Amanda Rodrigues - Exclusive interview

MATHIEU TURBIDE, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 2:02 PM ET

SALVADOR DE BAHIA (BRAZIL) - Amanda Rodrigues is getting ready to celebrate the first birthday of her son, Arturo Junior, on Wednesday with only a few friends and family members in southern Brazil. But her husband, Arturo Gatti, who loved his son more than anything in the world, won't be there.

Nearly two months following the death of the former boxing champion, the life of his widow hasn't returned to any sort of normalcy.

Accused by her in-laws of having killed her husband -- despite the findings of investigators in Brazil that Gatti killed himself -- the young Rodrigues is continuing a fight to clear her name.

Though authorities ruled the death a suicide, the investigation remains open and a second autopsy is being conducted on Gatti's body in Quebec.

Rodrigues, in an exclusive interview with the Journal de Montreal, said she is slowly beginning to escape from the "whirlwind of events and emotions."

"It's like I didn't even have time to think," she said. "But now, it's hitting me."

Rodrigues was accompanied by her son and her best friend's mother when the Journal met with her at a Salvador de Bahia hotel 10 days ago.

"Junior is the reason I get up in the morning," she said of her baby, who bears a striking resemblance to his father.

Throughout the interview, Junior walked tentatively between his toys, the television and his mother.

Rodrigues speaks quickly in English with a New York tinge and a heavy Brazilian accent.

She confidently answers most questions about her husband's death, her subsequent imprisonment and the relentless accusations from Gatti's family and friends.

That stoicism evaporates, however, when the conversation turns to the subject of her son. It is then that she breaks into sobs while continuing to talk.

"It's way too many things and pressure for a young woman her age," said Rebeca Von Jakitsch, an older cousin that Rodrigues calls "tia" (aunt). "We can't ask any more or expect anything more from her because she is so young. She is only 23. Do you realize what she has endured for two months?"

Like all of Rodrigues' friends and family in Brazil, Von Jakitsch wouldn't even entertain the thought that her younger cousin murdered her husband.

"I didn't even think about it for a second," she said. "I lost my husband, too. I can tell you that it's terrible.

But imagine that Amanda couldn't even (say goodbye) to Arturo at the funerals. That's a moment that belongs to her, and to her son."

Von Jakitsch spent time with Rodrigues and Gatti during the early stages of their marriage three years ago.

"When I saw them together, she was living things that a 20-year-old girl lives," she said. "She was in love. And he as well."

She added that she finds the story that Rodrigues was a stripper when she and Gatti met is particularly ridiculous.

"This stripper story, think about it for an instant," she said. "Even if it was true, and I'm not saying it is, how would that change what has happened? What is the connection between that and Arturo's suicide?"

Rodrigues has always denied having worked as a stripper. She maintains that she met Gatti while they were walking their dogs in a New Jersey park.

mturbide@journalmtl.com


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