Sen. Martin: Policymakers must learn from Bristol tragedy (Hartford Courant)

October 1, 2015

Child Advocate Report: Chances To Potentially Prevent Infant’s Murder Missed

Hartford Courant

Increasingly violent and drug-addled, Arthur Hapgood Sr. had committed a potential probation violation by using the drug PCP, and the Waterbury police were looking for him for punching his wife in the hours before he stabbed to death the 14-month-old daughter of a family friend in Bristol.

But despite the drug use and the assault, several missed connections between agencies and a delayed drug test helped prevent the net from closing around him before it was too late, according to a report released Wednesday by the Office of the Child Advocate and the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

Tuesday, Hapgood, 36, a man with a criminal history dating back to when he was 11, pleaded guilty to murder in the death of Zaniyah Calloway on Aug. 18, 2014. His sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 6.

Twelve days before the child’s death, on Aug. 6, Hapgood, who was on probation after a four-year prison stint for drug-selling, tested positive for marijuana. But the drug screen done by his treatment program didn’t test for PCP, the powerful hallucinogenic known as angel dust, Child Advocate Sarah Eagan stated in the report.

The results of the drug test reached the probation office on Aug. 13. Eagan pointed out that by itself, a positive test for marijuana wouldn’t necessarily result in Hapgood being sent back to prison on a probation violation, although Hapgood had racked up eight positive drug screens for marijuana between December 2013 and August 2014.

In any case, unlike the treatment provider, the probation office did test for PCP. If probation had known he used the drug, it may have resulted in his return to prison, or “would certainly have increased his probation supervision and relevant sanctions, including a likely referral to inpatient treatment,” the report states.

But the positive PCP results didn’t come back to probation until Saturday, Aug. 16, and did not result in enforcement action prior to the Aug. 18 murder.

The 10-day delay in discovering the PCP use “was considered by the [Judicial Branch’s probation division] to be significant and unusual,” the report states.

The Judicial Branch said in a statement Wednesday that probation has increased the frequency in which urine samples are picked up from field offices, and that screening for PCP has been made part of the initial drug test.

Judicial is “working to ensure that all of our contracted providers include PCP on the standard screening panel,” said Melissa Farley, a spokeswoman for the branch.

On Aug. 17, the day before the baby’s murder, Waterbury police responded to a 911 call from one of Hapgood’s children, reporting that he had struck the children’s mother.

Hapgood’s wife refused to consent to a “lethality assessment” by Waterbury police officers, which is an evaluation of the risk that she faces. She also declined medical attention and the offer of a shelter. She said she had a safe place to go with the children, the report states. She initially denied being hit, but then said that she’d been struck in the face, and that Hapgood, before fleeing, smashed her phone.

“The [Department of Children and Families] was not contacted about this incident, as the police assessment was that [she] was able to keep her children safe, and [the police] had no concerns regarding abuse or neglect of the children,” the report states.

The police officers gave Hapgood’s wife, Estacy Riquelmy, information about victim’s services and obtaining a restraining order. Waterbury police dispatchers broadcast a request to all units to detain Hapgood if he was seen. But “while [police] made local attempts to find [Hapgood] immediately following the domestic-violence report, there was no record that police attempted to contact [probation] or electronically access probation information available to law enforcement,” the report states. “This information could have … [given] Waterbury law-enforcement additional areas to search for the suspect.” On Aug. 18, 2014, Hapgood’s mother, Roberta, was babysitting Zaniyah as a favor to the baby’s mother, a family friend. Hapgood went to his mother’s house. Riquelmy also went to the house to bring Hapgood some clothing, but she did not call police to tell them Hapgood was there, the report states. She did not have a restraining order.

Roberta Hapgood had been babysitting Zaniyah, but was not at home during the time of the stabbing, the report states. Present were Hapgood’s two teenage nephews, other children and Riquelmy. “After some point, everyone fled [Roberta Hapgood’s] house due to an alleged change in Hapgood’s behavior. [Hapgood’s] 11-year-old step-daughter was reportedly holding Zaniyah and was not able to get out of the house before the stabbing,” the report states.

Witnesses have told police that Hapgood was acting irrationally, making bizarre statements and becoming violent before the stabbing.

Hapgood admitted to arresting officers that he had taken drugs. When asked which ones, he responded, “All of them,” according to court papers.

Eagan said that the fatality review, which was requested by the legislature’s Committee on Children, “focused extensively on the balance between a probationer’s progress and [his or her] non-compliance, and how a probationer’s varying behaviors should be weighed.”

Eagan noted that before the positive PCP screen, Hapgood had appeared to be making some progress on probation.

The report, among other recommendations, says that probation should strengthen methods to detect a probationer’s escalation of drug use and asses how the system evaluates the risks presented by that drug use. Police should also continue to strengthen protocols for response to domestic violence that is witnessed by children, and for determining a suspect’s probation or parole status. Eagan said she met with Waterbury police for the report, and that “they did so many things right. They offered her a lethality assessment, they canvassed the neighborhood; the only thing they didn’t do was access that electronic probation database,” said Eagan.

Waterbury Police Chief Vernon L. Riddick Jr. said his officers followed protocol in this case, “but we’re more than willing to explore the recommendations from the child advocate’s office.”
Eagan said the Judicial Branch “was extremely open. They shared their internal reviews with us, and they have already implemented changes to the drug-testing policies.”

The death of the baby “horrified our city,” said Bristol Sen. Henri Martin, who serves as the lead Republican senator on the Committee on Children. “As policymakers, we must search for ways to prevent such a terrible act from ever happening again. This report will help us learn from a tragedy by addressing the cracks in the system.”