Man Found Guilty Of Criminal Littering For Flower Displays He Left On Fiancée’s Grave
Jan Hakan Dahlstrom

An Alabama man who was arrested earlier this year for placing boxes of flowers on his fianc​​é​​e’s grave has been found guilty of criminal littering.

Winston “Winchester” Hagans was brought to Auburn Municipal Court by his would-be father-in-law, Rev. Tom Ford, father of the late Hannah Ford, reported KIRO 7. Rev. Ford filed a complaint with the city after Hagans continued to place planter boxes containing flowers and photographs of the couple at Hannah’s grave.

Hagans was ordered to pay a $50 fine and $251 in court fees, according to the Opelika-Auburn News. Judge Jim McLaughlin also suspended a 30-day jail sentence for Hagans, which will remain suspended so long as he does not place any more flowers on the site.

Hagans’ defense attorney, Jeff Tickal, plans to file an appeal. If that appeal is granted, the case will move on to the Lee County Circuit Court, and the initial fines and fees will be dropped.

Ford was killed in a three-car crash on January 17th, 2021, roughly a mile from her home, according to KIRO 7. Her father owns the deed to the grave, located at a cemetery operated by the City of Auburn, and the City Prosecutor Justin Clark stated in court that according to city regulations, “benches, urns, boxes, shells, toys and other similar articles are not permitted to be placed or maintained on any lot of grave in said cemetery,” reported Opelika-Auburn News.

According to a report by The Washington Post, city officials told Hagans that he could continue placing the boxes so long as there wasn’t a formal complaint. 

“The police don’t enforce the law unless the owner of the plot tries to do something about it,” Hagans told the outlet.

Rev. Ford explained that he filed the complaint because every time he and his family visited and saw the boxes on the grave that they did not want, they had to remove them.

Hagans said that Ford’s family never directly told him to stop leaving the boxes, although the family disapproved of the relationship and asked him not to come to Hannah’s funeral.

Sari Card, the administrative assistant of Auburn Parks and Recreation, testified that she had spoken with Hagans several times about the problem with the planter boxes.

“He said he didn’t care,” Card told the court, according to Opelika-Auburn News. “[He said] that every time a box is removed he would make another one to replace it.”

In a statement to The Washington Post, David Dorton, a spokesperson for the city of Auburn, explained, “Any citizen has the right to pursue a criminal charge against another upon showing that sufficient probable cause exists to believe that a crime has been committed.”

“I find no joy to be here, and I did everything I could not to be here,” Rev. Ford told the court, reported Opelika-Auburn News.

“… I don’t get paid to have emotions or to rule on what’s right, or what’s nice, or what’s moral, or what’s Christian,” Judge McLaughlin said. “I’m paid to rule on the law and the facts. When you take all the other out of it … you got a deed that says no boxes. You got a gentleman who’s been told no boxes by the City of Auburn uncontroverted testimony. You got a gentleman who says — this frankly is where I lose my patience — ‘I don’t care what the rules are and what the law says, I’m gonna do what I want.’”

Before his conviction, Hagans thanked friends and family who had supported him during his grief and subsequent legal battle on Facebook. “It means more to me than you will ever know,” he wrote. “It has honestly saved my life.”


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