MACHIAS, Maine — Both defense attorneys in the combined kidnapping and criminal restraint trials of Colin Haag, 34, and Amanda Cyphert, 35, rested their cases Wednesday without putting their clients on the witness stand, a move that surprised many in the courtroom.
Haag and Cyphert are accused of hiding Cyphert’s two daughters from their biological father for more than two years as they moved from South Carolina to West Virginia to Jonesport, Maine. Haag and Cyphert claimed they were married and a wedding was held, but their marriage documents may have been falsified, the prosecutor said Wednesday, since both were married to other people at the time.
In his opening argument to the jury Tuesday, First Assistant District Attorney Paul Cavanaugh said the couple fled from South Carolina in an attempt to hide Cyphert’s two daughters, Airiel, now 13, and Cheyenne, now 10, from Randall Hodges, their biological father. Cavanaugh said Hodges, who was living in Florida with the couple’s son, Gabriel, now 15, had been searching for his daughters for 2½ years before an Internet search revealed in April 2010 that they were living in Jonesport where Haag was masquerading as an ordained pastor. During a jailhouse interview with the Bangor Daily News last spring, Haag said he never was ordained.
Hodges flew to Maine, asked police for help in finding his children, and Haag and Cyphert were arrested. Haag has remained in jail since his arrest last April. Cyphert was released on bail last September.
The daughters testified during the trial’s opening day on Tuesday that they were allowed many freedoms while living in Maine. Neither girl said she was kept against her will or hidden from their father. They testified that they lived openly, attending church, visiting the Bangor Mall, dentists and optometrists and going to parties and sleepovers with other children.
In the courtroom Wednesday, attorney Toff Toffolon, who represents Haag, presented six witnesses in an attempt to show that the family lived openly while in Maine and were not hiding. Each witness was on the stand for less than 10 minutes.
Attorney Jeff Davidson, who represents Cyphert, did not present a single witness.
Midmorning Wednesday, after the state rested its case, Toffolon and Davidson argued individual motions to dismiss the case. Both attorneys said the state had not proved that the children were kidnapped, hidden or held against their will. They said that Cyphert and the children’s father had a verbal agreement about custody when they separated, with Cyphert taking the two girls and Hodges taking the oldest, a son.
Davidson told the court that when Hodges found his daughters in Maine, he came only to visit with them and never intended to remove them from Cyphert’s care.
The motions to dismiss were denied by Justice Kevin Cuddy who said that regardless of any agreement made in another state, without a formal custody agreement issued by a court, Maine law prevails. Absent any agreement, custody of the children in Maine would be shared jointly by both biological parents, the judge said.
Cavanaugh explained after the court proceedings that under Maine law, since there was no court agreement otherwise, the father and mother “are jointly custodial of the minor children. She [Cyphert] had no right paramount to Randall Hodges’ right.”
Cavanaugh also told the BDN that Haag and Cyphert had a pattern of moving from state to state, pulling the daughters out of public school and home-schooling them and creating paperwork, which included Social Security cards listing the girls’ last name as Haag. That pattern, he said, showed they were deliberately hiding the children from their father.
Cuddy dismissed the jury of six men and six women for the day in the early afternoon, advising them that they will hear closing arguments at 9 a.m. Thursday and begin their deliberations.