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November 21, 2014

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Suit alleges Hard Rock owner shares blame in death of former exec’s girlfriend

Click to enlarge photo

Ed Scheetz

Click to enlarge photo

Michelle Hatchel

A new lawsuit charges that the operator of the Hard Rock resort in Las Vegas shares liability for the 2007 drug overdose death of a hotel executive's girlfriend by consenting to the executive's promiscuous and drug-abusing lifestyle.

The lawsuit, filed Friday in Las Vegas by family members of 23-year-old Michelle Hatchel, contains numerous revelations and allegations about her death including:

--Charges the hotel executive, Ed Scheetz, lied to Las Vegas police about the circumstances involving the death of Hatchel.

--Hatchel had been traumatized by the deaths of friends in the Columbine High School massacre in 1999 and Scheetz capitalized on her emotional troubles to induce her into drug use and sexual activity.

--A wrongful death suit filed against Scheetz by Hatchel's father has already been settled for a substantial sum.

--After Hatchel's death, Scheetz moved to dismiss divorce proceedings with his wife and then transferred to his wife their $8 million Connecticut estate to protect his assets from a wrongful death lawsuit and -- by staying married -- to preclude his wife from having to testify against him.

Scheetz could not immediately be reached for comment on the lawsuit Tuesday and a spokeswoman said co-defendant Morgans Hotel Group does not comment on pending litigation. New York-based Morgans co-owns and manages the Las Vegas Hard Rock.

Friday's lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Las Vegas was filed on behalf of Hatchel's mother, Kim Hatchel; as well as her grandmother, brother and aunt. Scheetz and Morgans Hotel Group are named as defendants.

Three weeks after Hatchel died in 2007, Morgans said Scheetz resigned as Morgans president and chief executive officer for personal reasons.

Officials at the time said Hatchel was found dead on Aug. 29, 2007, in a rented condominium at Turnberry Towers on Paradise Road where Scheetz had been staying.

Police at the time said they received a call from Scheetz about 8 p.m. reporting his girlfriend was not breathing. The Clark County Coroner's Office found she died of an overdose of the opiate pain killer oxycodone and cocaine.

Friday's lawsuit claims that Scheetz lied to police when he told them Hatchel was alive when he went to work at 9 a.m. on Aug. 29 and that, again contrary to what he told police, there were at least two individuals in the condominium when he called to report the woman was not breathing.

Hatchel was a resident of Colorado, where she had met Scheetz at a Denver nightclub in 2005 and had a relationship with him, the suit says.

It says in the summer of 2007 she was flown to New York to be with Scheetz on a flight arranged by Scheetz's secretary at Morgans and then was flown to Las Vegas on Morgans' private jet.

After arriving in Las Vegas, Scheetz was spending time with Hatchel and in phone calls and text messages to friends, Hatchel expressed unhappiness with the ex-girlfriend's presence and feared for her safety, the lawsuit charges.

The lawsuit says the last text on her cell phone, which was drafted, incomplete and unsent, said: "I think they are trying to".

The lawsuit, alleging assault and battery, wrongful death, infliction of emotional distress and civil conspiracy, goes on to claim:

--Scheetz provided Hatchel the cocaine and oxycodone that killed her.

--Scheetz had sent Hatchel a photo of himself bound and tied at his ankles, legs and wrists with a text saying he was tied up and bloody; and then sent photos of himself having sex with a woman with his hand around her neck "strangling/choking her" and "she doesn’t look like she likes it;" along with another photo showing him having sex with a second woman; along with a nude photo of Hatchel he had taken of her the night before she died.

--The photo of Hatchel was sent about 1:30 p.m. on the date of her death, the suit says.

--Hatchel was "assaulted and battered" between Aug. 18 and Aug. 29, 2007, and sustained bruises and abrasions including a black eye.

--The condominium where Hatchel died was leased by Scheetz and Morgans Hotel Group and was used for entertaining guests of the defendants and "for the hedonistic lifestyle of Scheetz, which said lifestyle was in the course and scope of his employment as chief executive officer of Morgans Hotel Group" and that the premises were used for supplying controlled substances including cocaine.

The lawsuit seeks $645 million in general and punitive damages.

"As a result of the wrongful acts of the defendants ... as part of a civil conspiracy or otherwise as alleged herein to establish liability in defendants ... by importing, transporting, selling, exchanging, bartering, supplying, prescribing, dispensing, giving away or administering controlled substances including cocaine and oxycodone to the decedent Michelle Hatchel, defendants .. did proximately cause the wrongful death of the decedent Michelle Hatchel," the suit charges.

"As a direct and proximate result of the assault and battery of the decedent Michelle Hatchel, she suffered physical harm and injuries including bruises and abrasions about her face, arms and legs ... as well as mental distress, emotional harm, emotional distress, fear, apprehension of harm, mental anguish, fear, stress, and/or mental and emotional suffering and physical pain," the suit alleges.

As for the alleged role of Morgans and the Hard Rock in Hatchel's death, the suit charges:

"A part of the Hard Rock marketing’s strategy its target demographic patrons included hedonistic sexually permissive and promiscuous lifestyle which also included use of illegal and/or illegally obtained ... controlled substances including but not limited to cocaine and oxycodone and as CEO of said named corporate defendants, defendant Scheetz's own lifestyle ... was a living example of said Hard Rock image and all of his actions, inactions, and/or omissions herein were within the course and scope of his employment.

"Corporate defendants paid for and/or reimbursed defendant Scheetz for his illicit activities including those activities that occurred in the private jet or in the leased premises at Turnberry Place in Las Vegas and as such they are jointly and severally liable for the damages proximately caused by the defendants."

"Scheetz was an individual who lived a hedonistic lifestyle involving himself, with his employer’s full knowledge and consent, with multiple sexual partners, often at the same time, and the consistent and voluminous use and abuse of the controlled substance cocaine and the giving, providing, transporting, supplying and administering of cocaine and other controlled substances including oxycodone to others including to the decedent Michelle Hatchel," the suit alleges.

The lawsuit says Morgans and Scheetz in January 2007 had been sued by a female employee charging sexual harassment. It said Scheetz's lifestyle was well known by his peers.

"Morgans Hotel Group and all other named corporate defendants knew or in the exercise of reasonable and ordinary care should have known of the defendant Scheetz's hedonistic proclivities based upon common knowledge within said corporate network of his employers and also as a result of the lawsuit for sexual harassment filed against them," the plaintiffs allege.

CORRECTION: This story has been corrected to remove the name of a person who was erroneously named in the lawsuit. | (October 17, 2014)

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