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UPDATED: Man charged with choking another to death in Pawcatuck

February 8, 2019

Stonington — A Pawcatuck man was charged Wednesday with choking another man to death when he became angry during a consensual sexual encounter in an apartment at the Elm Tree Inn on Jan. 12.

Bryan T. Mitchell, 30, was charged with first-degree manslaughter in the death of William Z. Heine, 42, and was arraigned Thursday in New London Superior Court. His bond was set at $250,000 and his case was transferred to the Part A court where more serious crimes are heard. Both Heine and Mitchell lived in separate apartments at the boarding house.

Heine’s obituary states he was born and raised in Manchester and spent his summers on Lord’s Point, where his parents still live. He graduated from the University of Connecticut and then earned a master’s degree in education from the University of New Haven. He last worked as an elementary school teacher in Arizona before returning to Stonington.

Police, who had obtained a warrant for Mitchell’s arrest, said they received information on Wednesday that Mitchell was in New London. They alerted New London police, who took Mitchell into custody and turned him over to Stonington detectives.

According to the arrest warrant for Mitchell, Heine’s father called police on Jan. 15 to check on his son’s welfare because family and friends had not been able to contact him in three days. On the morning of Jan. 12, police said Heine was taken by ambulance to Lawrence + Memorial Hospital for treatment of alcohol poisoning with a blood alcohol content of 0.42 percent, more than five times the legal limit for driving. He was released about 12 hours later, at 7:43 p.m.

When police responded to the inn on Jan. 15, officers found him dead on the floor, lying on his back with two pillows under his head, a blanket pulled up to his chin and a red sobriety coin on his abdomen under his hand. Police said they noticed numerous half-circle shaped marks on his chest and neck.

The next day, police viewed camera footage from the inn’s surveillance system and were able to track both Heine and Mitchell’s movements from 9:07 p.m. on Jan. 12, which was 84 minutes after he left the hospital, to 12:49 a.m. on Jan. 13. That footage shows Mitchell entering and leaving the area of Heine’s apartment on five occasions.

The warrant states that on Jan. 17, Mitchell agreed to be interview by police. During the taped interview at the police station, Mitchell initially said he could not recall many of the details of the night of Jan. 12. Eventually he admitted to being in and out of Heine’s room multiple times that night.

He then gave police a written statement in which he admitted to choking Heine.

In his statement, Mitchell said he did not know Heine prior to the morning of Jan. 12, when he heard music and stomping coming from the apartment above his, Heine’s, so he went upstairs to ask Heine to stop. After Heine invited him inside, Mitchell said he was concerned Heine may have overdosed on drugs, so he called 911, which is when Heine was taken to the hospital for alcohol poisoning.

Mitchell told police that when he came home from work that night, he ordered pizza and wings. He then heard Heine moving around upstairs so he went to Heine’s apartment to see how he was doing. Heine invited him in and Mitchell said he left to get the wings and then returned to Heine’s apartment.

Mitchell told police the two men then engaged in a sexual act and at one point Mitchell said he became angry that Heine was pulling his hair. He said he used his forearm to break free from Heine’s hands. He then put his arm across Heine’s neck and did not recall how long he kept it there as he was “angry and sort of blacked out.”

At some point Mitchell said Heine stopped struggling and Mitchell “figured he just passed out,” the warrant report said. Mitchell said he put two pillows under Heine’s head, covered him up with a blanket and placed the sobriety coin in his hand. He added he was “90% sure” Heine was breathing.

The warrant states that when police asked Mitchell what he thought happened to Heine, Mitchell said, “I think I accidently choked him to death but I didn’t mean to. I really thought he was breathing when I left.”

The Office of the Chief State Medical Examiner has ruled Heine’s cause of death was “neck compression” with other significant conditions as “intoxication by the combined effects of ethanol and Fentanyl.” The manner of death was ruled a homicide.

j.wojtas@theday.com

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