A Warrenton community volunteer known as the “candy man” pleaded no contest Thursday to sexually abusing three young girls.
Carl Hagnas, 70, will be sentenced next week and is expected to receive over six years in prison.
He was convicted of two counts of first-degree sex abuse and one count of second-degree sodomy. Each charge involves a different victim under 14. Under the terms of his plea, he did not admit guilt, but the court records it as a conviction.
Hagnas originally faced 12 charges of first-degree sex abuse and one count of second-degree sodomy. He was arrested in 2017 and has spent over a year in the county jail. If he had been convicted on all charges, he could have faced at least 81 years in prison. The case was scheduled to go to trial next week.
Some of Hagnas’ family, as well as the family of his victims, were in the courtroom when Judge Cindee Matyas read through the plea. Hagnas said little except to confirm that he understood the plea he was making and did not have any questions.
“He snowballed everybody in the community,” the mother of one of the victims said after the hearing. “They thought he was this wonderful, wonderful person.”
Many people did not believe her young daughter when the girl told them what had happened to her in the 1990s. Some considered Hagnas a good friend. They called her a liar. The crimes against her were not reported until 2005.
The plea is difficult for the mother to swallow.
“’No contest’ is saying, ‘I’m not going to admit it, but I’m not going to deny it,’” she said. But, she added, it does mean her daughter and the other girls who were abused will not have to take the stand in a trial and publicly relive traumatic experiences.
Her daughter, the woman said, “has fought her whole life just to get by. ... He robbed those girls of any kind of normalcy.”
Several victims and their family members are expected to speak at Hagnas’ sentencing next week.
“And I think they have a lot to say,” Ben Bradshaw, the victim services coordinator with the district attorney’s office, told District Attorney Ron Brown and Matyas as they discussed how much time to set aside for the sentencing.
Hagnas, a community volunteer, was known by many as the “candy man.” He managed rental properties and worked at small jobs. He volunteered at the Ocean View Cemetery in Warrenton, the site where some of the crimes took place.
Hagnas has a prior conviction for sex abuse in 1986, and was found guilty in 1991 on two counts of manufacturing and delivery of a controlled substance.
The charges he faced most recently stemmed from incidents that happened in the 1990s and in 2015. One girl was abused multiple times before her eighth birthday, from 1992 to 1996. These crimes were not reported to authorities until 2005. At the time, police did not arrest Hagnas since the case against him would have relied on hearsay.
Reports of sex crimes against two girls under 13 in 2015 strengthened the case against Hagnas, however. Over the next year, police investigated the crimes, talking to witnesses and alleged victims. Investigators also spent time repairing relationships with people who had reported the crimes a decade before and who were frustrated that nothing had been done.
“When the other girls came forward it was almost a relief,” said the mother of the victim from the 1990s, “because there was going to be something done about it.”