Timothy Haag, who is serving a life sentence for the 1994 murder of a 7-year-old Longview girl, made a plea Friday for why he should be set free.
“There is nothing I can say to make up for what I did,” Haag told Judge Michael Evans. “I hate myself for it.”
He was 17 at the time he choked and drowned Rachel Dillard, his neighbor, in a bathtub.
“I wish I could go back to July 9 and bring Rachel back from the dead,” Haag told the court.
Haag, now 40, must be resentenced under U.S. Supreme Court rulings that struck down life sentences for juveniles.
After a full day of emotional and sometimes bizarre testimony by experts and emotional appeals from both the Haag and Dillard families, Superior Court Judge Michael Evans said he would make a sentencing decision at 10 a.m. Friday.
“It’s more than mere mortals can handle,” Evans said of the case.
Indeed, Dillard’s father warned Evans about “eternal hellfire” should he release Haag early. And Haag’s lawyer highlighted her own struggles with sexuality in her appeal for a shortened sentence.
Haag could receive 25 years, another life sentence or something in between.
Prosecutor David Phelan asked for a minimum sentence of 60 years to life. S
immie Baer, Haag’s public defender, asked for the minimum 25-year sentence, which, if accepted, would put Haag on track for potential release in less than two years.
Haag has told authorities that he was taking revenge on Dillard’s family for treating her teenager half-brother, Alex Anderson, “like dirt.” Haag told psychologists in 2015 that he had been in love with Anderson.
Baer, reviewing Haag’s struggles with his sexuality and tumultuous family relationships, said the murder was the result of a psychotic break. Haag’s thoughts and feelings became temporarily divorced from reality, she said.
Haag’s case, while “a tragedy,” could have been hers, describing how she had a similar upbringing marked by mistreatment, depression, and shame over her sexuality.
“I could have been Tim Haag,” Baer said. “I knew that from the moment I reviewed (his) case. Because I, too, am gay.”
“Timothy could not talk about or identify what was happening to him,” she said. “I was lucky. Timothy was not lucky.”
Baer described Haag as “a good boy, by all accounts” who “has matured into a responsible, empathetic, remorseful, good man.”
David Phelan, a prosecutor representing the state of Washington, fired back that Baer’s words “should chill this court.”
“Lots of people struggle with their inner demons,” Phelan said. “Lots of people struggle with their sexuality. But not many people kill little girls.”
Called to testify by the defense, a child welfare and juvenile justice psychologist repeatedly described the murder as a “volcanic eruption” of Haag’s unexpressed emotions.
“He had, for years, been accumulating feelings from the trauma he was feeling,” said the consultant, Marty Beyer.
That trauma included abandonment by his father, mistreatment at the hands of his stepfather, bullying in school, and shame over his homosexuality, according to Beyer. She said that Haag was emotionally immature for his age and that “he didn’t put words to his feelings and didn’t feel safe sharing them.”
The central relationship in Haag’s life was Alex Anderson, Dillard’s half brother, who “hated homosexuality,” Beyer said,
“(Haag) couldn’t reveal what would be disgusting to his friend,” Beyer said. “He described feeling so abnormal and wishing he could be normal.”
“Knowing that who he is would be despised by the person he loved the most was intolerable… for (Haag.)”
Haag took his father’s disappearance personally, and went through the same feeling when Anderson left his home to escape abuse and threats, Beyer said.
“He felt like his life had ended, that there was nothing for him when he lost Alex,” Beyer said.
Baer also called Ronald Roesch, a professor of psychology and director of the Mental Health, Law, and Policy Institute at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia to the stand. Roesch said that Haag now shows no indication of neurotic, psychotic, or antisocial behaviors.
“(Haag) continues to be considered a low risk,” Roesch said. “Lots of adolescents have violent behavior. The vast majority of them do not continue into adulthood.”
In reference to Haag’s pent-up emotional turmoil and Rachel’s killing, Roesch said that Haag “dealt with it in a way that is not constructive, but not surprising.”
Phelan, the prosecutor, suggested that Haag had misled Beyer by feigning good behavior during his tenure in prison.
“It’s not possible for someone to malinger (pretend to be sick) for over 20 years,” Beyer replied.
A chaplain who befriended Haag in prison and a former inmate described him as a “gentle” and “good” man.
“He seemed to be a man of integrity,” the minister said. “I believe that he needs an opportunity to demonstrate that integrity and character on the outside.”
Phelan described Rachel’s murder in detail to the judge, eliciting tears from the girl’s family. John Dillard, Rachel’s father, briefly left the courtroom as Phelan described each step of the murder, arguing, “Everything the defendant did that day was methodical and had a purpose.”
“To kill a child in such a vicious, violent and brutal way makes that action even worse,” Phelan said. “It was an act of evil.”
Phelan also criticized the defense for relying on expert witnesses who weren’t able to interview Haag or his teachers and peers at the time of the murder.
“It’s wholly improbable to do so,” Phelan said, “and it’s potentially irresponsible for two distinguished experts … to assure the court of his safety to the community.”
Phelan closed his arguments with a quote he attributed to Haag: “I am scared (that) if I get out, I may do it again.”
Following a morning expert testimony, members of both families took the stand.
“I still have sleepless nights. I still pace the floor,” said Judith Dillard, Rachel’s mother. “Our hearts are being ripped out.”
Alex Anderson spoke in front of his family and Haag for the first time in more than two decades. He said his family ostracized him because Haag said he was motivated by how his family had abused and threatened him.
“I’m the brother that’s been blamed for all of this,” Anderson said. “My family will forever hate me for his transgression.”
Anderson described Haag as someone “very interested” in Jeffrey Dahmer, the “Milwaukee Cannibal” who committed the rape, murder, and dismemberment of 17 men and boys between 1978 and 1991.
Anderson said Haag also was interested in Hannibal Lecter, a fictional doctor who practices cannibalism. He said Haag had often spoken to him about death and dying.
He also expressed fear that if released, Haag would take revenge on Anderson’s daughter.
“The name Timothy Edward Haag will only mean baby killer to me,” Anderson said. “It will never mean anything else.”
Near the end of the day, Haag said the family was right to condemn him.
“I’m sorry that Alex (Anderson) is being blamed for a thing that’s all my fault,” Haag said. “When I listened to (the family), I thought they could have been worse in how they described me.”
Baer maintained that 60 years would be too long a sentence.
“That is a virtual life sentence,” she said. “If the court imposes that time … we will not be doing justice. We will be doing vengeance.”
John Dillard, Rachel’s father, had only a few words for the judge. He said that “there will be damnation and eternal hellfire” for those who help Haag.
“Do not be one of them,” he warned Judge Evans.