Concern for safety, unfair trial keep Scott Hapgood from Anguilla court hearing

WICHITA, Kan. (AP/KWCH) Update Monday, Nov. 11, 2019

Scott Hapgood, a U.S. financial adviser charged with killing a hotel worker while on vacation in Anguilla, listens during a press conference, Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2019, in New York. The case has sparked racial tensions on the Caribbean island that caters to wealthy tourists, and some

With a concern for his safety and the likelihood he'd face extended prison time and an unfair trial, a Connecticut man charged with manslaughter in the death of a hotel worker in Anguilla did not return to the Caribbean island nation for his court hearing Monday.

"There is absolutely no reason for him to put his life at risk again when the political turmoil of the island is at an all-time high, and this court system appears to be tethered not by the rule of law and justice, but rather the political will of Anguilla's residents, " a spokesperson for Scott Hapgood says.

Hapgood, whose wife is originally from Wichita, received support from U.S. lawmakers, including Sen. Jerry Moran, from Kansas. Last month, President Donald Trump responded to news of Hapgood's case, saying he'll "be looking into it."

Despite the support, the spokesperson for Hapgood says there's no guarantee for Hapgood's safety and a fair trial if he returned to Anguilla.

Hapgood's spokesperson says his legal team "worked tirelessly to obtain guarantees that he will be protected upon his return to Anguilla and that he would be allowed to return home on bail when the hearing ends."

"Despite the unfairness of the charge continuing, Scott has cooperated with the Anguillan legal process and has returned to the island three times for hearings in an effort to clear his name," the spokesperson says. "But it has become progressively apparent that Scott would not receive a fair trial in Anguilla."

An initial autopsy showed Kenny Michel, the man Hapgood says entered his family's hotel room and attacked him in April, died from asphyxiation. A revised autopsy shows acute toxicity or drug overdose could have have actually been the cause of death.

However, Anguilla authorities so far, haven't dropped charges against Hapgood, extending what his mother-in-law in Wichita says has been a nightmare, now ongoing for seven months.

Part of the unfairness cited in the statement from Hapgood's spokesperson is the suppression of the toxicology report, witnesses altering their accounts and submitting new statements that were false, ignoring the revised cause of death, excluding legal counsel from the hearing and "numerous other actions that suggested that politics are governing (Hapgood's) case rather than the law and facts."

Monday's hearing was the final stage of the preliminary inquest. Hapgood's spokesperson says Hapgood offered to appear at the hearing via video link, but this was rejected.

"The guarantees of safety are essential for two reasons. First, there is a significant likelihood Scott’s incarceration would be indefinite, as a trial may not happen for many years. Second, there is near certainty the death threats he has received will come to fruition if he were to be held in an Anguillan prison for any length of time," Hapgood's spokesperson says. "For these reasons, Scott has not returned to Anguilla."

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Update Thursday, Nov. 7, 2019

Scott Hapgood, the Connecticut man charged with manslaughter after he says a hotel worker attacked him in his family's hotel room, returns to the island of Anguilla for a court hearing Monday (Nov. 11).

Thursday, Eyewitness News sat down with Hapgood's mother-in-law, who lives in Wichita, for an exclusive interview. Darcy Buehler says the family's biggest fear now is for her son-in-law's safety on the trip for his upcoming court date and a safe return to the U.S. once it's over.

Last month, President Trump announced his awareness of the case, saying he'll "be looking into it."

The family's effort to ensure Hapgood's safety is now also aimed at Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who the family hopes can work out a deal with Anguilla officials to guarantee Hapgood won't be held on the island and will be protected while he's there.

Ahead of Monday's court date, help also comes from U.S. senators, including Kansan Jerry Moran. So far, Buehler says the guarantee the family hopes for hasn't come.

"We're just waiting to hear. It's a minute by minute," she says. "We're on pins and needles. (Hapgood is) pretty convinced he's going to go back, but I'm hopeful and prayerful we get some type of guarantee that he'll come back to the United States."

Moran was among the senators signing a letter asking for Hapgood's protection. That letter was delivered to Pompeo on Tuesday. What effect that letter may have is unknown.

"He's a tough guy and he knows he's innocent and he wants to clear his name," Buehler says. So, yeah, we're anxious, but at this point, the plan is to go back."

An initial autopsy showed Kenny Michel, the man Hapgood says entered his family's hotel room and attacked him in April, died from asphyxiation. A revised autopsy shows acute toxicity or drug overdose could have have actually been the cause of death.

However, Anguilla authorities so far, haven't dropped charges against Hapgood, extending what Buehler says has been a nightmare, now ongoing for seven months.

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Oct. 14, 2019

President Donald Trump says he'll "be looking into" the case of a U.S. financial adviser charged with killing a hotel worker while on a family vacation in Anguilla after the man's wife appeared on the "Fox & Friends" morning show and urged Trump to intervene.

Trump tweeted shortly after the segment that, "Something looks and sounds very wrong."

He says: "I know Anguilla will want to see this case be properly and justly resolved!"

Scott Hapgood and his family were on vacation when they say a hotel worker showed up at their room unannounced and demanded money before attacking them on April 13.

An autopsy report shows the victim, 27-year-old Kenny Mitchel of Dominica, died of positional asphyxia and received blunt force injuries to his torso and other areas. The toxicology report shows he had alcohol and cocaine in his system at the time.

Hapgood maintains he is innocent and was only trying to protect himself and his two daughters from Mitchell.

Hapgood's wife is originally from Wichita. Her uncle, Jack Buehler, says the family is very close and they have been working to get the word out about Hapgood's case since it happened.

Hapgood is due back in court in Anguilla on Nov. 11, but Buehler says family members are worried about him traveling to the island.

"We have all said don't go back over Scott. They want him back over November 11. He wants his name taken off. He's innocent," he said.

The family has raised more than $250,000 through a GoFundMe set up to help with Hapgood's defense. They have collected more than 42,000 signatures through a petition called "Save Scott Hapgood."

Hapgood's family says they just want to spread the story as much as possible.