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Mandall Tripp of Westerly. | Christine Corrigan / Sun File Photo

Testimony begins in Westerly manslaughter trial

WAKEFIELD — Opening arguments and testimony began Tuesday in the manslaughter trial of a Westerly man charged in the stabbing death of Kevin P. Brown, 37, of South Kingstown, on the day of Superstorm Sandy, Oct. 29, 2012. A panel of eight women and five men were chosen Monday and sat in the jury box as Judge Melanie Wilk Thunberg began proceedings in Washington County Superior Court.

The Westerly police initially sought to have Mandall W. Tripp, 42, charged with second-degree murder. Tripp was staying with his longtime girlfriend and her children at 11A Marriott Ave., Westerly, when Brown came to the house on Oct. 29. During a bail hearing in November 2012, Thunberg said that the case did not rise to the level of second-degree murder.

Family members and friends of Brown sat on the right side of the courtroom, behind the table of the state prosecutors, Mark Trovato and Amy Dodge. Tripp’s group of supporters sat behind his well-known defense attorney, William Murphy, and Tripp looked back at them often during the first day of testimony.

Westerly police said their investigation indicated that Brown walked into the Marriott Avenue home and refused to leave after being asked to multiple times, saying that Tripp owed money to his uncle. Tripp, a muscular, small man, said he was able to push Brown, who weighed 225 pounds, out of the apartment, but Brown continued to bang and kick the door to gain entry to Tripp’s side of the duplex.

According to a report by Officer Michael Lamb, Brown took a swing at Tripp and Tripp swung back with a knife, hitting him in the left chest area. Later it was determined that the blade went into Brown’s heart.

Brown then left the apartment, got into his car and left, running over a curb and hitting a tree on West Street nearby. Emergency personnel began lifesaving efforts when they arrived on the scene and found him unresponsive and at one point took “trauma shears” to cut Brown’s clothing. That is when the puncture wound from the 3- inch blade was discovered.

The atmosphere in the countroom became tense at times Tuesday afternoon, particularly when a graphic photo of Brown’s body was projected onto the courtroom wall on more than one occasion as the attorneys questioned Westerly Ambulance EMT Kenneth W. Richards III. He was questioned regarding the resuscitation efforts, including the administration of Narcan, or naloxone, a drug used to counter the effects of an opioid overdose. Richards explained that emergency personnel give Narcan as a matter of protocol. Richards said Brown moved his arms at one point after resuscitation efforts, but never regained consciousness.

Brown was photographed on a gurney at The Westerly Hospital after the revival efforts had failed. Family members left the courtroom sobbing. They returned after some time, only to continue to meet in the hall at various breaks during court sessions.

Murphy portrayed Tripp as a man who encountered a man “who appeared to be intoxicated” trying to get into his house. The “meeting” of the two, said Murphy, resulted first into a shoving match, with Brown being 55 pounds heavier. Murphy said the argument escalated as Brown refused to leave.

Murphy said Tripp knows he was acting in self defense and tried to get Brown outside because his family was in the house. He said Brown kept pushing him back.

The police had said that Brown took a swing at Tripp and he swung back with the knife on the left side. “Unfortunately it was a perfect shot,” Murphy said. As Brown left he told Tripp he’d be back, Murphy said..

Later, Tripp’s girlfriend, Darlene Hazard went to file a report against Brown, saw the crash and turned around, according to the police. Once at the site of the accident, she told the police that “this guy just broke into my house.”

Murphy said the police then went to Tripp’s house, where he was questioned, arrested for having some “weed in his pocket” and questioned for a lengthy period of time before ever being told that Brown had died.

The trial was scheduled to resume today.

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