NewsLocal NewsInvestigations


Former bridge tender reaches plea deal in death of 79-year-old woman who fell from West Palm Beach drawbridge

Artissua Lafaye Paulk pleads guilty to 1 count of manslaughter in death of Carol Wright
Posted at 2:40 PM, Jan 10, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-10 17:16:58-05

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — A bridge tender reached a plea deal Tuesday following her arrest last year in connection with the death of a 79-year-old West Palm Beach woman who fell from the Royal Park Bridge.

Artissua Lafaye Paulk, 43, of Greenacres, pleaded guilty in court to one count of manslaughter.

Judge Scott Suskauer imposed a sentence of two days in jail and 200 hours of community service. She was given credit for serving two days in jail.

Paulk was given credit for time served, placed on eight years of probation and must pay court costs.

She will not be permitted to work at any job involving operating heavy machinery or equipment.

Paulk was also ordered Tuesday to write a letter of apology to the victim's sisters.

She was arrested March 17 after the victim, Carol Wright, fell 40 feet to her death Feb. 6 when the bridge opened as she crossed it with her bicycle.

Carol Wright, West Palm Beach drawbridge victim
Carol Wright died Feb. 6, 2022, when she was walking her bike across the Royal Park Bridge in downtown West Palm Beach.

Police claimed that surveillance video contradicted Paul's statement that she walked out onto the balcony and visually checked the bridge prior to opening it.

A probable cause affidavit obtained by WPTV showed that Paulk's supervisor, Kathie Harper, who is also her mother-in-law, told her to tell police that she checked the bridge.

Paulk and Harper sent a series of text messages after the incident.

In one of the messages, the report shows that Harper instructed Paulk to lie to investigators about checking the bridge house balcony for pedestrians.

Harper was not arrested in the case.

Florida Drawbridges, Inc., the company that employed Paulk and Harper, fired both of them from their jobs on March 22.

An $8.2 million settlement was reached in July after Wright's family filed a lawsuit against Florida Drawbridges Inc.

Email the Contact 5 Investigators
Share your news tips and story ideas with WPTV's investigations team.