RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil -- Canadian boxer Arturo Gatti's death was ruled a suicide by police Thursday and his wife, once suspected of killing the former champion, was released from jail.
Lead investigator Paulo Alberes told The Associated Press authorities decided Gatti killed himself on July 11 while at a seaside resort in northeastern Brazil.
When asked if police had determined the case was a suicide, Alberes said "yes." He offered no other details, though a judge -- in ordering the release of Gatti's wife -- cited the police investigation and wrote that "the victim took his own life, committing suicide by hanging."
Family and friends expressed disbelief that Gatti could have killed himself. His brother Joseph, speaking before a memorial Mass in northern New Jersey, said the family may try to have the body exhumed for an autopsy in Montreal.
But the boxer's wife, 23-year-old Amanda Rodrigues, said in a phone interview as she walked out of jail she thinks Gatti may have killed himself because he was afraid she was going to leave him after the pair had a violent disagreement in public the night before his death.
"We had an argument in the street. Then he pushed me and I hurt myself. I believe that when we got home and he saw that he hurt me, he thought I would leave him, that I would tell him to just let me go, that I would separate from him," Rodrigues said. "He did that in a moment of weakness. He was drunk, maybe he didn't know what he was doing, maybe he thought I would leave him the next day."
A day after the 37-year-old Gatti was found dead, police said Rodrigues had strangled him with her purse strap as he drunkenly slept.
But police began to back off the accusation about a week later after a coroner's report said Gatti may have killed himself as he was found "suspended and hanged." The autopsy report didn't exclude the possibility he was slain, but said he also could have died in an unexplained accident, or could have committed suicide.
"The police investigation concluded that Arturo killed himself," said Celio Avelino, Rodrigues' lawyer. "I've said before it would have been impossible for her to suspend and hang a man of that size."
Those close to Gatti in his adopted hometown of Montreal denied he could have killed himself.
"As far as believing that he committed suicide -- honestly it's impossible," Ivano Scarpa, a close friend of Gatti's for the last 25 years, said Thursday.
"I can't believe that at all."
The family has hired an investigator, Scarpa said.
-- The Associated Press