierced the wall and then her head, killing her instantly.

Irvington is just west of Newark. NYTimes has the facts:

Who says New Jersey no longer has a death penalty?

You Drink, You Drive, You Cause Incredible Death And Destruction

Michael Gagnon, a 24 year old Michigan man, was partying with siblings and cousins on Sunday night, December 30. The party was an early New Year's celebration, and a room had been rented so the partiers could enjoy themselves without worrying about driving home.

Too bad they didn't collect the car keys. After pumping up his blood alcohol to .254, Mike bolted the party, badly in need of some Taco Bell. Doing the right thing, employees notified police that an obviously intoxicated driver was at their store. Police arrived too late to detain Gagnon, who soon managed to enter I-280 outside Toledo going

the wrong way.

And now five members of a Maryland family are dead.

BaltSun has a full account, including an interview with Gagnon's stunned brother:,0,144080.story?coll=bal_tab01_layout

Toledo Blade was on the scene and has a grisly photo to prove it:

We'll keep posting these stories. Will you see yourself or someone you know in one of them, and do the right thing?

Oh Those Whacky Republicans

Not to paint every Republican with the same broad brush; it is theoretically possible that there are some GOPers who (a) understand the whole separation of church and state thing and (b) acknowledge the existence of forms of religion other than Christianity.

It would be difficult to draw that distinction based on the Iowa polls, where Huck and Mitt duke it out before Thursday's caucuses. Mitt of course is Mitt Romney, the used-to-be-liberal and now died in the wool conservative Mormon former Massachusetts governor. Mitt will be damed if he'll let anybody accuse him of being a lesser Christian, just because some label his religion a cult.

Anybody? Well, Huck for one. Huck is Mike Huckabee, former Arkansas governor and Baptist minister, who has been less than warm toward Mitt's church in some of his comments along the campaign trail. ("Don't Mormons believe that Jesus and the devil are brothers?").

So, things are pretty crazy in Iowa these days. The radios, TVs and newspapers are blanketed with ads from the contenders (can you name them all?)

What's at stake is, who will carry the conservative (read: bible thumping) flag against McCain/Giuliani. The theory is there will be one strong conservative and one strong centrist Republican left after South Carolina. The hand to hand combat at these early stages will be fierce.

I've been wrong so many times in presidential politics, but I have to continue to hold out hope that Republicans would rather have a strong centrist candidate than a man who carries a religious pledge into the White House.

We will all know soon enough.

WashPost with a home grown analysis, complete with scary quotes:

Welcome Home! Here's Your Cell...

More details emerge from the saga of the Zoe 6. They have in fact been jailed upon their return to France; the local prosecutor has no intention of seeking to have the sentences or the charges dropped; the 6 appear in court January 14 so the judge can alter the "hard labor" portion of their sentences, which is against French law. Any alteration to the sentences must, according to treaty, be acceptable to Chad.

The lawyers for the 6 howl about 'totalitarian justice', as in, how could France abide a Chadian sentence? Of course this thing is much bigger than the Z6; there are international relations to consider.

Also, it really does seem true: they were kidnapping a hundred Chadian children, not saving Sudanese orphans. Perhaps they were duped; perhaps they are part of an international children smuggling ring. In any case, if that was your child or mine, you'd be inclined to see justice served on those who were toting the child to the airport to be whisked out of the country.

The Z6 may be patsies; probably some of them are. New prediction: new trials for all, and some will go free. Some will not, because they were in positions where they should have known what they were involved in. They were the ones who met with the intermediaries and took responsibility for the children.

WashPost (via AFP) keeps us up to date:

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Daddy, Why Did You Let The Planet Melt?

Twenty years from now we will all be looking our children and grandchildren in the faces and trying to answer that question. That is, those of us who are still alive. Forget all this talk about population reaching 9 billion; we will start to measure the loss in population within these next 20 years.

Why? Because there will be no place to live, and not enough resources. Not enough energy. Not enough food. Not enough land. There will be plagues and massive death inducing events, and living conditions for every human will be worse than they are today.

If there is still an internet and still a Blogger in 2027, this testimony will prove perhaps too soft.

The planet is in fact melting. Or evaporating, to be more accurate. Sure there's been plenty of rain and snow, but it dries right up again. Mountains are losing permanent ice, which means their rivers will eventually run dry for part of the year. Those rivers already fail, in some cases, to reach the sea anymore, so tapped are they along the way. This will become more common. The western states' new Colorado river sharing agreement will prove to be a fantasy, within five years.

The artic will be close to ice free in summer by 2011. I made that prediction two years ago.

It's called acceleration, folks. The more things melt, the faster they melt. You know it's true. You see it when snow melts. Once it gets started, it picks up speed. Same thing with the northern latitudes and elevations, and to a lesser extent in the southern latitudes. Why the difference? Because the only land which rests within the antarctic circle is Antarctica itself, which has very high elevation due to the enormous snow pack. Also, the ozone hole keeps things cooler. Also, it is surrounded by a very cold ocean with very strong winds. Still, there are coastal parts of Antarctica which have lost ice mass, enough so that the continent as a whole is shrinking, ever so slowly. But remember that thing about picking up speed?

So, these are easy predictions to make. One more prediction: we will, within ten years, be talking seriously about seeding the atmosphere with particles which either dim sunlight or remove CO2. We will not - not - get there with emissions reductions, and the concept of making carbon based fuel more expensive has a real chance to devastate common folk, who can barely afford their energy costs now.

Time to get in the game. We need to remember who serves who here. We serve the planet; she does not serve us. If we don't stop being so rude to her, she will have no choice but to slap us down.

Read this Yahoo story (via AP, of course), and really understand what it clearly lays out. It is time to get in the game.;_ylt=An6U2tf1E0azYS5hkOoQFqYE1vAI

The Eyes And Ears Of Big Brother Are All In Place...

...and are known as the national cell phone network. Several days ago a Hindu woman from Chicago disappeared from along the banks of the Des Plaines river while discarding a broken idol in accordance with tradition. Police and search and rescue personnel scoured the area, looking for the woman's body.

The police also did some investigating. Like, had she used her cell phone recently?

She had, all throughout the day she had gone missing. Most of the calls were to a single number. The police tracked down the owner of that number. It was a young man, who had the woman with him. Seems the woman simply wanted to get away from it all, and staged her own disappearance. She did not contact any member of her family while she was away, including her husband.

In days gone by, she'd simply be another missing person. After a couple of weeks, the police would declare her body unrecoverable. After a year, the state would declare her dead. She would have a chance at an anonymous new life, which she clearly sought.

Not anymore, kiddies. That little cell phone you carry with you everywhere you go is actually a tracking device. Using triangulation, you can be located at any moment to within a quarter mile, and your movements within that area can be monitored. They'd be waiting for you at the county line.

You don't even have to use the phone. It responds to pings from cell towers, which then log the connection.

Did you know any of that? So, here's the lesson: before you embark on a mission which you wish to keep secret like, forever, ditch the cell phone. Buy one of those paygo deals - with cash - and don't use your freaking ATM or credit card.

Do you even realize how plugged in you are?

ChiTrib rundown on the Hindu woman:,0,2273284.story?coll=chi_tab01_layout

Friday, December 28, 2007

FOVSS (Friend Of Very Strange Stories) and a strange man in his own right, Keith presents us with his latest brainstorm, the Metacafe Joke Of The Month. Note the production detail :-)

Dirty Joke! - Click here for more home videos

WIll The French Find A Way To Blame Us For This?

Starting January 2 (well, January 1 but they don't feel like enforcing it on a holiday), France becomes a fully non-smoking country. Not quite. They take the extraordinary step of banning smoking in cafes. Bars and restaurants, too. But cafes? One more ubiquitous hallmark of Franch style and fashion bites the dust.

They have studies which show that half of all smokers die from smoking-related illnesses. They've already banned smoking in hospitals and airports, and now this final step.

Makes one wonder why the U.S. can't get together and pass one uniform clean indoor air law. Surely the French have obnoxious, well funded lobbyists just as the U.S. does?

America stands for freedom! You want to destroy your lungs, who has the right to intrude?

Ah, it's the second hand smoke that gets you. You have no right to exhale your pollution in the air I may also have to breathe.

For my money, the indoor ban is sensible and long overdue anywhere. That companies are allowed to profit from the sale of these death sticks is bad enough. To force others to breathe the foul air is too much, and has gone on for too long.

Enough is enough already. It's time for the U.S. to follow France (and much of Europe) and make it a national standard: no smoking in common, indoor spaces.

Yahoo (via A.P.) writeup here:;_ylt=ApqdIhhX.Bl02EFBwf_G.vgE1vAI

Move Over! I'm In A F#$!IN ESCALADE!

Her last words were actually "Oh Sh##!", but her actions spoke loudest, and now Jennifer Carter of Frederick, MD, is dead at 27. Why? Because she thought her Escalade owned the road as well as the shoulder. While weaving back and forth, she clipped the back of another car and plunged into the opposite lane. So, what happened next?

Head on collision and two more dead, a Fairfax, VA, father and son.

Words escape me at times like this. Kind of like how I feel when a jilted boyfriend kills the girlfriend and then kills himself.

Why not just kill yourself?

Jennifer Carter got what she deserved, driving a 4,000 pound missile like a jet ski on U.S. 15 during rush hour.

(Why do they call it that? Because it's a baaaaad time to be in a rush...)

It's just, so damn unfair that a father and son, doing who knows what during Christmas break, had to pay for her senseless, reckless act. And of course, she leaves bereaved all around her. All in all, quite a frickin' mess.

Way to go out with a bang, Jennifer.

WashPost with the sickening story, still unfolding:

Glad To Be Leaving Chad?

The 6 French aid workers (awkward turn of phrase, for sure) have, as suspected, been turned over
to French authorities and will be leaving Chad. Still technically guilty of the charges against
them, the workers will still need to be dealt with by the French legal system. They won't be doing
hard labor, but will they be released outright?

Since guessing only counts if you do it before the fact, here's mine: Yes.

NY Times update (via AP) here:

Meet The Man Who Ran Into The Fire

Ryan Parker, a 21 year old man. What a man.

Thanks to Parker, his 8 year old niece is alive today. She was moments from death by smoke
inhalation when Parker dove through the basement window of their burning house, found her in the
dense blackness, and managed to find the window he came through and get her out. He doesn't
remember how he got out.

WashPost with the amazing details:

Here Kitty (Isn't It Cute How Mad He's Getting?)...Here Kitty....Holy SH**!

Well, this tiger story just gets more remarkable. Maybe the wall wasn't quite high enough; the
moat was dry; something may have been dangled over the edge (a shoe?)...the three men were
together in the zzoo, at the tiger enclosure, when this scene unfolded. Taunting is suspected,
which may have triggered an unusual feat of strength by the big cat.

Now the Examiner tells us that the dead man was trying to save his friend from being mauled.
Details remain sketchy, but presumably the survivors know what happened. Here's the latest from
the Examiner:

Good Christians Can Look Remarkably Like The Devil

It almost brings tears to your eyes, doesn't it? The killer's mother saying "He's a good
Christian!", so how could he have helped his girlfriend gun down her parents, her brother, his
wife and their two children?

Well, money is suspected. Such a shock. A good christian moved, by mere money, to take the lives
of 6 innocent people?

Joseph Thomas McEnroe, all of 29, met Michele K. Anderson through an as yet un-nmed online dating
service five years ago. What transpired between then and now to convince them that the path to
financial security was to take heavy caliber handguns, truck over to the folks' house on Christmas
eve, and...

Yahoo (via AP) has the facts, as known so far:;_ylt=Ai5WPLaifA7x7SAeG7nbWbIE1vAI

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Evidence That Beasts Live Among Us

Why do women choose bad men? Fabian Hands, a 46 year old pathetic excuse for a human being, killed his girlfriend and her sister before raping and assaulting the 20 year old daughter of the dead girlfriend. When police arrived at the scene, the 20 year old emerged from a bedroom complaining of the rape and assault. Hands followed her out of the bedroom and, in front of police, assaulted her again. He's been arrested and charged with the crimes, which are of course "alleged" at this point. We suspect the Omaha P.D. got their man...

WashPost account (via AP) here:

One Last Walk Together Before I Knife You To Death...

David Winters, age 18, home for the holidays in the suburban Washington, D.C. area after completing Marine boot camp, went for a walk with his proud Dad Andrew, who was wearing his USMC sweatshirt in his son's honor. Somehow, this newly minted Marine snapped, and when all was said and done, father Andrew was dead of knife wounds. At first David claimed that both men had been assaulted by unknown assailants, but that story quickly folded. The Marines teach you to kill well, not to lie well.

WashPost coverage here:

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Lest We Forget Their Suffering

The NRA holds steadfast to the principle that the government had no authority to disarm the citizens of New Orleans in the wake of hurricane Katrina. In a situation where there was effectively no law enforcement, possession of a weapon would likely have been the only means available for defense of self and property.

The city denies the allegations, saying police took only stolen or abandoned guns.

The NRA seeks a delay in the trial to give them more time to find actual victims of the seizures.

From Yahoo (via AP):;_ylt=Airn88mYz40Bc.hshtW5qaJH2ocA

Welcome To Chad, Doctor. Here's Your Sledge Hammer.

Surely coming as no joke to the six members of a French foreign aid organization known as Zoe's Ark, a court in the Chadian capital of N'Djamena sentenced them to eight years each at hard labor. Their crime: attempting to "export" 103 children who were not, evidently, the Darfur orphans the group claimed. Rather, they were found to be Chadian children, many from stable families.

The organization claims not to be mercenary but humanitarian. They have yet to explain why they were essentially kidnaping well off children.

There are heavy political over- and under-tones to the saga. The entire region is embroiled in sectarian war, and France is a player in the diplomatic efforts to forge a truce. It is implied that there will be a deal cut to send the aid workers back to France.

Reuters S.A. files this report:

You Mean This Stuff Actually Happens? Zoo Tiger Runs Amok, Kills 1

Maybe you've had this paranoid fantasy; I know I have. You're strolling along in the zoo, minding your own business, casually wondering what it must feel like to live in a zoo instead in your own natural habitat, when all of a sudden an orange blur pounces on you and starts chewing...

Yes, this sort of thing actually does happen. Well, it happened yesterday in San Francisco, when Tatiana, who has already tasted human flesh, somehow escaped from her enclosure and went on a mini-rampage. Before it was over Tatiana was dead, shot by a police officer, and three zoo visitors, all young men, had been mauled, one fatally.

Examiner (via AP) write-up here:

Juror Remorse. What Now?

A Long Island, NY, judge is in a very tough spot, as two of the twelve jurors who convicted a Suffolk County man of reckless manslaughter have come forward, very publicly, with tales of pressure and coercion. It seems they really didn't want to convict John White of shooting of 17-year-old Daniel Cicciaro Jr. on Aug. 9, 2006. They believed that reasonable doubt existed as to whether or not White, a black man, was reckless in confronting a group of white teenage boys who had driven to his home in search of his son, who they intended to assault. None of the facts of the case appear to be in dispute; rather, ten jurors were certain that White was reckless to emerge from his house, gun in hand, to confront the teens instead of calling the police. The other
two were equally certain that the law permitted White to use lethal force to protect his home and person. The judge, determined to avoid a hung jury which necessitate a retrial, kept the jurors in session late into the night of Saturday, December 22, and made clear his intention to keep the jury in session every day until a verdict was reached.

The New York Post has this today:

This raises some serious questions. First: in a unanimous jury system of determining criminal guilt, what's wrong with a hung jury? The prosecution was required to convince twelve people that there was no reasonable doubt as to the charges. The prosecution failed. That is a rational result, especially in a case as ambiguous as this. Should the judge place so much pressure on the jury to reach a verdict that two of them act against their oath? And what now, of that verdict? It can't possibly stand. Either the judge sets it aside and declares a mistrial, or this thing gets bounced on appeal.

Stay tuned...

Let's Go Kayaking On December 24. In New York. With No Life Vest. Or Cold Weather Gear.

...and end up dead.

December 26, 2007 -- ATLANTIC CITY, NJ - A Coast Guard crew located a missing kayaker, but the man was dead.

Robert Guadiosi was found in the water of Little Egg Harbor on Christmas Eve.

The 22-year-old from Little Egg Harbor had been reported missing earlier Monday.

The Coast Guard says he was not wearing a life jacket or survival gear for cold weather.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

The Very Strange Story Of Carol Ann Gotbaum, Chapter 2

By now you may have seen the video of the takedown of Carol Ann Gotbaum at Sky Harbor airport in Phoenix on Friday, September 28.

There is much to review today, specifically conflicting accounts and questions regarding the timeline. It may be possible that Gotbaum missed not one but two departures for the connecting flight to Tucson.

The Arizona Republic has this information today:

fter arriving at Sky Harbor, she was scheduled to take a 1:30 p.m. flight to Tucson. She arrived at the gate at 1:06 p.m., according to a statement gate agent Rikki Greiner gave police.

Because the flight was full and overbooked, the airline had given her seat away, Greiner'sstatement said.

Greiner promised to get her on the next flight, at 2:58, and offered her a free round-trip ticket, but Carol "was borderline hysterical because she missed the first flight," the statement said.

Carol complained and later came back to the agent with a ticket from another passenger.

She wanted to give that passenger the free round-trip ticket and wanted to take his seat, instead.

That would be a security breach, Greiner said.

"It was at that point that Ms. Gotbaum began screaming and running around," the statement said.

We know that the incident with security began at 2:49, which was shortly before the departure of the second flight.

We know that Mrs. Gotbaum arrived in Phoenix at 12:30 PM. She arrived at the gate for her connecting flight at 1:06. Presumably she spoke to her husband in the interim. It is not likely that she considered herself late for this departure, 24 minutes prior to a commuter flight. The airline had overbooked and given away her seat, which it was free to do once departure was less than 30 minutes away.

Evidently, Mrs. Gotbaum was also late for the next departure, which is when she began to panic. She had presumably also been drinking in the interim and was perhaps becoming emotionally unstable.

This is the police version of the statement by gate agent Rikki Greiner:
She said she was a gate agent dealing with Gotbaum on Sept. 28. She said that Gotbaum had been scheduled on a 1:30 p.m. flight to Tucson. She said Gotbaum arrived late, after the doors closed. It was 1:06 p.m. The flight was full, so her seat had been given away. She had not checked in. The witness said she did not smell alcohol on Gotbaum but said she was carrying food from the Roadhouse 66 Bar, a bar and restaurant on the Sky Harbor concourse. She said her behavior was unbalanced but she physically seemed to be fine. Gotbaumwent to make a phone call and then came back later with a ticket from another passenger.

This adds information to the timeline while at the same time confusing the issue. This statement seems to imply that Mrs. Gotbaum had found a passenger who was booked on the 1:30 flight, but according to the statement the doors had been closed, so this would not have been possible.

The above is evidently not a complete statement, based on the other quotes in the article.

The other problem this creates is that Mrs. Gotbaum was apparently also late for the 2:58 departure and it was then that she became hysterical. Many witness reports have her screaming "I am not a terrorist!"

Today's information has scrambled what we previously thought we knew about this story, and it leaves us in an unclear position with regard to the 2:58 flight. What became of Mrs. Gotbaum between 1:30 PM and 2:49 PM?

I have been unable to locate a clean police report (CNN had a partial transcript). I have emailed Phoenix PD requesting a link to download all of the materials.

Monday, October 1, 2007

The Very Strange Story Of Carol Anne Gotbaum

The woman to your left is the deceased Carol Anne Gotbaum, 45, of Phoenix, AZ. On Friday, September 28, Mrs. Gotbaum, a married mother of 3 young children, attempted to board her scheduled flight to Tucson. She was denied entry to the gateway because it had already been separated from the plane, which was about to be pushed away.

Reports are vague at this time, but what seems to have happened is that Mrs. Gotbaum became agitated when she was not allowed to board. Perhaps she saw that the plane was still at the gate. Perhaps airport personnel were wrong about the status of the plane, or were correct but Mrs. Gotbaum could not tell from her vantage point, or perhaps the personnel were simply following orders in refusing to make an exception.

Reports are that Mrs. Gotbaum "became extremely irate, apparently running up and down the gate area," airline spokesman Derek Hanna told the Daily News. The use of the word "apparently" indicates that Hanna did not witness the event.

Mrs. Gotbaum was subdued by airport secturity, including a knee in the back while she lay prostrate on the floor of the terminal screaming "I am not a terrorist! I am a sick Mom who needs help!" This much is probably accurate.

Mrs. Gotbaum was handcuffed and forcibly removed to the holding area, where she was placed alone in a cell, still handcuffed behind her back. She was left that way for an undetermined time probably less than an hour.

During this time, according to airport police, Mrs. Gotbaum was "checked" every "10 to 15 minutes". This may or may not be true, and it is unclear what is meant by "checked." Apparently Mrs. Gotbaum was not plainly in view of police personnel, because she managed to strangle herself in an attempt to move her handcuffed hands in front of her. Only when personnel noticed that she was no longer screaming, did they realize what had happened.

It should be clear that much of the above is pure speculation based on second and third hand accounts, as well as uncorroborated and presumably self serving statements by some of those involved. There have been no specific, corroborated accounts of any of this event, nor any video evidence produced. There are far more questions, at this time, than answers.

VSS will stay on this story until all the facts are known. We are especially interested to know what Mrs. Gotbaum meant when she said "I am a sick mother and I need help!"

Eyewitness or other incontrovertible evidence would be greatly appreciated.

(3:29 PM EDT) One question has been sort of answered: Mrs. Gotbaum was on her way to receive treatment for alcoholism in Tucson. This may explain what she meant when she referred to herself as a "sick mother." More at the Arizona Republic.

(Oct 2, 2007, 10:07 EDT) Now this update comes in: "Carol Gotbaum arrived in Phoenix from New York on a US Airways flight just before 12:30 p.m. Her connecting flight to Tucson, on US Airways Express, was scheduled to leave at 2:58 p.m. But she went to lunch between flights and lost her seat because she arrived at the gate too late, Manning said. Mesa Air Group, which operates US Airways Express under contract with US Airways, would not comment on any aspect of the incident because of the ongoing investigation, spokesman Paul Skellon said." (Arizona Republic)

And this from the New York Post, which apparently has broken out as the most aggressive news organization on this story so far:

The Post has learned the troubled woman twice attempted suicide in the past year amid booze abuse.

A police spokesman yesterday said the chain connecting Carol's handcuffs had been attached to another handcuff that was on the end of a 24-inch-long shackle. The handcuff on the other end of that shackle was attached to a hook on a bench where she was placed.

"We still do not know how Ms. Gotbaum was able to manipulate the handcuffs to the position she was in," Sgt. Andy Hill said. "But when she was found, her handcuffs were in front, and the shackle was still attached to her handcuffs. The chain was not wrapped around her neck. It was pulled across the front of her neck area."

A mother of three, Carol Anne Gotbaum was on her way to an alcohol-rehabilitation program in Tucson, according to Manning, who said a family friend was supposed to meet her in Phoenix. But the friend was not there, a source said.

Sources said Carol's marriage to Noah Gotbaum, whose father is renowned labor leader Victor Gotbaum, had long been rocky and the South African native has been emotionally "volatile" for years.

Carol's father recently died.

On Nov. 1, 2006, authorities said, NYPD officers were called to Carol and Noah Gotbaum's Upper West Side town house to assist a 44-year-old woman who had attempted suicide by taking pills.

Then, in the past three or four weeks, Carol tried to kill herself in an unknown manner and was taken to Roosevelt Hospital, sources said.

On Friday afternoon, Carol began screaming, "I am not a terrorist," at an attendant in the Phoenix airport after missing her flight, said Omar Guerrero, 22, a worker who saw her.

Carol dropped her bags, began stomping her feet and said, "I'm not a terrorist. I'm just sick. I need help. I'm just a mother. I'm just a sick mother," he recalled.

When a security guard tried to calm her, Carol ran to a nearby checkpoint with her hands up and began speaking in a foreign language to three cops who surrounded her.

"She may have looked like she was crazy, but she looked sad to me. She was crying," Guerrero said of Carol, who broke away from cops and then punched and kicked at them when they tackled her.

(Oct 3, 2007, 13:32 EDT) The NY Post is reporting today that the Maricopa County Medical Examiner refused to postpone the autopsy while the family arranged to have it observed, and then refused to release the deceased to her family.
"They won't release the body to us," Manning said yesterday afternoon. "They're putting us in a very difficult position. We're alarmed and disappointed."

But the body eventually was shipped to a Phoenix mortuary, where Wecht, who has probed the deaths of President John F. Kennedy, Elvis Presley and Anna Nicole Smith's son, performed another own autopsy.

"Everything went fine. I did what I came to do," Wecht said.

Manning said Wecht's results are expected in "a week or so."

Also, a disturbing new detail: Mrs. Gotbaum was evidently disrobing in the terminal:
Witnesses said Gotbaum, who was stripping off her clothes and screaming that she was not a "terrorist," was handcuffed by cops. They put a knee in the Upper West Side woman's back to restrain her on the floor during a disorderly-conduct arrest.

If this is true, it is simply one more reason that security personnel should have suspected that they had a medical situation on their hands.

Police and Manning suspect the woman, who attempted suicide in New York in the past year, was asphyxiated.

Dr. Michael Baden, another famed forensic pathologist, said, "There were a number of things that were done wrong here.

"If she's asphyxiated, someone else did it," said Baden, head of the New York State Police Medicolegal Investigation Unit.

Baden said that given her emotional state, she should have been taken to a hospital - and she should not have been left alone.

Noting that it would have been impossible for Gotbaum to strangle herself - because she would have passed out before being able to apply enough force to kill herself - Baden said "the most likely cause of death has to do with asphyxia and could be a result of too much pressure on her chest when they were putting on the handcuffs and the shackles."

Manning said that Carol Anne spoke to her husband, Noah, when she landed in Phoenix, telling him, "I want to do this [get treatment for alcoholism] for us. I want to do this for our kids. I'm committed to this. I'm so happy."

The Arizona Republic took the day off from coverage, which is quite interesting considering that the autopsy took place yesterday and, as yet, has not been covered in the Phoenix newspaper.

However, the NY Daily News (we seem to be "fortunate", in the news context, that Mrs. Gotbaum was a New Yorker) has fresh new details of Mrs. Gotbaum's final moments:

The daughter-in-law of city Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum frantically dialed home when Phoenix ticket agents refused to let her board a flight to a stint in alcohol rehab.

"They are not letting me on! It's all falling apart," Carol Anne Gotbaum told her husband, Noah, before she dropped the phone at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, witnesses said.

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.

Less than an hour later, Carol Anne Gotbaum was dead, apparently strangled by the 16-inch chain used to hook her handcuffs to the bench.

Cops say she appeared to have gotten tangled up trying to shift the cuffs from back to front.

Gotbaum's family has hired famed forensic pathologist Cyril Wecht to perform a second autopsy after the official one conducted yesterday. No cause of death was released pending toxicology reports.

After about three years of trouble with alcohol, Gotbaum, who was married to a son of longtime New York labor leader Victor Gotbaum and his former wife, had agreed the day before to enroll in the month-long Cottonwood program.

Others familiar with Carol Anne Gotbaum's history said she had longstanding mental health issues. Gotbaum attempted suicide twice in the past year, they said. She had also tried a brief detox program last fall at Manhattan's St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital, but it did not work.

Gotbaum was sober on the flight from Manhattan to Phoenix, but a friend who was supposed to meet her at the terminal for the last leg to Tucson failed to show, sources said.

She had lunch solo at the terminal, got drunk and didn't hear her connecting flight being called for Tucson, airline workers said.

She was jittery as she went through security and was pulled aside to be patted down, a witness said. Gotbaum said, "I have to get my flight. I'm late for my flight," the witness said.

She arrived at the gate just eight minutes before the plane was supposed to leave and was turned away.

Phoenix police said they soon had to subdue the distraught woman, whom witnesses heard shout, "I'm not a terrorist! I'm a sick mom!"

Gotbaum family lawyer Michael Manning of Phoenix said she could have been unsupervised as long as 30 minutes. A police spokesman said she was unsupervised no more than five to 10 minutes in the holding cell.

Family members were racked with guilt for letting her travel alone, sources said.

Exactly. Sad to say, that is my exact question: why was she allowed to travel alone? There will be plenty of blame to go around, based on what the NY Daily News reports. We now know that the airline was alerted to the fact that Mrs. Gotbaum was suffering from several medical conditions, and their response was to allow the police to wrestle the distraught woman down, cuff her and drag her away. Certainly airline personnel never witnessed Mrs. Gotbaum receiving any medical assistance. Were they obligated to make sure that the police knew of her condition? Did they do anything in that regard? Did they respond when they observed that Mrs. Gotbaum was being treated as though she was responsible for her actions? Important questions.

All of which would be completely unnecessary if somebody - anybody - had traveled with Mrs. Gotbaum. "Wracked with guilt"? I should say, to say the very least. Here is a very unstable woman who is fighting with all her strength to make one last go of getting her life back together, and she is sent to rehab on a connecting flight to the southwest corner of the country. It is sad but predictable to note that she drank during lunch. Most likely she was enjoying "one last round" before committing herself to sobriety. She would not have had those drinks if she was with family; she would not have been late to her plane; she would not have been refused boarding; she would not be dead.

That's a whole lot of guilt.

(Oct 4, 2007, 13:52 EDT) Today we have a fuller description from the police, who also promise to produce corroborating video soon. The NY Daily News reports:
Phoenix cops said Wednesday they did all they could to save a New York woman who died in their custody last week - including mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

In their most in-depth explanation to date, Phoenix police said officers followed proper procedures when they arrested a "loud and uncooperative" Carol Anne Gotbaum, 45, the daughter-in-law of city Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum, at Sky Harbor International Airport on Friday.

When Gotbaum was found unconscious 40 minutes later, with the chain used to secure her handcuff to the holding room bench pressed against her neck, officers went to heroic measures to try to revive her, police said.

"The officers began mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and CPR," said Phoenix Police Department spokesman Sgt. Andy Hill. Gotbaum began vomiting while the officers were trying to revive her, but CPR and efforts to resuscitate her continued.

Phoenix police got their first call of a problem passenger at 2:49 p.m., after Gotbaum hurled her personal digital assistant, "just missing a citizen," Hill said.

Gotbaum had become angry when told she was too late to board a connecting flight to Tucson and a 30-day alcohol treatment program.

Two cops tried to arrest her at 2:53 p.m., but she resisted. A third officer arrived and they grappled the 105-pound Gotbaum to the floor, handcuffed her from behind and half-carried her to the holding room.

"No one got hurt," Hill said.

The officers then further restrained Gotbaum with a 16-inch metal chain with a large handcuff on each end. One cuff was attached to an eyehook on the holding room bench. The other was fastened to the chain of the handcuffs already on her hands.

Police did not consider her a danger to herself or others, so they left her in the room by herself. When Gotbaum fell silent, six to eight minutes later, cops checked and found she "had somehow worked the handcuffs to the front of her body, probably from under her legs, and had pulled the chain from the shackle across her neck area," Hill said.

The mother of three was declared dead at 3:29 p.m.

The Phoenix medical examiner has not determined the cause of death, pending toxicology tests. Gotbaum's family paid for an independent autopsy Tuesday, but the medical examiner withheld key organs - Gotbaum's heart, brain and throat muscles.

"The police claim she somehow strangled on the chains used to tie her to a bench. And then the medical examiner somehow can't provide the poor woman's throat muscles? It is appalling," a family friend said.

A spokeswoman for the Maricopa County medical examiner declined to comment.

The NY Times adds a wrinkle: Mrs. Gotbaum could have taken a direct flight to Tempe.
Ms. Gotbaum, 45, the stepdaughter-in-law of New York City’s public advocate, Betsy Gotbaum, was originally scheduled to fly directly to Tucson for an alcohol rehabilitation program. But Ms. Gotbaum, who lived on the Upper West Side, delayed her flight because she wanted to say goodbye to her three children, two of whom were attending a new grammar school.

The change meant a connection through the busy Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. Her husband, Noah, was apparently comfortable letting her fly alone because she was to meet a couple she knew at a stopover in Phoenix, the family said.

But Ms. Gotbaum arrived too late to make the connecting flight to Tucson, the family’s lawyer, Michael C. Manning, said.

The Arizona Republic has a rather complete recap of what is known so far, in a long story in today's edition.

The police chronology describes the last 40 minutes of Carol Gotbaum's life. Although the account contains scant new information, it includes details supporting police assertions that the arrest was handled properly.

At the same time, the family's legal team raised a number of questions about the handling of the 45-year-old woman's body.

"They didn't give us the complete body," complained Phoenix lawyer Michael Manning, who represents Gotbaum's husband, Noah. "They wouldn't give us the neck, the brain and the heart."

Manning said the organs were important to a second forensic examination conducted privately Tuesday by Dr. Cyril Wecht, a pathologist hired by the Gotbaums. Manning said Wecht conducted his autopsy with the partial body.

Neither Wecht nor the county Medical Examiner's Office have reported findings as to a cause of death. No one from the office could be reached for comment Wednesday afternoon.

I have some concern over the integrity of the autopsy and of the investigation in general.

We know that in all likelihood Mrs. Gotbaum had "some drinks" prior to the incident. It would not be rash to speculate that it was more than a few. This was an alcoholic on her way to rehab, alone in a large airport. She was almost certainly very anxious, as later events would seem to indicate.

We also now know that a person who was "unconscious and not breathing" somehow managed to vomit into the mouth of a police officer giving mouth-to-mouth. This would seem to indicate that the food was already in her airway, unless it is possible to vomit while unconscious. If the food was already in the airway, could it not have contributed to her death? Perhaps in the effort to extract herself from her position, she placed pressure on her abdomen and caused some sort of reflux, and began to gag. If so, the evidence of that would have been tampered with, by the very act of attempting to save Mrs. Gotbaum's life.

Would an experienced EMT have known to make sure the airway was clear? In all probability, and we would also then know if there was an obstruction at the time.

The lack of an EMT presence - from the beginning of the incident, when Mrs. Gotbaum was clearly distraught - is, to me, the glaring issue at this time.