‘Fight to survive’: Darien family describes fatal hotel encounter
A Darien family says their Caribbean vacation last month turned into a “chilling nightmare,” leading to the death of a hotel employee in Anguilla.
A spokeswoman for Gavin Scott Hapgood and his family released a new statement Thursday, detailing how the UBS financial adviser acted in self-defense when the hotel worker came to their room claiming to fix a sink they say was never broken.
Hapgood, 44, has been charged with manslaughter by the Royal Anguilla Police Force in connection with the death of Kenny Mitchel on April 13.
Kelcey Kintner, a spokeswoman for the Hapgood family, initially released a statement last week, saying the Darien father was “attacked without warning in his family’s hotel room by a maintenance worker who was armed and demanding money.” She said Hapgood acted in self-defense to “protect the lives of his young daughters and himself.”
On Thursday, the family offered new details of their “tragic and terrifying experience.” The family also released a photo showing lacerations on Hapgood’s face and chest they say occurred when Mitchel bit him during the altercation.
“We were excited for our first family vacation abroad in the beautiful and tranquil Caribbean island of Anguilla,” the statement said. “But with a single knock at the door, our dream vacation turned into a chilling nightmare — a literal fight to survive.”
The Hapgoods said they have “cooperated fully with local authorities in Anguilla” and also attempted to clarify some of the rumors that have circulated about the incident.
The killing has comments on the Royal Anguilla Police Facebook page erupting with speculation — some commenters supporting Hapgood, others Mitchel.
The RAPF spokesman Randy Dick said Hapgood’s daughters were in the room when Mitchel was killed at the Malliouhana resort.
The family said they did not request a maintenance worker to come to their room and none of them had met Mitchel before the incident.
“The attacker arrived minutes after our minor daughters walked back to the hotel room on their own. The man knocked on the door, saying he was there to fix a broken sink,” the statement said. “Scott indicated the sinks were not broken as far as he was aware, but that the man was free to have a look. Like any of us would, he trusted a hotel staff person in uniform.”
Mitchel’s death certificate said the 27-year-old died from “prone restraint, positional asphyxia and blunt-force trauma to the head, neck and torso.”
According to the family’s statement, Hapgood did not initiate the confrontation. The family said Hapgood suffered “severe injuries” from the physical struggle and he denied choking Mitchel.
“Scott was literally fighting for his life,” the statement said. “He was bitten multiple times by the attacker, including on his face.”
The family released a photo of Hapgood they said was taken after Mitchel was restrained by a security guard and before the Darien man was taken to the hospital.
The family said Hapgood’s wife was not present when the attack occurred and did not take video of it, refuting claims made online.
“Scott’s wounds will heal, but the trauma of this incident will be with our family forever,” the statement said. “Scott has spent his entire life doing the right things: he is married to his college sweetheart, he has worked at the same company for over 20 years, he is a volunteer coach and a loving and devoted father.
“Scott Hapgood did what any parent would do — defend himself and his children. And thanks to his actions, Scott and our family survived this terrible encounter.”
Anguilla, a British Overseas Territory, is located in the eastern Caribbean. There is a small main island and several offshore islets. Hapgood and his family were vacationing at a hotel on the west end of Anguilla.
After being arrested and formally charged, Hapgood appeared in court where bail granted after initially being denied. Thomas Astaphan, Hapgood’s local attorney, told the court that his client would return to Anguilla for an August court appearance to clear his name, according to the Anguillian, a local newspaper.