Conn. widow: foul play possible in cruise case
NEW HAVEN, Conn. — The family of a Connecticut man who disappeared from his honeymoon cruise in 2005 says federal authorities believed he was the victim of foul play, according to records released Monday.
But the man’s widow disagreed, saying the FBI told her there is a 50 percent chance he was the victim of foul play.
George Smith of Greenwich was aboard a Royal Caribbean ship when he vanished somewhere between Greece and Turkey. His body never has been found.
The FBI has investigated Smith’s disappearance, but no one has been charged. A telephone message was left for the FBI, but the agency usually does not comment on ongoing investigations.
Attorneys for Smith’s family asked his widow, Jennifer Hagel Smith, about a meeting with the FBI that included prosecutor Peter Jongbloed.
“Do you recall Mr. Jongbloed actually interjecting and looking right at you and saying, ‘Jennifer, we also believe there was foul play,’ meaning the Department of Justice and the FBI,” an attorney for Smith’s family asked.
Hagel Smith disagreed. After some back and forth, she eventually said an FBI agent told her he didn’t rule out foul play or an accident.
“But the fact of the matter is in his mind that it was 50-50,” Hagel Smith said.
She said federal authorities told her they didn’t have enough information to indict anyone and they were near the end of their investigation.
George Smith’s family is challenging a nearly $1.1 million settlement Hagel Smith reached with Royal Caribbean. The deal was approved by a probate court, but Smith’s family appealed to Stamford Superior Court.
Records from the probate hearing were released Monday. Some of the documents were blacked out in consultation with federal authorities.
Smith’s disappearance followed a night of heavy drinking. The cruise line said his wife was found passed out on a floor far from their cabin.
Hagel Smith has said that she has no recollection of what happened and that she passed an FBI lie detector test.
Hagel Smith has said her husband’s family refuses to acknowledge the possibility that George Smith’s intoxication from alcohol and prescription drugs may have been a factor in an accidental death. Instead, she said they have insisted Smith was a victim of foul play despite a lack of evidence.
Hagel Smith’s attorney has said that there was only a “speck” of blood found in the cabin, and that what was originally believed to be blood on a towel turned out to be makeup. Blood stains were found on a canopy that covers life boats.
Smith was taking the antidepressant Zoloft and Clonazepam, which treats anxiety and panic disorders, according to Hagel Smith’s attorney.
Smith’s attorney says there was no evidence he took prescription drugs. They also say they did not receive witness statements or documents from Royal Caribbean.
In the appeal, Smith’s parents and sister said his widow agreed to an inadequate settlement with the cruise ship line to avoid embarrassing disclosures about her conduct.
Filed under Legal Proceedings, News | Tags: Caribbean, Conn., Connecticut, Fact, Latin America And Caribbean, Missing Persons, New Haven, North America, Probate, Settlement, United States, Us-cruise-disappearance | Comment Below