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Text messages show Royal Park Bridge operator lied to cops in cyclist’s death

Digital Life Cutting Back on Tech
(AP Photo, File)

West Palm Beach police arrested 43 year old bridgetender Artissua Lafay Paulk on one count of manslaughter by culpable negligence stemming from the death of 79 year old Carol Wright who fell from the Royal Park Bridge last month when it opened as she tried to cross.

Wright was pushing her bicycle across the bridge that connects West Palm to Palm Beach just before 1 p.m. on Feb. 6th when it began to go up.

Unable to get to safety, she held onto the span for as long as she could before falling almost 60 feet to her death

In a newly released report, Paulk maintained she followed proper procedure before opening the bridge, going outside and checking the span several times first, however texts obtained by investigators indicate otherwise.

In a series of text messages between Paulk and her supervisor Kathie Harper, she was told to tell police that she had checked the bridge no fewer than three times before raising it.

Paulk was also instructed by the Harper to delete the messages afterwards.

She later texted another individual saying “I’m here with police I killed a lady on the bridge.”

In the original report, however, she maintained that she “…walked out on balcony to see roadway for people walking… I went back and turn my lights to red. I then walked back out on balcony to see that all cars had stopped and no one was on bridge.”

Both the text messages and video evidence contradict her written statement.

Once the bridge was lowered, she said a man came up to the booth and began banging on the door and told her that a woman had fallen off of the bridge.

Paulk says she then called her supervisor followed by the police.

Paulk, a resident of Greenacres, was taken into custody by West Palm Beach police Thursday with assistance from the U.S. Marshall Service.

If convicted, she could face as much as 15 years in prison.

Her bond has been set at $20,000