Breckenridge second-home owners embroiled in Caribbean manslaughter case
BRECKENRIDGE — An American family with ties to the Summit County community has found itself in the midst of a growing international incident after a Caribbean vacation turned into a nightmare earlier this year.
In April, Scott Hapgood, 44, and his family — wife, Kallie, and three children — were visiting the island of Anguilla, a British territory in the eastern Caribbean from their home in Darien, Connecticut. Just a day into their vacation at the Malliouhana resort, a hotel employee came to their room, saying he was there to fix a faucet.
But the incident quickly turned violent. Members of Hapgood’s family allege that the employee, 27-year-old Kenny Mitchel, pulled a knife and tried to rob the family once inside. Hapgood was able to subdue Mitchel and pin him to the floor until law enforcement arrived on scene.
Mitchel died soon after the fight, and Hapgood was arrested and charged with manslaughter. He was released on bail and allowed to return to Connecticut, a move that sparked outrage from some island residents, who felt Hapgood was being treated favorably, according to a New York Times report of the incident. In the report, Mitchel’s friends said Hapgood’s account of the incident was implausible.
Hapgood has made three trips to Anguilla since the incident for court dates, though the case is far from closed with another hearing scheduled for November.
For months, the family fought the charge in relative quiet. But with the charges still standing despite new evidence suggesting Mitchel’s death might not have been a result of the fight, the family recently took the issue public with a media push to clear Hapgood’s name, including here in Summit County.
“We were convinced the island would drop the charges, but they’re gearing up to challenge this to the end,” said Jason Buehler, Kallie Hapgood’s cousin who lives in Denver and is staying with his family in Breckenridge.
Buehler said his extended family has deep roots in the Breckenridge community and that they’ve owned property in Breckenridge since the late 1970s. He said they come up frequently — to what he called the family’s second home — for get-togethers and reunions.
“We’re trying to raise awareness to put pressure on the right people to make the right decision,” Buehler said.
Earlier this week, a revised autopsy report obtained by The New York Times threw a wrench into the case, detailing toxicology tests that showed Mitchel was on a lethal amount of cocaine during the attack, in addition to twice the legal blood-alcohol limit in the U.S.
Despite the development, the criminal case is ongoing, though the recent push by Hapgood and his family has created widespread awareness of the case across the country.
During an interview on Fox & Friends on Monday, Kallie Hapgood made a plea to President Donald Trump to address the issue.
“We need help,” Hapgood said. “I’ve seen Trump help Americans in peril around the globe, and we really need his help. My husband is a loving man. He’s never been involved with any sort of charge at all. We’re so fish out of water right now. … He doesn’t deserve this. All we wanted to do was take a vacation with our children, spend time by ourselves with the five of us. We did not welcome this.”
The president responded in short order, taking to Twitter to address the issue shortly after the segment.
“Will be looking into the Scott Hapgood case, and the Island of Anguilla,” Trump tweeted. “Something looks and sounds very wrong. I know Anguilla will want to see this case be properly and justly resolved!”
For the Hapgood family, drawing Trump’s attention to the case is clearly a move in the right direction, though the case has otherwise been challenging for the family.
Mitch Buehler, Kallie’s uncle, told the Summit Daily that the incident has taken an emotional toll on the family and that they’re still dealing with financial and safety concerns as the case continues.
“Today was a big step with the president of the United States commenting on it. But they have good days and bad days,” Mitch Buehler said. “The toxicology report coming out was a good day. And then nothing happens, and you have a bad day.”
Between frequent flights to the Caribbean, lodging costs and legal fees, the case has become a massive financial burden for the family. But the bigger issue is safety. Family members said Kallie and Scott Hapgood have received threats from unknown callers and through social media.
“He goes with his lawyers and bodyguards,” Jason Buehler said. “He’s always being closely watched with these bodyguards. The island has come out and said they can’t guarantee his safety when he returns. … On Facebook, there were a lot of threats. When he was in prison, we know his life was threatened by the other inmates. … (Kallie) has been begging him not to go back because she’s so scared for his life. But he’s determined to clear his name and prove his innocence.”
Scott Hapgood is scheduled to return to Anguilla for a preliminary inquiry hearing Nov. 11.