standing Police Siren Generic

[corrects portions of January chronology]

NEW LONDON — A New London man has been charged with manslaughter in the mid-January death of a Pawcatuck man during a consensual sexual encounter at the Elm Tree Inn, according to police and court documents. 

The accused, Brian T. Mitchell, 30, who was most recently staying at a home on Jay Street in New London, was arraigned Thursday in New London Superior Court on one count of first-degree manslaughter. Stonington police charged Mitchell Wednesday afternoon after he was arrested by New London police at Stonington's request.

Mitchell was reserved during the hearing and did not enter a plea to the charge. He was held in lieu of a $250,000 bond and was ordered to undergo mental health evaluation and counseling.

According to the arrest affidavit, police discovered the death on Jan. 15 when family members requested a well-being check on William Z. Heine, 42, who they had not heard from in three days. An officer discovered Heine lying on his back on the floor of his apartment "with two pillows under his head and covered by a blanket up to his chin." Because of the position of the blanket, the police said that Heine could not have covered himself.

It was later determined that Heine had been dead for some time. An autopsy determined that the cause of death was "neck compression," with several aggravating factors including "intoxication by the combined effects of ethanol and fentanyl."

Using images from surveillance cameras, detectives found that Mitchell, who lived in the apartment directly below Heine's, had gone to his apartment several times between 10:13 p.m. on Jan. 12, and 12:49 a.m. on Jan. 13.

According to a police report, Mitchell had called officers for help at about 7 a.m. on Jan. 12 after finding Heine in his room and unresponsive. Mitchell told police at the time that he did not know Heine well and had gone to his room to ask that he keep the noise down, only to find him blue in the face. Heine was taken by ambulance to L+M Hospital in New London and treated for alcohol poisoning.  After his release, his mother dropped him off at the inn on West Broad Street at about 9 p.m. He was last seen entering his apartment at 10:06 p.m. and did not leave again, the police said.

At 10:13 p.m., Mitchell was seen entering Heine's apartment. He came and went several times over the course of the next 2½ hours, and was the last to leave Heine's apartment.

After the body was found, Mitchell agreed to meet with the police at the Stonington police station on Jan. 17 to give a statement. During the interview with several officers, the police said, he initially appeared to be leaving details out, but on further questioning he opened up about the events of the evening.

According to Mitchell, he was home on Jan. 12 and had gotten a delivery of pizza and wings. He again heard noise upstairs and went to check on Heine. The two men began to talk, and Mitchell offered to bring him some of the food. After spending some time together, talking and watching TV, Mitchell told the police that Heine moved closer to him. Their encounter was detailed in the affidavit, and at some point, Mitchell said that Heine pulled at his hair.

Mitchell told police that he was angered by the hair pull, partly because he suffered from PTSD as a result of a sexual assault when he was younger. Mitchell said he told him to stop, but when Heine did it again, Mitchell said he held Heine down by the back of the neck. He told the officers that "he was angry and blacked out for a moment." After a few minutes, he said, Heine stopped struggling and Mitchell thought he had "had passed out," according to the affidavit.

Mitchell said he covered Heine with the blanket and put the pillows under his head, then put a sobriety coin in his hand to remind Heine when he woke up of "what he had tried to do." He then left.

Mitchell told police he "didn't want to be part of Heine's issues" and ceased contact from that point on. As the interview concluded, according to the affidavit, Mitchell said, "I think I accidentally choked him to death but I didn't mean to. I really thought he was breathing when I left."

Based on witness accounts and Mitchell's statement, the affidavit states that police concluded there was no intent but that Mitchell's actions had caused Heine's death. The case was transferred to Part A of Superior Court, which handles major crimes, and Mitchell is due back on Feb. 27.

jvallee@thewesterlysun.com

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