2017-04-12 / Front Page

Hagar pleads not guilty in infant son's death

Cold case nets arrest after 38 years
Juliette Laaka

Nearly 38 years after the death of his infant son, Burton Hagar Jr. appeared in Cumberland County Superior Court, charged with his murder.  

Hagar, 62, formerly of Brunswick, and now living in Farmington, pleaded not guilty to one count of intentional and knowing murder Wednesday, accused of killing his four month old son, Nathan Hagar in May 1979. According to previous reports, the child was found unresponsive in the family's 16 School Street apartment in Brunswick and later died at Parkview Hospital. 

The defendant will be held without bail pending a Harnish hearing, which was requested by defense counsel. The proceeding may include testimony, affidavits and other reliable evidence as permitted by the court, according to state statute. The hearing will determine whether Hagar will be permitted bail pending a trial. The prosecution, led by Assistant Attorney General Megan Elam is seeking to deny bail. 

Verne Paradie, Hagar's court-appointed defense attorney, said Hagar is not a risk to the community and meets the criteria for bail. 

A Cumberland County Grand Jury found probable cause to charge Hagar with murder April 7. The indictment and arrest warrant were impounded until Hagar was in police custody. 

The child's death was originally investigated as a result of SIDS, or sudden infant death syndrome. Paradie said he has not yet received discovery from the state and does not know what evidence spurred the reopening of the case or the change in the conclusion regarding the cause of death. The attorney, who first met Hagar today, described the defendant's mental state as "clearly distraught" and said the charges have made him re-live his child's death. Paradie said Hagar does not have a criminal history, adding Hagar told him he is disabled and has another child.

Co-counsel Patrick Nickerson said the defense is requesting a court order to receive Department of Health and Human Services records to review potential witness statements. When asked whether the department reviewed the death or the statements were made in relation to a matter before the death of the child, Nickerson said he did not know, and was just aware records existed. 

State police quietly reopened the case in 1991, and the investigation was augmented by the state police cold-case unit, which became fully staffed as of last year.“This is the first arrest as a result of the work of the unsolved-homicide unit. And there will be others as the work continues,” State Police Spokesperson Steve McCausland said. McCausland said Friday police are not releasing specific details at this time surrounding the new information that led state police to reopen the case 26 years ago.

The body was not exhumed, and authorities aren’t saying how they believe the infant died.

Victim advocate Renee Ordway, who works with families of homicide victims, said she is in close contact with the mother of Nathan Hagar and is keeping her informed. Ordway said the mother was not present at the hearing. 

Cumberland County Justice Thomas Warren will preside over the case. 


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