Oct. 1—WEST CHAZY — Ariana Hagen will forever be 24 years old.
She was known for her infectious personality and ability to make anyone laugh.
Sandy and Travis Langlois — Hagen’s parents — remember her fondly as “the jokester of a crowd.”
“It was easy for her,” Sandy said. “Everybody will tell you that she was funny.”
Before graduating from Chazy Central Rural School in 2015, Hagen was an active participant in most of the school’s offered clubs and sports. Whether it was the soccer or debate team, she loved being involved and being around others.
Her outgoing, likable personality was a natural match for her true passion: hair.
Out of high school, Hagen began working at Hairstyles Unlimited & Tanning in Chazy, before moving on to the Champlain Centre Mall in Plattsburgh, where she worked for a while and gained even more experience doing what she loved.
“She was really good at it,” Sandy said.
“She made people feel good about themselves.”
After a couple years of working in New York, Sandy said Hagen’s boyfriend at the time presented her with an opportunity to go to North Carolina with him: to which she accepted.
While the two eventually broke up and went their separate ways after making the long-distance move together, Sandy said Hagen stayed to focus on growing her hairstyling career in a bigger market.
“When she moved down to North Carolina, she got to make her own hours. She loved it,” Sandy said.
“She was starting to get into (doing) weddings, because she made a lot of money all at once. For four or five hours, it was a lot. She did not just the hair, she did the makeup too. She was making a lot of friends down there.”
She also had her own apartment, career, family and cats. She was well on her way, Sandy said.
And after a while of living in Winterville, N.C. alone, Hagen revealed to her mother one night that she was ready to start dating again.
“We were videoing one night and she said, ‘Mom, I’m going to put myself on Tinder.’ and I told her, ‘Go for it. If you think you’re ready, go for it,'” Sandy said.
“And when she did, she had met Josh (Kreger) on Tinder, but apparently, they had met each other before at a party, so when they both met on Tinder, they had felt comfortable, because they had met before.”
It didn’t take long for a relationship to blossom, and Sandy and Travis were happy to see their daughter happily moving on.
“I actually saw the two of them getting married,” Travis said.
“I started picturing grandbabies,” Sandy added.
“They went out on one date, and the next day at work he had sent her this huge bouquet of flowers … I was happy for her.”
As time went on, Hagen and Kreger’s relationship, while not always perfect, seemed normal to Sandy and Travis.
But, that had all changed on the morning of Aug. 15, 2021.
“It’s the worst day of my life — worst day of our lives,” Sandy said.
“We had spent the morning at the fair … came home and I was outside. Kaya (Hagen’s 13-year-old sister) came outside and she says, ‘North Carolina Police is calling.’ and I was like, ‘What?’ She says (again), ‘North Carolina Police is calling.’
“When I came back inside, the phone had already stopped ringing. I was like, ‘Oh shit.’ So I grabbed the phone, I sat down and I crossed my fingers. Kaya sat right next to me. I dialed the number back, the detective answered the phone and I’ll never forget his voice,” she continued.
“He says, ‘Ms. Sandra, do you have a daughter by the name of Ariana Hagen?’ and I said, ‘I do.’ and he says, ‘Are you sitting down?’ — I could hear him tapping his pen on his desk.
“I said, ‘What do you have to tell me?’ — I was being rude.
“He says, ‘Have you spoken to anybody else about this?’ and I said, ‘No.’ He says, ‘Ma’am, I’m sorry to tell you this, but your daughter was found unconscious in her bed this morning.’
“And I just started screaming.”
Hagen’s parents were told a party had been thrown at her apartment, which she had also been sharing with Kreger, the night before she was found unconscious.
Because of this, Sandy and Travis said they were led to believe their daughter’s death was caused by a drug overdose, because they were told multiple drugs had been found in her apartment that morning.
“They told us like a week before that there were going to be charges to somebody, but they’re not going to tell us who yet, so we started thinking a drug dealer, a drug supplier, somebody that was at the party that brought drugs,” Sandy said.
“That’s where we were going with it.”
But it was eventually revealed Hagen didn’t have any alcohol or drugs, besides antibiotics for an injury she sustained from a skateboarding accident a couple days prior, in her system when she died, they said.
Hagen’s parents didn’t find out she was actually killed, and that Kreger was the main suspect, until after her funeral, Travis said.
“We didn’t know what happened to our daughter at her funeral. Me and her were thinking she overdosed. and two days later, we got a phone call from one of the investigators or somebody saying they found a note in his (Kreger) phone saying he killed her,” Travis said.
“They had enough evidence to put him away for a long time; that’s what they told us.”
According to a WNCT news article, published Aug. 27, 2021, it is revealed that Greenville Police responded to Hagen’s apartment around 11 a.m. on Aug. 15, 2021, for an EMS assist call. Police said they found Hagen unresponsive and pronounced her dead at the scene.
The same news article stated that Kreger, who was 25 years old at the time, had been arrested and charged earlier that day with an open count of murder in connection to Hagen’s death and that he was being held in the Pitt County Detention Center under no bond.
Sandy said no cause of death has been revealed publicly and even Hagen’s death certificate still says pending, but they were told Kreger strangled Hagen to death.
And now, despite initially being told Kreger would serve a long time in prison for Hagen’s death, Sandy and Travis said the Pitt County District Attorney’s Office, the office handling the investigation, is considering offering Kreger a plea of voluntary manslaughter, a Class D Felony in North Carolina; if the plea is accepted, Kreger could face five years in prison.
“They have physical evidence of fingerprints around her throat and that’s not enough to prove murder, because it wasn’t planned. They can’t charge him with murder, because they don’t have any evidence of him planning to murder her. It was just a spur of the moment thing pretty much,” Travis said.
“He put his hands around her throat and squeezed until she couldn’t breathe no more, that’s intention right there I would think.”
The Pitt County District Attorney’s Office did not respond to attempts to reach them for comment.
Kreger’s next court date, scheduled for Oct. 6, at the beginning of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, may disclose whether or not that plea is offered and accepted. If it’s not accepted, the case could go to trial at a later date, Travis said.
Either way, five years is not enough time served, Sandy and Travis said.
“I want him to spend the rest of his life in jail, that’s what I want to happen. I don’t know if that’s going to happen … I don’t know if it’s going to happen how I want it to,” Sandy said.
“We were told that we would be better off not going to trial, because he could end up walking … almost free,” Travis added.
“They’re saying this way, with voluntary manslaughter, at least he might get out in five years, but he has something on his record … that’s nothing. That’s not even close to being fair to what he did to my daughter.”
Looking back now, Sandy and Travis said they could see a pattern of abusive behavior from Kreger that they didn’t notice at the time.
Moving into Hagen’s apartment early in the relationship, sharing their finances, controlling what she ate and extreme bouts of jealousy and anger were some warning signs that are easy to see now as they’re all grouped together, they said.
“He was a good talker,” Travis said.
“He’s a good looking guy, he’s a smart guy and he knows it. and he uses it to his advantage,” Sandy added.
Since the death of Hagen, in an effort to raise more awareness about domestic violence and how it can affect someone’s life, Sandy and Travis, along with the help of Hagen’s best friend Elizabeth Daly, participated in a Stop Domestic Violence Inaugural Victim Awareness 5k in April at Clinton Community College.
Daly made T-shirts and flyers and the $3,311 raised from the 5k event were donated to the local chapter of Stop Domestic Violence in Hagen’s name.
“It was a really good turnout,” Sandy said.
The biggest thing Sandy said she wants people to take away from Hagen’s story is that nobody is immune to domestic violence.
“We weren’t expecting this at all,” she said. “It can happen to anybody,”
“Now, we’ve got to live the rest of our lives without her — it’s scary.”
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