Friends, family and community support Hapgoods with petition
As his next court date approaches in November, a petition has been circulated to show support of a Darien man facing manslaughter charges in Anguilla.
Scott Hapgood, a Darien resident who is on leave from his job as a UBS trader, has been accused of killing Kenny Mitchel, a hotel worker in April during a violent struggle while on vacation with his family in the Caribbean.
The Hapgoods’ three children — ages 14, 12 and 9 — have been kept largely out of the spotlight throughout the international media frenzy since the initial incident over spring break.
A recent petition created by Sarah Stabile seeking 3,500 signatures by Oct. 21 to support Hapgood has obtained 3,261 signatures as of Saturday, Oct. 12 at 1 p.m.
“Our friend Scott Hapgood is fighting for his life. He's due back in Anguilla on November 11th, but there is no guarantee of a safe return (or a return at all),” the petition says.
“He has a target on his back. There seems to be more of a focus on politics than facts and evidence and locals have issued numerous public death threats,” it says.
Members of the community have also been reaching out to Darien’s local and national elected officials to seek help and support and expressing testimonials.
A goal of the petition seems to be to get these officials “to intervene on Scott's behalf,” as well as to allow Hapgood to participate in the trial from the United States for his safety.
“Please sign this petition in an effort to not only draw this case to the forefront, but also to resolve it quickly. There is no need for Scott to return to Anguilla for the fourth time, further jeopardizing his life, when charges could and should be dropped or, in the very least, he should be allowed to participate remotely, from US soil,” it says.
The Hapgood family, in a statement exclusive to The Darien Times, said the petition is a result of the ongoing support and creativity of their friends and family.
“They want to make sure Scott’s unjust treatment doesn’t go unnoticed. Being able to see the actual number of individuals behind us gives us the continued strength we so desperately need as the next court date, November 11th, draws near,” they said.
A GoFundMe page recently created for Hapgood was pulled by the site for violating its terms of service, GoFundMe said at the end of last month. The page had raised over $250,000 of its $400,000 goal before it was pulled.
The family reportedly has received the funds raised with the stipulation that it not be used for legal funds.
And a Facebook page dedicated to “justice” for the man the Hapgoods say was killed when Scott Hapgood defended himself and his children from an attack contained both angry messages about the campaign and celebration that the page was pulled.
The Facebook page, called “Unity for Justice” shared a screenshot of the GoFundMe on Sept. 22, with the caption, “This is how you buy your way out of murdering someone. His supporters are lined up and marching full speed ahead with no breaks.”
The purpose of the GoFundMe campaign before its deletion was “Please help Scott and his family as they fight to regain the life they worked so hard to build. Funds raised will be exclusively directed towards legal, administrative, travel-related, and personal security expenses associated with the recent tragedy in the Hapgoods’ life.”
The Hapgood family has said the Darien man was defending himself and his young children after Kenny 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.
An allegedly 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, according to a recent story by The New York Times.
“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.
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.
Friends and family in Darien and around the country are providing testimonials about Hapgood’s character on a support page on social media.
“In all the time that I've known Scott, he stands out for his kindness, friendship and generosity. He’d give you the shirt off his back. He’s big, strong, tough and quick as lightning, with accolades in lacrosse, football, wrestling, and paddle, to name a few. He’s got a giant heart. As a dedicated husband and father, he has been a role model; as a loyal friend, he has been a rock of support for me and my family,” said Tim Kennedy, a Dartmouth classmate and longtime close friend.
“Scott stands up at the dinner table when a woman sits down or excuses herself to go to the bathroom. He teaches his kids to be polite and kind and inclusive of everyone. He listens, he enlightens , he cares. He volunteers endlessly for his community as a coach and a board member and continues to help with several fundraising efforts for a town he and his family are proud to be a part of,” said Rebecca Soskin, a childhood friend from Darien.
The Darien Times has reached out to Congressman Jim Himes and Senator Chris Murphy but has not received a response yet.
Darien Police told The Darien Times that although “they are aware that the Hapgood Family has experienced behavior toward them that is offensive in nature, the circumstances have not risen to the level of probable cause that a criminal offense has taken place.”
“We’ll continue to work with the family on a case by case basis during this challenging time for them,” Captain Jeremiah Marron said.
First Selectman Jayme Stevenson told The Darien Times said she had also reached out to federal officials on the Hapgoods’ behalf.
“I would like to first express my sympathy to the family and friends of Kenny Mitchel. In spite of Mr. Mitchel being under the influence of significant amounts of drugs at the time of the incident, I feel for the family who has lost a loved one,” she said.
“Facts matter and I have faith that when presented with all the evidence, Anguilla authorities will have no choice but to clear Mr. Hapgood of all charges,” Stevenson said.
“Scott did what any father would do...protect his family. I’ve pressed our federal representatives to use their considerable influence to ensure Scott’s safety if and when he travels to Anguilla. I pray he will be cleared off all wrong doing if afforded a fair legal process,” she said.