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The scary past of former ‘Sons of Guns’ star — and alleged rapist — Will Hayden

For Will Hayden, former star of the Discovery Channel’s “Sons of Guns” accused of raping a 12-year-old girl, doors are already slamming shut.

His reality show has been canceled, evidence of its existence scrubbed from Discovery’s Web site. As The Washington Post’s Emily Yahr reported: “‘Given the serious and horrific nature of the charges against Will Hayden, we have decided to halt further production of “Sons of Guns” and cancel the series,’ the network said in a statement Wednesday.”

Hayden’s lawyer, Frank Holthaus, said he believes the allegations are “are completely false.” 

But his gun shop has disowned him. “Red Jacket Firearms LLC. has initiated and received full legal separation as an entity, from William M. Hayden,” read a statement on the shop’s Web site. “With heavy hearts, we will be continuing to operate and ensure the fulfillment of new customer orders, back orders and to provide support to those affected by these new developments. WE are the Heart and Soul of Red Jacket and will remain steadfast in our commitment to quality and our customers, for years to come.”

This Aug. 27, 2014 booking photo released by the East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Office shows reality television star Will Hayden, after he was arrested in East Baton Rouge Parish on a charge accusing him of raping a child. Hayden, whose show “Sons of Guns” appeared on The Discover Channel, had been free on $150,000 bond after an Aug. 9 arrest for alleged child molestation. A sheriff’s office spokeswoman says she cannot say whether both arrests involve the same child. (AP Photo/East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Office) Reality television star Will Hayden, after he was arrested in East Baton Rouge Parish on a charge accusing him of raping a child. Hayden, whose show “Sons of Guns” appeared on The Discovery Channel, had been free on $150,000 bond after an Aug. 9 arrest for alleged child molestation. A sheriff’s office spokesman says she cannot say whether both arrests involve the same child. (AP Photo/East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office)

Whatever the outcome of his criminal charge, Hayden, 44, is looking at his show-business obituary — the latest chapter of a life that, in light of recent allegations, seems filled with darkness. “Long ago I became comfortable with the idea of death,” he once wrote. Consider these glimpses of a troubled past:

1. Hayden was beaten as a child. Hayden said his father did not spare the rod — or the fist.Hell, he put me through a wall with a punch when I was five,” Hayden wrote in “Sons of Guns: Straight-Shootin’ Stories from the Star of the Hit Discovery Series.” ” … From that moment on I realized I had to pick my battles carefully. Very carefully. Any battle I could get up and walk away from was a victory. It didn’t matter if me or my psyche looked or felt like it’d been run through a meat grinder. Victory is victory.”

2. And he survived a house fire. Hayden described an early brush with death in Faulknerian terms. “I was pulled out of the house that was burning down around us,” he told CBS in 2011. “In honesty, I still have that nightmare …  waking up to fire eating me up, the bed and sheets in flames, the curtains falling around you, the smoke-filled room, the scary man from outer space with the huge mask over his face and a big thing on his head dragging me out of there. That s–t f—s with you, bro.”

3. He couldn’t afford a gun — so he made one. In his memoir, Hayden makes his youth sound like warfare.Surviving my single-digit and preadolescent years wasn’t the easiest cake to bake,” he wrote. “Growing up in Dixie, just north of Baton Rouge, you had to be harder than coffin nails. Gunfights between twelve-year-olds weren’t uncommon. … But since I couldn’t afford to buy my own bang stick, I made one. Found some discarded pieces of this and that at a construction site, including some rubber banding, a decent board, and a broken section of pipe … I cobbled it all together as best I could.”

4. He was suspected of robbing his own gun shop. Hayden wrote that the ATF suspected him of burglarizing his own store for insurance money — even though he had no insurance policy. Though this seems like a rock-solid alibi, Hayden gets cagey in his book. “The rest of this robbery story crosses deep into ‘dirty laundry’ territory,” he wrote. “But because I already give y’all a top-to-bottom view of my hamper on each and every episode, this particular dirty laundry I’ll keep to myself. Let’s just say my marriage didn’t survive the aftermath.” The fallout? “Busted marriage = homeless Will,” he wrote.

5. He’s said creepy things about virgins before. Faced with a “virgin kit” — a gun that has never been assembled before — Hayden expressed disapproval. “As with any virgin, I can pretty much promise you this kit is going to end up being more trouble than it’s worth,” he says at the 2:40 mark of this episode of “Sons of Guns.”

Justin Wm. Moyer is a reporter for The Washington Post's Morning Mix. Follow him on Twitter: @justinwmmoyer.

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