A Warrenton handyman was sentenced Wednesday to over six years in prison for sexually abusing three young girls.

Carl Hagnas, 70, pleaded no contest last week to two counts of first-degree sex abuse and one count of second-degree sodomy. He originally faced 13 counts, which could have led to a prison sentence of over 81 years, before reaching a plea deal with the Clatsop County District Attorney’s Office.

Hagnas was accused of abusing three girls under 14. Two of the girls were abused in 2015. The other accusations, from a girl under 8 at the time, date back to the 1990s.

Hagnas, known as the “candy man” for the treats he would hand out to children, was a community volunteer. He helped at a local Mormon church and cleaned the Ocean View Cemetery in Warrenton, where the most recent abuse took place. For work, he managed rental properties and would perform handyman jobs at people’s homes.

Hagnas’ access to children — largely due to his likability and occupations, and despite a 1986 sex abuse conviction — was a common theme Wednesday.

The victims’ families and others said Hagnas tried to groom their children. Some of the tactics included obtaining the cellphone numbers of children and attempting to spend time alone with them.

“Mr. Hagnas, you are a wolf in sheep’s clothing,” the mother of the victim from the 1990s said. “You manipulated your way into people’s lives for the sole purpose of molesting their children.”

The first crimes were reported in 2005, but investigators at the time did not find enough evidence, beyond hearsay, to pursue charges. But 10 years later, an unusual encounter would eventually strengthen the case.

When Hagnas visited the family of the two more recent victims, the girls typically would rush to greet him. One time, though, one of the girls darted toward her room, raising the suspicion of her grandmother, Deputy District Attorney Dawn Buzzard said. The girl eventually reported the abuse to her grandmother.

With the additional allegations, investigators conducted more interviews and arrested Hagnas in 2017.

In the two decades since the first incidents, the victim developed a drug addiction as she coped with the trauma, her mother said. She described her daughter’s struggle with normal physical contact.

“You make me uncomfortable and scared around guys,” the victim wrote in a statement read in court. “I don’t want you to hurt anyone else like you’ve hurt me.”

Buzzard said Hagnas has repeatedly denied committing the crimes, claiming that family members may be responsible and that the girls forced themselves on him.

“For once in your life, Mr. Hagnas, tell the truth. These girls deserve it,” the mother of the first victim said.

Later in the hearing, Circuit Court Judge Cindee Matyas asked Hagnas if he wished to make a statement.

“Not a word, your honor,” Hagnas said.

Matyas said the girls were brave to report the abuse by a family friend.

“In my generation, there was a lot of abuse going on, but we weren’t sure about what to call it,” Matyas said. “We’ve thought we’ve evolved and can recognize that special kind of suffering, but I think we’ve got a long way to go.”

The grandmother of one of the children Hagnas allegedly tried to form a relationship with said he probably thought he “pulled the wool over” her eyes.

“I had a long time to not say things because I knew he would be arrested,” the grandmother said. “You may be able to fool some of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time. Many people have been affected for a lifetime because of your cunning ways.”

Jack Heffernan is a former reporter for The Astorian.

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