MACHIAS, Maine — Wearing a jailhouse orange T-shirt inside out and stretched over his wide shoulders, Colin Haag Jr. on Monday morning denied that he is a kidnapper or thief.
“At the end of the day, God will get us out,” he said in an interview at the Washington County Jail.
Haag Jr., 34, and his wife, Amanda Haag, also 34, most recently lived in Jonesport while Haag Jr. was serving as the pastor of the Lighthouse Baptist Church in Addison. The couple was arrested nine days ago, he on a charge of kidnapping and she on a charge of criminal restraint. They are being held on $25,000 and $5,000 cash bail, respectively.
Amanda Haag’s two daughters, ages 7 and 12, were found on April 18 by themselves in a room at the Eagle’s Lodge motel in Ellsworth after Colin Haag’s father, Colin Haag Sr., told police that he had been held a virtual prisoner in the family’s cellar and that Amanda Haag was hiding her two daughters from her ex-partner, who police said had legal custody.
After the Haags were arrested, the girls were reunited with their biological father who has returned with them to Florida, according to police. The man had been searching for his daughters for more than two years.
“I’m sitting here, facing 30 years in jail, for something I didn’t do,” Haag Jr. said Monday, tears springing to his eyes.
He maintained that his and his wife’s arrests are a mistake and that there never was any custody agreement between Amanda Haag and the girls’ father, whose name neither officials nor Haag Jr. have disclosed, and therefore the Haags could not be in violation of any law or agreement.
“It is a custody issue blown out of proportion,” he said.
Haag Jr. and his wife, who are natives of Myrtle Beach, S.C., arrived in Maine last September where he was to be the pastor of the Lighthouse Baptist Church.
The Washington County Sheriff’s Department has said the incident began when Haag’s father, Colin Haag Sr., came to their attention on Sunday, April 18. Haag Sr. told the police that he had been held virtually a prisoner in the family’s cellar and that Amanda Haag was hiding her two daughters from her ex-partner, who had legal custody.
None of that is true, Haag Jr. maintained on Monday.
Haag Jr. said his father had been living with the couple in South Carolina but was removed by police from the home after he became drunk and abusive.
“We left to follow my calling to pastor a church,” Haag Jr. said. “When we arrived in Maine, I invited him to live with us. He had been living in the woods in South Carolina. I bought him a bus ticket and drove to Pennsylvania to pick him up.”
Haag Jr. said his father did live in the basement of the Jonesport home but that it was fully furnished and contained two rooms and a bathroom.
His father struggles with alcohol issues, Haag Jr. said.
“He was arrested and put in jail when I was about 14 or 15 and I ended up in a foster home,” Haag Jr. said.
But he said the two continued to maintain a close relationship.
Haag Jr. said he never finished high school, never completed an attempt to enlist in the U.S. Marines, and never was ordained as a minister.
When he and his wife met about four years ago, her ex-partner took the couple’s son, now age 14, and she took her two daughters and they parted ways. He said the ex-partner moved with the son to Florida.
“We stayed in South Carolina for two years, and there was never any custody agreement,” Haag Jr. said. “He never supported those girls or attempted to visit them. I took them on as if they were my own. I loved them and took care of them.”
He said his wife and the girls’ father never were legally married.
Police have said that the Haags are married to each other and separate spouses.
Haag Jr. said he and Amanda Haag were married in South Carolina and then moved on to Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, seeking a church to serve.
Haag is not an ordained minister, but he said he has a certificate from the Universal Life Church of Modesto, Calif., that he obtained over the Internet.
“I am a pastor of God,” he said. “I wanted to pastor a church. I felt I had the calling.”
Haag Jr. said he looked on www.pastorfinder.com and found that the Addison church was seeking a pastor.
“We moved to Maine,” he said.
He said the family lived in the church parsonage in Addison, but that after two months, things didn’t work out at the Addison church. He would not elaborate.
“I just didn’t want to be there,” he said.
Parishioners have accused the Haags of making off with church property, including furniture, candlesticks and hymnals.
When asked if he stole from the church, Haag Jr. said he did not. He would not discuss the accusations further.
“I started my own church in Columbia,” he said, which was known as the Victory Baptist Church.
“Maine was the last place I wanted to be,” he said, but after getting to know the Washington County people, he and his family were happy here.
The couple worked at a local wreath-making company, and Amanda Haag had a part-time job with a local community agency.
“My wife taught sign language in the church, and we just tried to serve God the best we could,” he said.
Haag Jr. said all that changed last week.
Although police said they came to Jonesport because of Haag Sr.’s statements, Haag Jr. said it was because his wife’s ex-partner had shown up at their home. Haag Jr. said the man, whom he refused to name, had threatened Amanda Haag with a gun in the past and the couple was frightened.
“He came to our house at 11 a.m. that Sunday,” Haag Jr. maintained. “He left, he came back, he left.”
Haag Jr. said he and his wife were so afraid that they packed their belongings in suitcases and drove the girls to the Ellsworth motel.
Police have said that the couple was ready to move on, that they believed the girls’ father was getting close to finding them, and that Haag Jr. had obtained a new pastor position in Ohio.
“But we forgot one of the suitcases,” Haag Jr. said. He said his wife was afraid to be by herself so they left the girls alone with food, money and a cell phone, and drove back to Jonesport.
The girls’ father was waiting there, Haag Jr. said. “He and his sister were hiding in his truck in nearby bushes. We called 911.”
Haag Jr. said the couple had recently filed paperwork with Machias attorney Frank Cassidy seeking full custody of the girls and adoption by Haag Jr.
Cassidy said he could not discuss anything he talked about with the Haags but confirmed that a Parental Rights and Responsibilities form was filed with the Washington County court by Amanda Haag on Friday, April 16, two days before her arrest. He explained that when a person is unmarried, with children, the PRR form is filed to establish a custody agreement.
Haag Jr. said that paperwork prompted the children’s father’s visit to Maine.
While the Haags waited for police to arrive that Sunday morning, police were listening to Haag Sr. provide directions to his granddaughters’ location.
Ellsworth police officers went to the motel and found the two children.
“An hour later, we were arrested,” Haag Jr. said.
“I can’t understand the charges. In South Carolina, if a parent abandons a child and provides no child support, he loses custody. For the two years we were in South Carolina after the ex moved to Florida, he never contacted those children.”
Amanda Haag refused to be interviewed Monday.
Haag Jr. said he is worried about his wife, adding that jail officials will not let him speak to her.
“I know she is frightened,” he said. “She is the biological mother of those girls. How can Maine charge her? Those girls loved their mom and loved me.”
“This is a nightmare,” he said, wiping away tears. “I have ruined my ministry. I have ruined my life. I did not do anything wrong.”
Haag said he sits in his cell and thinks about the situation continuously.
“I think of my wife and I think of my girls. I stay by myself and read the Bible and I pray. I hope and pray.” He quoted from the Bible: “Be still and know that I am God.”
The case will be heard by a Washington County grand jury in mid-May.
Washington County Sheriff Donnie Smith said the District Attorney’s Office is looking into the possibility that the charges will be transferred to the federal court system.