Attorney for pastor’s wife disputes charges

Posted April 22, 2010, at 10:47 p.m.

JONESPORT, Maine — The attorney for a woman accused of illegally hiding her two daughters from their biological father said Thursday that police have mischaracterized his client’s actions leading up to her arrest.

Machias lawyer Frank Cassidy said Amanda Haag, who was arrested Sunday along with her husband, Colin Haag Jr., was fighting for custody of her 7- and 12-year-old daughters and making no attempt to conceal their whereabouts. Cassidy said Amanda Haag filed a parental rights and responsibility action against the father of her children last month. That filing requires that the father be notified of his children’s location.

“The contention that she was hiding and fleeing the area doesn’t make sense,” Cassidy said Thursday. “Why would she file paperwork naming [the father] and making an attempt to contact him?”

Investigators allege that the Haags have lived in several states and that Colin Haag Jr. has been representing himself as a Baptist minister when in fact he is not ordained.

The Haags were arrested Sunday — not Tuesday as previously reported — after police said they found the two girls alone in an Ellsworth hotel room. The discovery of the children came after Colin Haag Sr. told police to look for the girls at the Eagle’s Lodge motel in Ellsworth, said Washington County Sheriff Donnie Smith. Haag Sr. claimed he had been held against his will by his son, who allegedly forced him to stay in the basement of various residences they have lived in around the country. Colin Haag Sr. is now staying in a Hancock County homeless shelter.

Colin Jr. and Amanda Haag are being held in the Washington County Jail in Machias, charged with kidnapping and custodial interference, respectively. Colin Haag’s bail is set at $100,000 and Amanda Haag’s at $25,000. Cassidy said he is exploring the possibility of Amanda Haag’s release if her family pays the bail.

Police have said that the Haags are married to both each other and separate spouses, a claim Cassidy said he couldn’t confirm nor deny.

“As far as I know and can tell at this point, there is no divorce” between Amanda Haag and her daughters’ biological father, Randall Hodges, said Cassidy. “There is some question whether [Amanda Haag] had a legal right to take the children. It’s not a good situation.”

Smith said Hodges, who The Associated Press reported is from Myrtle Beach, S.C., had been searching for the girls for two years through at least four states. At the time of their arrest Sunday at 1235 Mason’s Bay Road in Jonesport, said Smith, the Haags were packing up to move again.

“When we found them it looked like they were ready to leave [the state] again,” said Smith. “That’s why the kids were left in Ellsworth. They left the kids in Ellsworth and had gone back to pack up.”

Cassidy said the Haags were moving to another rental home in Jonesport, not preparing to leave Maine.

“They were looking to relocate in the area in a house that was a smaller residence,” said Cassidy. “That’s what they told me.”

Cassidy, who is Amanda Haag’s court-appointed attorney, said Colin Haag Jr. is represented by Machias lawyer Norman Toffolon. Toffolon could not be reached for comment Thursday, but a woman who answered the phone at his office said he is representing Colin Haag Jr.

Asked whether the Haags had been moving around the country in recent months, as has been alleged by investigators, Cassidy said they have lived in South Carolina and most recently West Virginia.

“They have been living in different states, but not as many as has been alleged,” he said. “Colin Haag is a minister and that’s why they were moving around. He was in West Virginia recently doing ministry. If they’ve visited other states, I don’t consider that living there.”

Police say the Haags are also suspected of stealing from at least one Washington County church. Smith said Thursday that the investigation into the alleged thefts is ongoing, but no charges have been filed.

A spokesman for the Maine Department of Health and Human Services would not confirm or deny whether the department played a role in the case. Police have said the girls were reunited with their father Sunday after the arrests.

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