Witness statements challenged in Westerly manslaughter trial

Witness statements challenged in Westerly manslaughter trial

The Westerly Sun

WAKEFIELD — In an emotional day of testimony, a state prosecutor on Wednesday grilled the longtime girlfriend of manslaughter defendant Mandall W. Tripp about inconsistencies in her statements after the death of Kevin P. Brown on Oct. 29, 2012.

Tripp, 42, is accused of stabbing Brown during a confrontation at the home at 11A Marriott Ave., Westerly, that he shared with his girlfriend, Darlene Hazard. Brown, 37, of South Kingstown, had gone to the house on the day of Superstorm Sandy to confront Tripp, according to the police; he died later at The Westerly Hospital. Most of the second day of testimony in Washington County Superior Court was taken with prosecution and defense questioning of Hazard, who explained she has been with Tripp for 11 years and they live together at the Marriott Avenue address. Assistant Attorney General Mark Trovato pointed out, however, that she had told a grand jury before Tripp’s indictment last year that he did not live with her, and had stayed with her only infrequently. From that point, Trovato tried to pick away at her previous testimony and statements to police.

Hazard, who had three daughters and a son living with her, acknowledged that Tripp was not on her lease. Tripp’s son was also living at the home at the time of the incident.

In a soft and sometimes nearly inaudible voice, Hazard said that Tripp and his son had been living with her and her children. Tripp had also given another address when he was arrested by the police that night.

As she spoke, her family, including young children, were weeping as they watched their mother on the witness stand, and Tripp wiped his eyes. A sheriff provided tissues to two teenagers seated in the front row, who were overcome during the testimony.

Trovato also questioned Hazard about her previous statements regarding the relationship between Brown and Tripp. The prosecutor indicated that Hazard had testified that they did not know each other, when in fact “they grew up together.”

“As you sit hear today, is it your testimony that there was no relationship between them?” Trovato asked. Hazard replied that Tripp’s uncle “goes with a family member” of Brown.

As to her comments regarding Tripp telling Brown that he had a knife and that if he didn’t leave he would use it, and Brown responding, “‘Stab me. Stab me,’ did you hear it?” asked Trovato. In a quiet voice, Hazard said no. That, according to Trovato, is in conflict with her previous testimony.

The prosecutor also asked why she would have traveled to the Westerly Police Station on Airport Road, several miles from her residence, to report Brown as a trespasser in their home instead of using a cellphone or land-line phone to make a call. She said Tripp asked her to go to the police station. Although power was out in many areas of town during the storm, Hazard acknowledged that she had electricity and that her phone was working. Trovato said she had told the grand jury that she was “too shook up” to call.

Brown left the residence and drove away after the stabbing, according to the police.

Later, Hazard and the two male teens headed for the police station with her in the driver’s seat. On West Street they encountered Brown’s car, which had crashed; it was surrounded by ambulances and police, and emergency personnel discovered the stab wound.

Hazard stopped at the accident scene and the police asked her to get out of her car, she said. She said she told the officer, “This guy just broke into my home.”

The police followed Hazard back to the house where they found Tripp and arrested him for possession of marijuana. The police took Tripp to the station for questioning.

The police said they secured the house and asked Hazard to provide information on what she had witnessed between Brown and Tripp. She said she never realized a knife was involved in the incident, but conceded that she knew that Tripp owned one.

Trovato questioned Hazard about testimony in which she said she saw Brown “swing at Tripp” in the facial area, before Tripp retaliated. Later she called it “tousling” between the two men, and then in another comment she said she was upstairs comforting her daughters and did not hear everything that was happening. The knife was later found behind a white board in the couple’s basement. It was clearly available to Westerly police who searched for the weapon after Tripp’s arrest. Defense Attorney William Murphy said it was evident that Tripp was not trying to “hide” the knife after the incident.

Murphy asked Hazard whether, during her questioning by Westerly police detectives, she was told that Brown had died. She said no.

As she left the courtroom she was surrounded by friends and family who escorted her out of the building.

The trial resumes today.


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