MACHIAS, Maine — A former Jonesport couple, Colin Haag, 34, and Amanda Cyphert, 35, were sentenced Wednesday to serve 2½ years and nine months in prison, respectively, for hiding Cyphert’s two daughters from her estranged husband.
On April 18, 2010, the couple took Cheyenne Hodges, now 10, and Airiel Hodges, now 13, from the family home on Mason Bay Road and hid them in an Ellsworth motel when their biological father unexpectedly arrived from Florida looking for them.
The father, Randall Hodges, who now lives in Florida with the couple’s 15-year-old son and the two daughters, had been searching for his girls for 2½ half years, court testimony revealed last week, ever since his and Cyphert’s marriage disintegrated when they lived in South Carolina. Hodges testified in Washington County Superior Court that his sister located Haag, who was pretending to be an ordained pastor at an Addison church, through an Internet search, and that he came to Maine to visit his daughters.
Although Haag was convicted of two counts of kidnapping, a Class A crime that could have netted him 30 years in prison on each charge, he was sentenced by Justice Kevin Cuddy to 2½ years with no probation.
“This case does not reflect kidnapping in the lay sense of the word, where a person is bound with duct tape and tossed in the trunk of a car,” Cuddy said.
The justice, however, used Haag’s prior convictions in other states for burglary, theft, stalking, harassment and four counts of indecent exposure as aggravating factors when determining the final sentence.
Cyphert, convicted of two counts of Class C criminal restraint by a parent, was sentenced to 2½ years in prison with all but nine months suspended. She also will be placed on two years of probation after her prison term is served. Cyphert has no criminal record.
Given credit for the time they already have been in jail, Cyphert will serve about four months and Haag about 21 months.
Although Cyphert’s attorney Jeff Davidson tried to paint Haag as a con man and the dominant partner during the sentencing hearing, Cuddy said that both were equally complicit in the crimes.
“This case is a tragic set of poor judgments,” he said, describing the couple’s attempt to hide the children from their father as unacceptable conduct. “The effect on these children is yet to be measured,” Cuddy said.
Cuddy did credit Cyphert with raising good, happy, polite children and said their character was a positive reflection on her character. All three of Cyphert’s children testified during her three-day jury trial last week. They all said they loved and missed her. “These are children any parent would be happy to have,” Cuddy said.
For the first time, the court heard from both Haag and Cyphert, who never testified on their own behalf during their combined trial. Cyphert apologized for putting Haag before her children.
“I believed and trusted him and put him before my family,” she said. “I am working hard to put my life back together and want the opportunity to parent alongside my children’s father.”
Cyphert, who was jailed last April and released on bail in September, has been living near family members in West Virginia, where she has a full-time job and her own apartment.
Haag told the judge that he believed Cyphert had sole custody of the children. He said that he had a record of bad behavior in his youth but, “I got myself right. I came out with Christ and became a pastor. I had no intentions of harming [anyone].”
First District Attorney Paul Cavanaugh had asked for seven to eight years of prison time for Haag and two to three years for Cyphert. He said Haag and Cyphert exhibited a long-term pattern of behavior that included forging divorce papers, forging Social Security cards that changed the girls’ names to Haag, creating a false mar-riage license and forging documents that indicated he had attended eight or nine religious training schools, which he had not. The couple also pulled the children from public school to keep them at home, and frequently moved from apartment to apartment and from state to state. He said this had a great effect on the two girls.
“If she is kept from her children any longer, she will only have to look in the mirror,” Cavanaugh said. “She is responsible for that.”
Haag’s attorney also said that Haag and Cyphert were equally responsible for the crimes.
“This clearly was a joint enterprise. No one was brainwashed here,” he told Cuddy.
After the sentencing, however, Davidson stood by his contention that Haag conned and lied to Cyphert and that it wasn’t until after she had been arrested that she learned that Haag previously had been in prison, that he was never ordained a pastor and that he planned to move the family from Maine to Ohio.
“I think she was absolutely deceived,” he said.