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An Alabama man who planted flowers at his fiancée’s grave and was arrested at the direction of the woman’s disapproving father was found guilty of littering this week.

About a month after Winston “Winchester” Hagans got engaged, his fiancée, Hannah Ford, was killed in a three-car accident in January 2021 that shattered what was supposed to be the happiest time of their lives. To honor the 27-year-old, Hagans placed a planter full of fresh flowers and photos of the two of them at her grave in Auburn, Ala.

But earlier this year, Hagans was arrested on a felony littering charge. City officials had reassured him that he could put the planter on Ford’s grave unless there was a complaint. Then he found out that a complaint had been filed — by the Reverend Tom Ford, his fiancee’s father.

“The police don’t enforce the law unless the owner of the land is trying to do something about it,” Hagans told The Washington Post earlier this year, adding that his late fiancée’s father didn’t approve of their relationship. .

Hagans was found guilty Thursday of one count of felony trash and ordered to pay about $300 in fines and court costs, the Opelika-Auburn News reported. The 32-year-old was also given a 30-day suspended prison sentence which will remain suspended until Hagans places any more flowers or planters on his fiancée’s grave.

After Hagans was found guilty, his attorney, Jeff Tickal, said a written appeal would be filed within 14 days. If Hagans wins the appeal, a new trial would be granted and fines and court costs would be waived.

Neither Hagans nor Tickal immediately responded to requests for comment early Saturday.

He put flowers on his fiancée’s grave. His father had him arrested on a littering charge.

Hagans and Hannah Ford met at a cafe in Montgomery, Alabama, and bonded over their faith, he wrote on his website. Ford’s father was a pastor at Grace Baptist Church in Montgomery, and Hagans’ father is an evangelist in Opelika, Ala. As the couple continued to bump into each other at the cafe, Hagans said he made sure to bring a deck of cards with him so they could play games of “nines” with each other.

Hannah Ford was a rising star in Republican politics in Alabama. She has worked on several political campaigns, including Roy Moore’s campaign for the US Senate in 2017. Moore lost the race to Democrat Doug Jones after a woman accused the Republican of initiating a sexual relationship at age 14 years old.

Ford, who later lobbied on conservative issues in Alabama and worked for evangelist Scott Dawson’s gubernatorial campaign in 2018, had “a kind heart, a happy demeanor, great wisdom and many talents,” wrote his family in his obituary.

“She might have been small in stature, but she was a giant when she walked into a room,” Dawson told AL.com last year. “She knew how to deal with senators, members of the House, judicial candidates.”

Ford left politics around the time his relationship with Hagans was heating up. The couple took long car rides, shared an appreciation for Winston Churchill and talked about what the rest of their lives would be like, Hagans said. They loved to cook together, with Ford wanting to cook big meals when guests came over for game nights and holidays.

Her father, however, did not approve of the couple’s relationship, Hagans said. At one point, the pastor demanded that the couple not communicate for 30 days, Hagans said. When they decided to continue dating, the decision severed the relationship between Hannah Ford and her father.

“We jumped through all of his hoops to be together,” Hagans previously told the Post. “We had to figure out if going through the madness was worth it. She said to me, ‘I can’t believe you didn’t just quit. You had every reason to quit. Why didn’t you just move on? And I thought, ‘You’re worth it; you are an amazing person. ”

When Hagans and Ford got engaged on Dec. 5, 2020, she shared on Facebook how she wept with “tears of joy.”

“I still can’t believe I have to say YES to you!!!” she wrote. “I LOVE YOU and I just can’t wait to be your WIFE!!!!!”

The couple’s wedding date was fast approaching and they started looking for venues. As they left a barn, they explained that they still had a lot of planning to do. She leaned over, kissed Hagans on the cheek, and told him she was looking forward to seeing him again in a few days.

“I love you so much. I hate leaving you,” he recalled saying. “I just can’t wait until we don’t have to break up.”

It was around 7 p.m. on January 16, 2021, and Ford was driving from the venue to his home in Montgomery. But while driving down Narrow Lane Road, the driver of a sedan lost control and collided with another car, which slammed into the Ford SUV, police say.

When she didn’t respond to her texts or voicemails, Hagans reached out to her roommate and learned she hadn’t returned home. He knew something was wrong and ran about 60 miles from his home in Opelika to Montgomery.

When he approached the crash intersection, he asked if anyone involved in the wreckage matched Ford’s description. The paramedics took him to see the crashed car, causing him to collapse in the middle of the street.

“I thought, ‘There’s no way she’s gone,'” Hagans said. “She was the most loving, kind, hopeful and generous person I have ever met.”

She died on January 17, 2021, just days after her 27th birthday.

“She was a mile from home,” Dawson told AL.com.

The sadness of losing his fiancée deepened, Hagans said, when his family made it clear to him that he was not welcome at her funeral.

Hagans was arrested by police in Opelika in January. When he picked up his license and registration, he said there were three police cars. Authorities told him there was a warrant out for his arrest in Auburn — which Hagans said was “impossible.”

“The cop said, ‘I’ve never seen this before, but the warrant is for littering,'” Hagans said. “When I was sitting in the back seat of the police car, I saw that [Tom Ford’s] the name was on it.

Some state burial plots are owned and controlled by the family of the deceased and are considered private property. David Dorton, a spokesperson for the city of Auburn, confirmed to the Post that Hagans was arrested Jan. 24 “after a warrant was signed by another citizen.”

“Any citizen has the right to pursue a criminal charge against another if he demonstrates that there is sufficient probable cause to believe that a crime has been committed,” Dorton said in a statement.

Tom Ford testified in the non-jury trial in Auburn City Court on Thursday that Hagans had placed a total of 10 planters on the grave since May 2021, which the father either threw away or sent back to the man who was allegedly his gender. -right.

“The first box, when I saw where it was, I picked it up and it fell apart,” Ford said, according to the Opelika-Auburn News. “It was a rotting piece of wood with pictures on it, so I threw it away.”

Ford testified that the cemetery has regulations about what can be placed on a grave. City Attorney Justin Clark noted that these bylaws describe how “benches, urns, boxes, shells, toys, and other similar items are not permitted to be placed or maintained on a grave lot in said cemetery”.

Neither Ford nor Clark immediately responded to requests for comment.

Ford admitted in court that he “definitely didn’t approve” of his daughter’s relationship with Hagans, adding that he only found out about their engagement through other people. He said he asked a friend to tell Hagans to “please don’t put [planter boxes] there more, that they were not wanted and that they were not authorized by the city. When the seventh, eighth, and ninth planters were removed, Ford filed a criminal complaint with the Auburn Police Department. A 10th planter was found after the complaint was filed, he said.

“I find no joy in being here, and I did everything I could not to be here,” Ford said this week, according to the News.

Before being found guilty, Hagans expressed his gratitude on Facebook to friends and family who stood by him, “or just let me vent,” not only for losing his fiancee, but also for being put on trial. for putting a planter of flowers on her grave.

“It means more to me than you will ever know,” he wrote. “It honestly saved my life.”


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