WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — A West Palm Beach bridge tender was in court Friday after authorities arrested her in connection with the February death of a 79-year-old West Palm Beach woman who fell from a drawbridge.
Artissua Lafay Paulk, 43, faces a charge of one count of manslaughter by culpable negligence in the death of Carol Wright, who fell from the Royal Park Bridge.
A judge set her bond at $20,000 and issued a no-contact order with witnesses or Wright's family.
Paulk was arrested Thursday after police said their investigation found that video evidence contradicted a statement Paulk made in which she claimed she walked outside to check the bridge for vehicles and pedestrians before opening the bridge.
Wright had ridden her bike to a book shop on Palm Beach on Feb. 6 and was returning home, according to attorney Lance Ivey, who is representing her family.
NOW: Artissua Lafay Paulk appearing before the judge, facing charges of manslaughter.— Danielle Seat (@DanielleSeat) March 18, 2022
She’s believed to be connected to the death of a 79 yr old woman who fell and died from West Palm bridge.
Judge set bond at $20,000 and issued a no contact order with witnesses or deceased. pic.twitter.com/kafzfVputQ
Attorneys and family members said Wright was pushing her bike along a pedestrian walkway on the bridge when the deck suddenly started to ascend.
The family's position is that the bridge tender was negligent.
"I'm here with police I killed a lady on the bridge," Paulk texted someone on the afternoon of the incident, according to a probable cause affidavit.
The affidavit also shows that Paulk's supervisor — who is also her mother-in-law — told her to tell police that she checked the bridge.
"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..." Paulk's supervisor texted her on Feb. 6, the date of Wright's death.
Details in the report also said a skateboarder near the bridge tried to save Wright but could not hold on to her hand.
Paulk worked for Florida Drawbridges Inc., which operates the Royal Park Bridge, for about a year and had been assigned to the bridge for two months.
Manslaughter by culpable negligence carries a maximum 15-year prison.
It's unclear if Paulk's supervisor will face charges in the case.
This story was originally published by Scott Sutton on Scripps station WPTV in West Palm Beach, Florida.