Woman Who Allegedly Assaulted Lawrence Mayor Found Dead Days Later
In what is nothing more than a strange coincidence, a Methuen resident accused of slapping a drink out of Lawrence Mayor William Lantigua’s hand during an event at a liquor store on June 1, was found dead in her home.
A spokesperson from Essex County District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett’s office says the death of Michelle Mitchell is not being considered suspicious, and an initial investigation showed no signs of forced entry into Mitchell’s apartment or any signs of foul play. Mitchell, who was issued a court summons at the request of Lantigua for the alleged assault, was found dead in her Methuen apartment on Tuesday, police said.
Blodgett’s office said the “coincidence was noted” by investigators, but the situation was not considered suspicious. “Whenever there is an unattended death, we are notified and we have jurisdiction to investigate according to procedure,” a spokesperson said. Mitchell’s body was discovered as the result of a well-being check after a friend contacted police. More information from the investigation is expected to be released pending a toxicology report and an autopsy, officials said Friday.
Mitchell’s run in with Lantigua happened at Broadway Liquors days prior. According to police reports, Lantigua was standing to the side of the front door of the store with a beverage in his hand, in a bag. When Mitchell allegedly came up to him and said “what are you drinking?” Lantigua told the woman he was drinking “coconut water,” at which point she “slapped his hand” in what he claims was an attempt to knock it out of his hand. The mayor told the woman to leave him alone, police said.
When officers caught up with Mitchell, who had fled the scene in her car, they asked her if she had touched the mayor, and she told them “no.” She claimed she had only asked the mayor about the location of “the dumptrucks.” The mention of the trucks may have been in relation to two former Lantigua aides who were indicted last September, one of whom was accused of allegedly forcing a waste manager to donate a truck to the Dominic Republic, where Lantigua has family.
When Mitchell was told that Lantigua was seeking to press charges, she told police she didn’t hit him, however, she was trying to peel the label off of his drink to see what the beverage in the bag was, the report said. Calls made to Broadway Liquors about the incident and event at the store were not immediately returned.
Lantigua has been the center of public scrutiny and was recently the focus of a probe by federal and state investigators. Since he was first elected in 2009, Lantigua has been deemed a controversial mayor, and constituents have gone as far as petitioning to recall the elected official on four separate occasions. According to an in-depth look at life in the city of Lawrence from 2012, called “City of the Damned,” those looking to remove Lantigua from office called him “a dictator.” Lantigua, the first Dominican-born mayor in Massachusetts’ history, was the subject of an investigation for alleged “campaign-finance improprieties” two years into his first term in office.
One of the mayor’s supporters was recently arrested on larceny charges for allegedly stealing money from a city-owned parking garage, where he was hired by the mayor, reports indicate. In September, two of Lantigua’s top aids were also the target of FBI officials, and were indicted on extortion and conspiracy charges, but both plead not guilty in court.