URBANDALE, Iowa -- An Urbandale woman who has never been in trouble with the law before is now she's facing felony charges of child endangerment causing injury, and her 13-year old son is accused of sexually abusing an 8-year old girl in her care. Michelle Hagler pleaded not guilty to the charges in Polk County Court Thursday morning. She says her lawyer told her not to talk with us, but she decided to because she wants her story told. We are not identifying any of the children involved because of their ages.
"Those kids are the reason I get up every day and I live and I breathe. And I couldn't imagine hurting them." Hagler said, tears streaming down her face.
Last month Hagler and her 13-year old son were charged in connection with the abuse and sexual assault of her boyfriends 8-year old daughter. Hagler says the charges are two-fold; she is charged with physically abusing the eight year old and also accused of turning a blind eye to the alleged sexual abuse of the 8-year old by her 13-year old son. She says there's more to the story.
Hagler says her son would babysit the eight year old and his younger brother a few hours a day. She says she didn't know about the sexual abuse claims until she was approached by authorities. "When all of this apparently was happening with the kids doing the sexual stuff was in about a three and a half hour window while I went to work and before my boyfriend Michael was coming home from work. And apparently during that time they were going and doing things but none of the kids ever told us anything about any of it."
Hagler says her youngest son told his grandmother he had seen the alleged sexual abuse so she reported it to authorities. Hagler says she is afraid because her son's biological father is a two time registered sex offender, and she doesn't want him to get custody of her son. "If they take my rights away where does that leave him? To become even more of a monster like his dad?" Hagler said.
Hagler says she is also accused of hitting the eight year old and holding a pillow to the child's face. She says that didn't happen, and that she and her boyfriend were trying to win custody of the child. She believes the 8-year old's biological mother manipulated the child into making the claims. "The day that she was taken back to her mom for her mom's visitation she was served with papers for the final trial for the custody and so we figured it was her last straw to hold on to that child and keep her beer money coming in."
Still, Hagler says she loves the 8-year old and still wants custody "Because she's a good kid. I just want her to get help. Get out of the situation she's in." Hagler said.
Since Hagler's arrest she says she has become a pariah. She's lost her job and has become a prisoner in her own home. She says she's afraid for her family and their future. "I am kinda scared to go to jail. I'm scared to go to trial and try to convince people that I didn't hurt these kids. And convince them of who I really am." Hagler said, "It's really hard for me to function some days because I have so much anxiety to leave my house. Because I'm afraid that people will find me and attack me. And just do horrible things to me. Because they think I'm a monster."