AUBURN, Ala. (AP) — An Alabama man was convicted of criminal littering and ordered to pay about $300 for repeatedly placing boxes full of flowers on the grave of his fiancée, whose father didn’t like the decorations or approve of their relationship.
The Opelika-Auburn News reported that Winston “Winchester” Hagans was convicted Thursday in Auburn city court on a warrant signed by the Rev. Tom Ford, the father of Hannah Ford, who died in a wreck in January 2021 about a month after becoming engaged to Hagans.
Evidence showed that Hagans repeatedly put small planter boxes with flowers on the woman’s grave, and her father repeatedly removed them. Under Alabama law, citizens can obtain arrest warrants in municipal court under certain circumstances.
Since May 2021, Ford testified, a total of 10 boxes have been placed on the grave, and he either discarded them or sent them back to Hagans.
“The first box, when I saw where it was, I picked it up and it fell apart,” Ford said. “It was a rotten piece of wood with some pictures on it, so I discarded it.”
Ford said he “certainly did not” approve of the relationship between his daughter and Hagans, which he heard about second- or thirdhand because the woman didn’t tell him about it.
The cemetery is owned by the city, and municipal prosecutor Justin Clark said regulations prohibit “benches, urns, boxes, shells, toys and other similar articles” on graves.
City employees Sari Card said she told Hagans that Ford didn’t want the boxes on the grave and planned legal action.
“He said he didn’t care, that every time a box is removed he would make another one to replace it,” she said.
While the defense argued that flower boxes aren’t litter, Judge Jim McLaughlin, who convicted Hagans in a non-jury trial, said the boxes were “a clear case of violation of this deed and violation of littering statute.”
“The box does not occur naturally in nature. It is a foreign substance. Whether it’s pretty or not is not a consideration for this court,” he said
The defense said it would appeal the conviction to circuit court, where a jury can hear the case. Aside from a $50 fine and $251 in court costs, Hagans received a 30-day jail sentence that was suspended on the condition he doesn’t place additional flowers on the grave.