Two men fought in a desperate fight last April inside a suite at a tropical resort in Anguilla, and only one of them would come out alive.
But what began as an individual encounter without witnesses has become an international dispute over whether the survivor, an American banker, should have been charged with involuntary manslaughter.
Officials, lawyers and legislators. in the United States they face not only against the authorities in Anguilla, a Caribbean island of some 15,000 people, but also against Great Britain, of which it is a territory.
While the outcome of the case is far from predictable, the current confrontation could lead to extradition proceedings against the accused American in the case, Gavin Scott Hapgood, an investment banker in Darien, Connecticut.
In recent weeks, Hapgood has taken advantage of its social network in Connecticut to mount a formidable public relations campaign, gaining the sympathy and support of several American politicians.
The United States senators on both sides of the hall and President Trump himself have criticized Hapgood's prosecution and the island's failure to guarantee his freedom to return home between hearings.
"Something looks and sounds very bad,quot; the president wrote on Twitter last month. "I know that Anguilla will want to see this case resolved properly and fairly!"
Tensions behind the scenes came to light this month when Mr. Hapgood did not appear at a court hearing in Anguilla, citing concerns about his safety and the possibility that his bond could be revoked.
"This was a very difficult decision for the family," said Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut in an interview. "They had to assess all personal risks and uncertainties." He and other lawmakers, including Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, signed a letter to the State Department on November 4 to express concern about the case.
Mr. Hapgood's refusal to attend the hearing was immediately criticized by officials in Anguilla, and his attorney general, prime minister and governor spoke out.
The governor, Tim Foy, described Hapgood's concerns about his safety as "unfounded."
"I invite those who make or repeat these fabrications, including those in public office, to familiarize themselves with the events by visiting us," Foy said in a statement, praising the "peace, serenity and calm,quot; of the island.
Anguilla Attorney General Dwight D. Horsford said in a statement that his office was looking for an arrest warrant for Mr. Hapgood and he would distribute it through Interpol, the international police organization, which would effectively make him a wanted man in much of the world. The state of that development and the probability of an international order were not clear this week.
On April 13, Mr. Hapgood, Four. FiveI was visiting the beach Malliouhana resorts with his wife and three children when he knocked on the door. Mitchel, 27, a uniformed hotel employee, said he had come to fix a sink. Mr. Hapgood said that none of the sinks seemed to need repair, but he invited him in.
the two men started fighting, crashing into a bathroom and going down to the floor. The much bigger Mr. Hapgood, a former soccer player, covered Mr. Mitchel for about 30 minutes before the police appeared. Other employees arrived at that time and asked him to release Mr. Mitchel, but he refused, and then said he feared they were all working together.
Mr. Mitchel lost consciousness and was pronounced dead a short time later in a hospital. Days after the incident, Mr. Hapgood, who said he was defending himself against an attempted robbery, was charged with involuntary manslaughter and spent several hours in the small prison on the island before a judge allowed him to return to Darien on bail of $ 74,000.
After that tumultuous week in April, the case went on until an explosive revelation in September: the coroner in Anguilla, who first ruled that Mr. Mitchel's cause of death was asphyxiation in a prone position, reviewed his finding and said that Mr. Mitchel died of a cocaine overdose, according to the revised autopsy obtained by The New York Times. Mr. Mitchel had twice the amount of cocaine in his system that has been shown to be lethal in some people.
A preliminary hearing that began in September would resume on November 11, but Mr. Hapgood stayed in Connecticut on the advice of his lawyers. He feared his bond could be revoked, in which case he could face a year or more of jail on the island awaiting trial, his spokesman said. Months ago, an Anguilla judge, allowing bail, said some of the correctional officers in the prison were relatives of the dead.
"We understand that there will be people in Anguilla who say that Scott is fleeing a trial," said his lawyer, Juliya Arbisman, in a statement. “That is 100 percent false. There is nothing Scott wants more than clearing his name and regaining his life. But he cannot clear his name if he is dead or if the legal process for which he is bound is fundamentally partial and unfair. "
The Hapgood family, which gave brief and prepared statements through a crisis management company in the months after the incident, has taken the offensive in recent weeks, organizing a network of supporters to raise money and speak out against what he considers an unfair prosecution. .
Mr. Hapgood's wife, Kallie, She appeared on "Fox & Friends,quot; in October and made a direct appeal to a man she believed could help her husband: "I have seen Trump help Americans all over the world, and we really need your help," she said.
Minutes after his appearance, Mr. Trump tweeted about the case, saying "something seems and sounds bad."
Later, the Hapgoods held a press conference on the steps of Darien City Hall, flanked by dozens of supporters holding small American flags and signs that said "Justice for Scott," "Drop charges,quot; and even "Save Scott Hapgood. ".
In Anguilla, where dozens of people attended a funeral of Mr. Mitchel in April, the first of two, with the other in his native Dominica, supporters of the dead man, who had a 2-year-old daughter with his ex-girlfriend, I said that drug use and violence were not in his character.
Still, his descriptions of Mr. Mitchel as a worker of the fun-loving complex were complicated by a rape arrest in the days before his death; Mr. Mitchel's ex-girlfriend, Emily Garlick, told police she had attacked her. That case was pending when he died, and Mrs. Garlick retracted her accusation and described the incident as an argument.
A former member of Parliament in Anguilla, Haydn Hughes, seemed to speak for many of the islanders in a recent video about the Hapgood case posted on Facebook.
"We still want him to come back to face the court and show that our system is much fairer than even that of his homeland," Hughes said, "and we are an objective and peaceful people."