Atchison man is charged with murder of 5-year-old girl in police chase

07/23/2014 8:58 AM

07/23/2014 6:16 PM

A 30-year-old Atchison man made his first court appearance Wednesday on a charge of first-degree felony murder in the death last week of a 5-year-old girl in Leavenworth.

Marcas McGowan, the boyfriend of the girl’s mother, also is charged in Leavenworth County District Court with two counts of aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer, unlawful possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, aggravated child endangerment, and fleeing and eluding in connection with the incident Friday in which Cadence Harris was killed.

McGowan, who was wounded by police gunfire during the incident that started in Atchison and ended in Leavenworth after a high-speed police chase, allegedly took the little girl known as Cady after a domestic disturbance.

With police in pursuit, he drove into Platte County and then into Leavenworth, where his SUV stopped in a construction area at 20th Street and Metropolitan Avenue. Police said he got out of the vehicle and pointed a handgun at officers, who fired and wounded him.

Authorities have not said how Cady was killed, but under the Kansas felony murder law, a person can be charged with a death that occurs during the commission of an “inherently dangerous felony” even if the death is not intentional. Leavenworth County Attorney Todd Thompson said either child endangerment or fleeing and eluding would constitute a dangerous felony.

The felony murder charge carries a life prison sentence but would not qualify for the death penalty. Under Kansas law, capital murder only applies in certain circumstances when the killing is premeditated.

McGowan, who also is identified in previous court cases and prison records as Marcus McGowan, appeared in court Wednesday without a lawyer. He was not required to enter a plea. He told the judge he would try to hire his own attorney.

His next court appearance is Aug. 8. Bond is set at $1 million.

Thompson said after McGowan’s court appearance that the charges were based on evidence gathered so far but that the investigation is ongoing and charges could be amended at any time.

He declined to discuss evidence, including how Cady died.

“We’re not going to go into the evidence,” Thompson said. “That’s something we’ll save for court.”

In the immediate aftermath of the incident, Leavenworth Police Chief Patrick Kitchens said that based on witness statements, McGowan may have intentionally shot Cady.

But the next morning, Kitchens said that authorities were not sure how she was fatally injured. Later that day, Mark Malick, special agent in charge of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, said at that point there was no evidence that Cady or the vehicle she was in was hit by police gunfire.

On Wednesday, Malick said that any information would have to come from the county attorney.

The aggravated assault charges do not state specifically that McGowan fired at officers during the altercation. The charges say he put the officers in “reasonable apprehension of immediate bodily harm with a deadly weapon.” Kitchens said previously that patrol car video did show him pointing a gun at officers.

The chief said that two officers fired at McGowan during the incident. Counseling services have been made available to them and other first responders, he said.

The unlawful possession of a firearm charge stems from McGowan’s previous felony conviction for making a criminal threat. The complaint says the crime in 2009 also involved a firearm.

Cady’s mother, Christina Harris, did not attend Wednesday’s court hearing. Relatives have said that she and McGowan had an on-again, off-again relationship that was marked by several domestic violence allegations against McGowan.

She said in previous court documents that he had assaulted her and fired a gun at her.

Although he was not Cady’s biological father, he was like a father to her and she called him Dad, according to other family members.

Harris and Cady lived in the same home with McGowan and his relatives in Atchison.

To reach Tony Rizzo, call 816-234-4435 or send email to trizzo@kcstar.com.

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