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Prosecutors file charge against bridge tender after fatal fall from West Palm Beach drawbridge

Carol Wright fell 40 feet to her death Feb. 6
Artissua Lafaye Paulk, mugshot
Posted at 2:04 PM, Apr 01, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-01 17:38:12-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — A formal charge was filed this week in connection with the February death of a 79-year-old West Palm Beach woman who fell from the Royal Park Bridge.

Court documents filed Tuesday by the Palm Beach County State Attorney's Office show that Artissua Lafaye Paulk, 43, of Greenacres, is charged with one count of manslaughter.

Paul 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.

"Paulk ... did by her own act, procurement or culpable negligence, kill Carol Wright by lifting the drawbridge," according to the court filing.

Photo of Carol Wright, who fell to her death off Royal Park Bridge in West Park Beach
A poster board shows an enlarged photograph of Carol Wright, 79, who fell to her death off the Royal Park Bridge in West Park Beach on Feb. 6, 2022.

Prosecutors believe this action caused Wright to fall to her death "without lawful justification and under circumstances not constituting excusable homicide or murder, contrary to Florida Statute 782.07."

Police claim that surveillance video contradicts 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.

Death on Royal Park Bridge, Feb. 6
Carol Wright died after falling from the Royal Park Bridge in West Palm Beach, Fla., on Feb. 6, 2022.

The two women 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 has not been arrested in the case.

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