Autopsy: Cocaine could have killed hotel worker in Scott Hapgood case
DARIEN — A revised autopsy has revealed the hotel worker who fought with a Darien man vacationing with his family in Anguilla might have died from a lethal dose of cocaine, The New York Times reported Tuesday.
The revised autopsy report, based on recently released toxicology tests, has found Mitchel died from a lethal dose of cocaine and not from injuries he sustained in the fight, The Times reported.
“Acute cocaine toxicity could have been a potentially independent cause of death in the known circumstances,” reads the report by Dr. Stephen King, who oversaw the autopsy. The revised report, dated Sept. 3, was obtained by The New York Times.
A separate analysis of the new autopsy, conducted at the request of Hapgood’s lawyers by the Chief Medical Examiner for the state of Maryland, led to a similar finding. Also obtained by the Times, the report described cocaine levels in Mitchel’s bloodstream “twice that commonly accepted to have a fatal outcome,” causing his lungs to fill with blood and suffocating him.
The revised report supports the defense’s claim Mitchel was allegedly behaving erratically and aggressively, common side effects for that level of drug use. Hapgood has said Mitchel threatened him with a knife and demanded money. Mitchel’s blood also had alcohol levels at twice the legal limit.
The Hapgood family spokesman, Jamie Diaferia, declined to comment when reached Tuesday night.
Hapgood’s attorney, Juliya Arbisman, of Amsterdam & Partners LLP, said Anguilla police have warned of potential threats of violence as her client has returned to the island several times in the past month for court appearances.
The Hapgood family has said the Darien man was defending himself and his young children after Mitchel came to their room to fix a bathroom sink. Hapgood contended the sink was never broken and no one called for someone to come to their room, but he trusted Mitchel because he was wearing a hotel uniform.
The family has accused Mitchel of pulling a knife, resulting in Hapgood “fighting for his life” and being bitten multiple times, including on the face.
When the toxicology report was initially released, Hapgood’s attorney said it confirmed “that Scott Hapgood had no choice but to defend himself and his children from the frenzied attack of a man under the influence of a dangerous combination of illegal drugs and alcohol.”
Residents on the island were outraged Hapgood was permitted to return to Connecticut after Mitchel’s death. Hapgood was originally held at Her Majesty’s Prison in Anguilla when he was denied bail. But he was later released on bond after his attorney appealed to the High Court.
Hapgood’s spokesman said last month his client had fulfilled his bail requirements by attending all of his court dates and will return to Anguilla in November as the court considers the next steps.
A GoFundMe page seeking donations to the family raised more than $250,000 before the site removed the campaign last week. A Facebook page created to defend Mitchel’s memory had many posts outraged at the GoFundMe and many posters said they registered complaints with the site before it was pulled down. The Unity for Justice page posted a screenshot of the tweet from The Darien Times, a Hearst Connecticut Media publication, announcing the GoFundMe campaign had been pulled from the site with a celebratory message.
While cocaine reactions can vary, it is a widely accepted finding that 900 nanograms of cocaine per milliliter in the bloodstream is potentially lethal, The New York Times reported.
Mitchel’s level was more than twice that amount — 1,900 nanograms per milliliter, according to toxicology reports released in September. Another substance, benzoylecgonine, which is produced when cocaine is broken down, was found in high quantities — 1,700 nanograms per milliliter — suggesting he had repeatedly used cocaine in the days before his death.
Mitchel was charged with rape a few weeks before his death. The woman who made the complaint in that case was his former girlfriend with whom he shared a young daughter.
The woman later recanted that accusation. On Tuesday, she continued to defend Mitchel, saying she did not know him to use cocaine, the Times reported.
“He hid that from me if he did,” Emily Garlick said Tuesday. “He went out with his friends the night before. They said he was fine, he was good.” The Times also said she doubted the new autopsy findings.