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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

George Smith--newlywed widow says he mixed booze with pills


NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) -- The widow of a man who disappeared during their honeymoon cruise said Friday in court that he mixed prescription drugs with alcohol the night he vanished three years ago on the Mediterranean Sea.

Jennifer Hagel Smith said her husband's family has refused to acknowledge the possibility that George Smith's intoxication may have been a factor in an accidental death. She said they have insisted Smith was a victim of foul play.

Richard Sheeley, Hagel Smith's attorney, said Smith's parents and sister have "conjured up a conspiracy that never existed between the cruise line, investigators and, eventually, even the young woman they once welcomed into their family as a daughter."

The case was in Superior Court as Hagel Smith responded to a legal challenge by Smith's relatives to a nearly $1.1 million settlement she received from Royal Caribbean cruise line.
Smith's body was never found. His parents stand to win a portion of the settlement, which they are challenging as inadequate.

Michael Jones, a lawyer for Smith's family, said Sheeley's comments on Smith's drug and alcohol use were not accurate, saying there was no evidence he took prescription drugs. He said Smith's family continues to believe he was a victim of foul play.

Smith, from Greenwich, was taking the antidepressant Zoloft and Clonazepam, which treats anxiety and panic disorders, Sheeley said. A doctor had advised him not to drink alcohol while taking the drugs, he said.

Smith's disappearance prompted congressional hearings and new legislation to tighten requirements for reporting when passengers disappear.

Smith's parents and sister said in a lawsuit dismissed last year that the cruise company tried to cover up Smith's disappearance to avoid liability and negative publicity.
Royal Caribbean officials have said the company exceeded its legal responsibility when it contacted the FBI and other authorities immediately after learning he was missing.

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