Trial of pretend pastor accused of kidnapping to begin Tuesday

Posted Feb. 07, 2011, at 12:20 p.m.
Last modified Feb. 07, 2011, at 8 p.m.
Colin Haag and Amanda Cyphert are charged with kidnapping and criminal restraint in a dispute over custody of Cyphert's two girls. Haag's trial starts Tuesday.
Columbia Union Church | Columbia Union Church
Colin Haag and Amanda Cyphert are charged with kidnapping and criminal restraint in a dispute over custody of Cyphert's two girls. Haag's trial starts Tuesday.

MACHIAS, Maine — The trial of accused kidnapper Colin Haag Jr., 34, who passed himself off as a pastor to the congregations of several Down East churches, will begin Tuesday, Feb. 8, at Machias Superior Court. The trial is joined with that of his girlfriend, Amanda Cyphert, 35, who has been charged with criminal restraint by a parent.

Haag, who told the Bangor Daily News last year in a jailhouse interview that he never was ordained, is accused of kidnapping his girlfriend’s two children and hiding them from their biological father in an Ellsworth motel. Haag had many in the Jonesport-Columbia area tricked into believing that he and his girlfriend were married and that he was an ordained pastor. He admitted in the exclusive interview at the Washington County Jail that neither was true. Cyphert had adopted Haag’s surname as her own and was even arrested under the name Amanda Haag.

The two were arrested last April in a case that appears to be rooted in a bitter custody battle. The couple is originally from Myrtle Beach, S.C.

Before their arrests, Haag and Cyphert were living in Jonesport while Haag served as pastor of Victory Baptist Church in Columbia. He told the BDN shortly after his arrest that he had never been ordained as a minister, although he had served as one at churches in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia.

Deputies with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office say they were drawn to the case on April 18 by Colin Haag Sr., who told them he had been held against his wishes in the cellar of his son’s rental home in Jonesport. The deputies said Haag Sr. told them where to find the girls. A man identifying himself as Haag Sr. has since written several letters to the BDN denying he was kept prisoner. Haag Jr. has never been charged with any violation involving his father.

Cyphert’s daughters, ages 7 and 12, were found later on April 18 alone in a room at the Eagle’s Lodge Motel in Ellsworth. They have since been reunited with their biological father, Randall Dodge, and reportedly now are living in Florida. Police said Dodge had legal custody and had been searching for them for two years.

Attorney Jeff Davidson of East Machias, who is representing Cyphert, said Monday that the daughters are in Maine for the trial and are expected to be called as witnesses by the prosecution.

Haag has remained jailed since his arrest on two counts of Class A kidnapping. He has been unable to post $25,000 cash bail. Each count is punishable by up to 30 years in prison and a $50,000 fine.

Cyphert was charged with criminal restraint and remained in jail from April to September, when she posted $5,000 cash bail.

Haag has denied the kidnapping charges and said there was never any custody agreement between Cyphert and her daughters’ father. He said the entire issue was a custody issue blown out of proportion.

Machias attorney Frank Cassidy, who represented Cyphert when she was arrested, said at the time that she was fighting for custody of her daughters and made no attempt to conceal their whereabouts. Cassidy said he had assisted Cyphert in filing a parental rights and responsibility action against the father of her children in March. That filing requires that the father be notified of his children’s location, which Cassidy said triggered the calls to police by the children’s father.

Machias attorney Toff Toffolon represents Colin Haag Jr. He could not be reached Monday for comment on the trial, which is expected to take two days.

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