A Florida woman is facing a manslaughter charge in connection with the February death of a 79-year-old woman who fell from a drawbridge.
Artissua Lafay Paulk, 43, of Greenacres, Florida, was the bridge tender on the day Carol Wright died, and faces a charge of manslaughter by culpable negligence, according to WPTV-TV.
Paulk initially told police that she had checked to be sure there were no vehicles or pedestrians trying to cross the span connecting Palm Beach and West Palm Beach, but video evidence proved otherwise, police said.
West Palm Beach police spokesman Mike Jachles said Wright had “tried to hang on,” but could not, according to the New York Post.
“There was a bystander nearby who tried to help her, but tragically she fell five or six stories below where she died, landing on concrete,” Jachles said.
A probable cause affidavit said Paulk’s supervisor, Kathie Harper, told her to tell police she had checked the bridge. Harper is Paulk’s mother-in-law.
“When they talk to you, make dam sure you tell them you walked outside the balcony 3 diff times to make sure no one was past gates n delete this msg…” Harper texter Paulk, according to the affidavit.
Artissua Paulk was arrested for manslaughter in Palm Beach County today. She’s the bridge tender that was operating the drawbridge when an elderly woman fell to her death. pic.twitter.com/0YFI3tpBqj
— Cynthia McLaughlin (@CynthiaSNN) March 18, 2022
Paulk had sent one text that read, “I’m here with police I killed a lady on the bridge.”
Harper told Paulk to delete her text, police said.
Paulk also claimed Wright’s behavior led to her death.
Jachles said video evidence did not support Paulk’s statements.
“There are a number of different camera angles from different sources that were taken into account for evidence and reviewed to corroborate the witnesses’ statements,” Jachles said.
The attorney for Wright’s family said the incident was a conspiracy,
Artissua Lafaye Paulk was arrested Thursday and charged with one count of manslaughter by culpable negligence. https://t.co/WWVHlBdIje
— WPEC CBS12 News (@CBS12) March 19, 2022
“The disturbing part is the lengths that they were willing to go to perpetrate a fraud against Carol Wright, who wasn’t here to give her side of the story,” attorney Lance Ivey said Friday.
Paulk worked for Florida Drawbridges Inc., which operates the Royal Park Bridge, for a year and had been working at that specific bridge for about two months.
Paulk posted bail of $20,000 and was released, but has been ordered to avoid contacting witnesses or Wright’s family.