AUBURN, Ala. (WRBL) – A March trial date is set for the east Alabama man arrested and charged with criminal littering after placing flowers at his fiancee’s grave in Auburn. Hannah Ford was killed in a car crash the same day she picked out a wedding venue with her soon-to-be husband, Winchester Hagans.
“She was the most beautiful, loving, sweet and amazing, full of life person I had ever met,” said Hagans.
The couple met in 2019 and got engaged in December 2020 when Ford said yes to Hagan’s marriage proposal. On January 17, 2021, the couple visited their future wedding venue in Notasulga, Alabama.
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Hagans remembers Ford kissing him goodbye as she prepared to drive home to Montgomery.
“The last things I heard her say were, ‘I love you, and I hate leaving you,” said Hagans.
Ford was killed shortly after in a three-vehicle car crash. She had just turned 27 years old.
“She was the person I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. We were so happy,” said Hagans.
Hagans built a flower box covered with engagement pictures to place at Ford’s grave at Auburn’s Memorial Park Cemetery. Hagans says the couple had a strained relationship with some members of Ford’s family, and someone kept throwing the flowers away. Hagans kept rebuilding the box and putting the flowers back. Hagans says Ford’s family never told him directly to stay away from his fiancee’s grave and stop leaving flowers.
“I know her spirit is in Heaven with Jesus, and we will be together in the new world, but this is where her body is. I just grew up being taught that graves were important.”Winchester Hagans
Last month, Hagans was on his way to preach at an east Alabama church when police pulled him over for an expired tag.
“The officer came back and said there was a warrant out for my arrests, handcuffed me on the side of the road on a Sunday morning,” said Hagans.
Hanna’s father, Hayden Ford, had signed a warrant for Hagan’s arrest for criminal littering.
The complaint, dated January 4 reads: A person commits the crime of criminal littering if he or she engages in any of the following acts: (1) Knowingly deposits in any manner litter on any public or private property or in any public or private waters, having no permission to do so. Hayden Thomas Ford is the property owner of his daughter Hannah Ford’s cemetery plot located at Memorial Park in Auburn, Alabama. Approximately 7 -8 flower boxes have been placed on Hannah’s gravesite without his permission. Winston Hagans has been advised not to place unauthorized items on Hannah’s grave. Winston has posted via social media “someone keeps throwing away the flowers I plant…but each time he throws them away, I’ll plant more.” The flower box contains photos of Winston Hagans and Hannah Ford attached around the box.
Auburn police released the following statement after Hagans arrest: “In Alabama, certain burial plots are owned and controlled by the family of the deceased and therefore are private property. Any citizen has a right to pursue a criminal charge upon showing sufficient probable cause exists to believe a crime has been committed. The individual charged in this case turned himself in to the Auburn Police Department on January 24, 2022, after a warrant was signed by another citizen. In this situation, as is often the case, the police department is simply a process server that allows parties in conflict to be before the court. The facts of the case will be presented by both parties and weighed in Court.”
Hagans’ attorney Jeff Tickal tells Nexstar’s WRBL Hagans has pleaded not guilty to the charge.
“Rick Hagans and his family are long-time friends, and I am happy to represent Winchester in this case. Winchester is a great young man, and we are looking forward to telling his side of the story and reversing this travesty brought against him. This matter is set for trial on March 17 in Auburn Municipal court at 2 p.m.,” said Tickal.
As for Hagans, he still visits his fiancee’s grave often and prays better days are ahead for all who loved her. When asked what he would say to Hannah’s father, Hagans said, “I just want to be able to put flowers on her grave.”
WRBL reached out to Hayden Ford, but did not immediately hear back from him.