The terrifying sequence of events that ended Kenny Mitchel’s life and transformed Gavin Scott Hapgood’s into what he now calls a “living nightmare” began in April.
It was spring break. Hapgood, a 44-year-old investment banker, and his wife, Kallie, had decided on the Caribbean island of Anguilla as a vacation destination with their three children—two girls, 13 and 11, and a boy, 9. Neither Scott (he uses his middle name) nor Kallie had ever been there. The website of international hotel conglomerate Auberge Resorts describes its Anguillan property, Malliouhana, as “modern day island glamour set atop a bluff that rolls down to pristine white sands and azure-blue sea.” A suite for the family would cost around $1,600 a night.
They booked one for a week.
Now, five months later, Hapgood is back on Anguilla for the fourth time, facing charges of manslaughter in a foreign judicial system based heavily on English law. Yesterday began a five-day hearing at which his lawyers will attempt to dissuade the attorney general of Anguilla from pursuing charges against Hapgood related to the death of Mitchel, a 27-year-old maintenance worker at Malliouhana, on April 13, the second day of the Hapgood family vacation.
The facts of what happened in Room 49 that April day—and the questions surrounding those facts—have tumbled forth erratically in the months since—in statements from the police, in statements from Hapgood’s lawyers, in a few words from Hapgood himself, including an email to The New York Times last month, at a press conference, and now, in an interview with Town & Country conducted in person with his family near their home in Darien, Connecticut and via email.
Here is what we know about the events on that day: Hapgood was in the hotel room with his daughters. The television was on. Kallie was out of the room returning snorkeling gear, and their son was in the hotel lobby.
There was a knock on the door. Hapgood opened it. Standing in the hall was Mitchel, a uniformed hotel worker with a slight build. He said he was there to fix a sink. Hapgood says he had not reported—or noticed—a problem, but he let Mitchel in.
Hapgood told police that it was then that Mitchel pulled a knife and asked for Hapgood’s wallet. Mitchel and Hapgood, a former Dartmouth athlete, fought. Hapgood says he was stabbed and bitten—photos released by his PR representative later show him bleeding from his nose. His daughters ran for help and found a bellhop named Geshuane Clarke, 27, at the front desk.
Clarke told Town & Country that he arrived at the room around 3:50 p.m., accompanied by his supervisor. When Clarke asked what was going on, Hapgood explained that Mitchel had attacked him, and told the bellhop to retrieve the knife Mitchel had used; Clarke says he found a Leatherman utility knife, partially folded, on the floor. Clarke asked Hapgood to get off of Mitchel, pointing out that he seemed to be having trouble breathing. According to Clarke, Hapgood said that he could feel Mitchel breathing, and that he wouldn’t get off him until the police arrived.
Clarke recalls hearing Mitchel’s breathing growing raspy. He said that at one point, Mitchel tried to talk, but Hapgood pressed down on his neck, and said, “You don’t have a fucking thing to say.” (Hapgood later told The New York Times via email that the other hotel employees did not make him feel safer. “I was afraid they were part of the plan to continue to attack me and frankly I did not trust them,” he wrote.)
At some point, Clarke says, Hapgood’s wife Kallie returned to the room. Finally, just before 4:30, nearly 40 minutes after Clarke and then other hotel employees entered the room, hotel security guards arrived, and Hapgood got up. Police and an ambulance arrived shortly after. Mitchel was transported to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead later that day. The cause listed on the death certificate was “positional asphyxia,” or suffocation caused by restraint in a prone position.
After the fight, Hapgood went to the hospital to be treated for his injuries and later gave a statement to the police, spending the night at the station. He was released, but then two days later was arrested, charged with manslaughter, and taken to jail. He was released again shortly thereafter on $74,000 bail, and after promising to return for his court date, he flew home to Connecticut on a private jet.
Mitchel’s death created a firestorm on Anguilla, a quiet island with a population of less than 15,000. Many residents were angry—there were street protests and an outcry on social media—that Hapgood was released on bail and they believe their government had bent over backward to accommodate a wealthy foreigner so as not to interfere with the economy. Anguilla’s primary industry is hospitality—in the words of one local, “Tourists are exalted.”
New details about the case have emerged in recent weeks. In August, The New York Times reported that Mitchel had been arrested a few weeks before the incident and charged with the rape of Emily Garlick, his former live-in girlfriend and the mother of his two-year-old daughter. (We were not able to independently confirm these charges or whether they had been dropped.) But Garlick told the Times, “It wasn’t a rape. It was a misunderstanding. We had a spat. We had a disagreement. That was it."
“Kenny never laid a hand on me,” Garlick told Town & Country. “He was caring, he was passionate about everything—his music, his food, his daughter, me,” she said, cradling her daughter in her lap. “He loved to feed people, he was funny, he loved to dance, he was silly. A good one.” She said they were planning on getting married.
A close friend of Mitchel’s from childhood, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of losing his job, spent the night before the incident with Mitchel. He said his friend seemed happy and optimistic; after a few tough years, he was finally making steady money at Malliouhana. Nothing in his demeanor indicated that he might attack a stranger the following day, said his friend.
The latest developments came in late August, when Hapgood and his lawyer Juliya Arbisman gave a press conference in New York. She said that the Attorney General of Anguilla had withheld a toxicology report that revealed that at the time of Mitchel’s death, his body contained cocaine, alcohol, and “other drugs.” She said the report listed his blood alcohol content as .19, the equivalent of approximately nine drinks. (The report is not publicly available and T&C has not been able to review it.)
All this has been a prelude to the hearing taking place this week, during which Hapgood’s attorneys will present evidence and witnesses in an attempt to convince the attorney general to dismiss charges against their client. If they don't succeed, Hapgood will face a trial and, potentially, prison in Anguilla if convicted.
Hapgood and his legal team are in Anguilla now for the five-day hearing. Before he left for the island, he gave an exclusive interview to Town & Country, conducted as part of the reporting for a forthcoming feature, in which he discussed the events leading up to and following his confrontation with Mitchel.
What can you tell us about your time on Anguilla before the attack?
We were on the island for less than 24 hours before the event. We arrived, had dinner, went to sleep. We had breakfast together, we swam at the beach for a while. We then swam at the pool and had lunch. We went down to the beach and snorkeled for a couple of hours. We went back to the pool for another swim, then some of us went back to the room and that is when we were attacked.
What led you to choose Anguilla as a destination?
We had reached out to a travel agent to help us build an itinerary. The only guidance we gave was that we wanted a Caribbean destination. The travel agent presented us with a menu of about 20 different options. We basically threw a dart at the list and it landed on the Malliouhana, unfortunately, not a different destination.
What can you tell us about the incident?
There was a stranger with a weapon demanding money in our hotel room. My daughters were only a couple of feet away. I knew I had to get the weapon away from him. Everything else is a matter for the courts.
Have you ever been in a position where you had to defend yourself physically before?
How would you characterize Malliouhana’s response to what happened?
Immediately following the event the Malliouhana put us up in a different hotel and found me a lawyer. The next day, the Malliouhana’s general manager came and met us in person at the new hotel. He apologized and said he couldn’t imagine what we were going through, especially because he also has children. When I was re-arrested, my wife called him asking for help. In a very brief phone call, he told her he could not help us. We haven’t heard a word from anyone at the resort since.
What did you and your family do after the attack?
We tried to spend as much time together as possible, but that was difficult because I was re-arrested two days after having been released from police custody. I did not see much of my family during that time. There was another family from Darien vacationing on Anguilla at the same time—a family that is very special to us. We sent our kids home with them as soon as we could, as we felt the island was an extremely unsafe place for them.
Have you explained what happened to your kids?
We have told our kids everything. Truth and honesty has never been more important in our family, and we are committed to setting that example for them. They have handled it with courage and maturity that has blown my wife and me away. We are in absolute awe of their strength and feel so proud of the people they are becoming.
Can you describe the trip home from Anguilla?
My mother-in-law flew to Anguilla to assist, as soon as she could. The three of us flew home together. There was a measure of relief, once we took off. There were a lot of tears. There was a lot of silent reflection. The press has liked to point out that we flew home on a private jet. This is accurate, but this jet was arranged for and paid for by the generosity of the people that touch our lives every day.
You have been to Anguilla several times in the last few months for legal proceedings. What’s it been like when you’ve traveled back?
The police have been nothing but professional. But I don’t feel safe in Anguilla. People say nasty things outside the courtroom, and follow our car to where I’m staying.
You’ve expressed frustration at the Anguillian government asking you to attend multiple preliminary hearings on the island. Why do you think they’ve done that?
I think they want me to violate my bail conditions, which would give them more leverage over me. I’m not going to do that.
What has it been like to be home?
The amount of support that we have received from the Darien community has completely blown us away. There are letters of support in every day’s batch of mail. My wife and I and our parents also receive emails and texts every day, with expressions of support and love. My wife and I share an alma mater. We have always been very proud of the relationships we formed during college—the outreach of love and support from that group of friends has been really special as well. It doesn’t stop there. People we have never met have reached out to express their support. The breadth of encouragement has been amazing and humbling.
Are you working? [Hapgood has worked at UBS for 21 years.]
I am on administrative leave from work. My employer has been very helpful and supportive throughout this ordeal.
How have you spent your time?
I try to not think about the fact that we have already decimated our life savings and our defense-related costs only seem to grow exponentially. I try to not think about the fact that we continue to receive threats and despite taking extra security measures, we simply do not feel completely safe at home. I try to not think about the fact that I am subject to a legal process that I do not trust. I try not to think about the fact that my career has been completely derailed. I try to not think about how this event has affected my children and my wife and the rest of my family. I try to not think about the fact that my family’s last name will forever be associated with this terrifying event.
I spend my days speaking with lawyers, speaking with police, speaking with doctors and counselors for me and my family, speaking with PR firms, visiting the bank to wire money to all of the people that are assisting in my defense, writing thank you notes to those who have so generously helped us through this ordeal, reading hand-written witness statements from islanders that claim to have knowledge of the event, contacting people to ask for financial assistance, trying to learn and understand the island’s obscure and, at times, ridiculous legal processes.
How do you feel about returning to the Caribbean again for the pre-trial hearing?
I will return to Anguilla to satisfy my bail conditions and be respectful of their judicial process. I will have no hope of finding peace in my life until these charges are dropped.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity and space.
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