‘I understand your anger,’ Darien man accused of killing Caribbean hotel worker tells islanders
DARIEN — Scott Hapgood says he and the angry Anguilla natives he encountered when he appeared in court this week share the same goal.
“We all want the same thing: justice,” Hapgood said in a statement.
Hapgood, 44, has been charged with manslaughter in the death of 27-year-old Kenny Mitchel. Hapgood, a Darien resident who is on leave from his job as a UBS trader, has been accused of killing the hotel worker in April during a violent struggle while on vacation with his family in the Caribbean.
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 week for court appearances.
Hapgood, who spoke publicly for the first time on Tuesday, released a statement after making a brief court appearance Thursday in Anguilla.
“I am grateful for the opportunity to appear in Anguillan courts today because every court appearance means we are one step closer to putting this nightmare behind us — a nightmare for my family but also for the people of Anguilla,” Hapgood said in the statement.
“We came to your beautiful island for a vacation, just like many thousands of others do each year. We came here because of how welcoming you all are. Unfortunately, my family and I were in the wrong place at the wrong time, and in an instant, a tragedy resulted that has changed our lives and yours forever.”
Marshal Mitchel, the half-brother of Kenny Mitchel, spoke to a group of reporters Thursday outside the Anguilla courthouse, saying the family wants justice.
“As long as he (gets) jail, justice is served,” Marshall Mitchel said, according to the New York Post. “He (Hapgood) had enough time to let go of my brother. He needs to understand he (took) a life.”
The Hapgood family has said the Darien man was defending himself and his young children — aged 14, 12 and 9 — 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.
A toxicology report released last week revealed Mitchel tested positive for cocaine, Delta-9 THC (the active substance in marijuana) and other drugs. The report also showed that Mitchel had a blood-alcohol content level of .181, which is more than double the legal limit in the United States and the United Kingdom, which is .08.
“The toxicology report confirms 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,” Arbisman said Monday in a prepared statement.
Mitchel was also facing rape charges stemming from a March 25 incident with his former girlfriend and mother of their child, according to a New York Times report. The case was pending when he died.
However, the woman told the Times Mitchel did not rape her, and that the incident leading to his arrest was “a misunderstanding.”
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.
“I understand your anger,” Hapgood said to Anguilla residents in his statement released Thursday. “I’ve read the same false facts and untrue stories about what allegedly happened in that room on that fateful day in April. If I lived here and believed those stories, I’d be angry, too. But the stories you’ve read and heard are not what happened, and someday I will be able to tell the real story in a legal setting. The sooner that day comes, the better.”
According to a Facebook message to Hearst from the Royal Anguilla Police Force after the Thursday court date, “the matter has been adjourned for the 9th of September when the preliminary Inquiry will begin.”