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Accused wife of Arturo Gatti, Proclaims her innocence

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RIO DE JANEIRO -- Arturo Gatti's wife, accused of strangling the champion boxer with her purse strap, proclaims her innocence and love for her dead husband in a letter given to The Associated Press on Wednesday.

While declining to be interviewed from her jail cell in the northeastern Brazil city of Recife, Amanda Rodrigues did hand over a letter written on white, lined paper and penned in red ink.

"This is a pain that has become inexplicable and intolerable, this loss and this malicious accusation," Rodrigues wrote. "I lost my husband!"

The 23-year-old Rodrigues told investigators she awoke on Saturday about 6 a.m. to find her husband's body in the apartment they rented in Porto de Galinhas, a seaside resort in Pernambuco state. She then called police.

But investigators said she was the only suspect and they are certain she killed Gatti in the apartment where they and their 10-month-old son arrived for a second honeymoon last week. The boy was unhurt and was in the care of Rodrigues' family.

"I'm innocent and I know that this will be proven in a few days," Rodrigues wrote.

But those who knew Gatti and Rodrigues in the U.S. and Canada have said their relationship was rocky at best.

"She was yelling all the time, they were always fighting and she'd say 'I'm going to kill you!' when they fought," Gatti's mother, Ida, told the AP by phone from Montreal.

According to records at the Court of Quebec's criminal and penal division, Gatti was charged on April 16 for violating a restraining order that had been filed against him. The records didn't indicate who filed the restraining order, but Gatti's mother confirmed that it was Rodrigues who had taken one out against him. She offered no other details.

Gatti's stepfather Geraldo DiFrancesco said the pair fought, but that he "was surprised" it went as far as Gatti's death. "You can never expect something like that to happen."

Chuck Zito, an actor and friend of Gatti who met the boxer 13 years ago and accompanied him to the ring for several of his most notable fights, said he knew the couple was having problems.

"Things were real rocky. They were rocky between them from the beginning," Zito said. "He said they were probably going to get a divorce."

Zito said Gatti met his wife at the strip club Scores in New York and that Gatti's friends tried to talk him out of marrying her.

Rodrigues, however, batted away the criticism in her letter.

"The people most important to my life, who know us, know the size of our love," she wrote. "What hurts me is knowing the suffering of my family and friends. What hurts me is to know that my husband will not be in my house waiting for my return."

An autopsy report on Gatti was due to be released within days. Investigators said they had no new information to share, but remained steadfast in their theory that Rodrigues acted alone -- and that the alleged murder may have been premeditated, saying she may have encouraged him to drink excessively so she could overpower him later.

Police spokeswoman Milena Saraiva said Gatti was very drunk -- to the point of being incapacitated.

Rodrigues' lawyer, Celio Avelino, on Tuesday petitioned a court for her release pending the result of the investigation, but he said no action had been taken on the request as of late Wednesday.

Gatti's body was released to his brother on Tuesday and was in the process of being flown back to Montreal, where a funeral was expected to take place on Monday.

"It doesn't feel real yet," DiFrancesco said of Gatti's death. "I think it will feel real when we see the body."

In her letter, Rodrigues remained optimistic, writing to her son: "Junior -- soon mama will be at home!"

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