2017-06-16 / Front Page

Bail set for former Brunswick man accused of killing son

38-year-old cold case could go to trial in November
BY JULIETTE LAAKA
Times Record Staff

PORTLAND

A former Brunswick man charged with murder 38 years after his infant son's death had bail set  Friday morning.

The state sought to deny his release, citing the severity of the charges.

Assistant Attorney General Lara Nomani said Burton Hagar, 62, should not be released on bail, citing the lengthy sentence Hagar faces if convicted, making him a flight risk. Nomani also cited the nature and circumstances of the crime.

Justice Thomas Warren said Hagar does not appear to be a flight risk, and is unlikely to harm others in the community, and set bail at $10,000 cash or $100,000 surety. Conditions of bail include Hagar not leave the state and he cannot possess a firearm.

As of Friday, Hagar was still in custody. He pleaded not guilty at an arriagnment hearing in April. 

"He was a happy, healthy baby boy in 1979," Nomani said, describing describing the four-month-old Nathan Hagar as a defenseless victim.

Nomani said Hagar additionally admitted to attempting to kill the child days before, but having second thoughts, resuscitated him.

The prosecutor said Hagar smothered the child with a pillow as he slept in a crib while the mother was running errands.

According to previous reports, the child was found unresponsive in the family’s 16 School St. apartment in Brunswick and later died at Parkview Hospital. The death of the child was originally investigated as a result of sudden infant death syndrome.

"He pretended nothing happened when his wife came home" the day Nathan died, Nomani said. "He lied to his wife, lied to police, and he lied for years."

Since then, Hagar allegedly made statements to people, including police, loved ones and former spouses, that he smothered the child. Those statements, the subject of a 1991 investigation, and a more recent probe into the case, led to his indictment for murder.

Hagar, now 62, was living in Farmington with his partner and seven-year-old child before his arrest.

Defense attorney Verne Paradie Jr., requested a personal recognizance or a low figure bail due to his client's inability to post a significant amount of bail.

Paradie said his client has no previous convictions, has raised two adult children, now 18 and 19, and now cares for a seven-year-old child.

Hagar collects $700 a month in social security disability, and does not have the motivation, let alone the resources, to leave the state, Paradie argued.

Paradie said this case is not a "slam dunk" for the prosecution, referring to inconsistencies in the retellings of what occurred in May 1979.

"His statements alone are not an indication of guilt," Paradie said, framing his client as a father who lost a child and has a misplaced sense of guilt.

The statements allegedly made by Hagar were the subject of a previous investigation. However, Hagar was not charged at that time, due to a rule prohibiting the admission of an extrajudicial confession into evidence in a criminal case unless there is independent proof a crime occurred.

The rule dictated an admission alone is not sufficient evidence to convict a person. There is no new physical evidence in the case, Paradie said in a previous interview. The original autopsy report was reviewed by the current state medical examiner, who said the cause of death was not inconsistent with smothering, but it was not conclusive. 

That rule has been watered down by recent court decisions, Paradie explained last week. There is no new physical evidence in the case, the attorney said.

The defense has 45 days to file motions, and a tentative trial date of late November or early December is being considered by the parties.

jlaaka@timesrecord.com

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