Death sentence is considered in kidnapping death of 5-year-old Kansas girl

Marcas McGowan is facing federal charges in the kidnapping and death last year of 5-year-old Cadence Harris.
Marcas McGowan is facing federal charges in the kidnapping and death last year of 5-year-old Cadence Harris.

Federal prosecutors are considering whether to seek the death sentence for the man accused of kidnapping and killing an Atchison, Kan., girl last summer.

Marcas McGowan, 31, allegedly took 5-year-old Cadence Harris, his girlfriend’s daughter, from their home in Atchison on July 18, 2014, after a domestic disturbance.

An ensuing police chase crossed into Missouri and back into Kansas before ending in Leavenworth, when McGowan crashed in a road construction area and was wounded in an exchange of gunfire with police.

Police found Cadence dead inside the vehicle with a gunshot wound to the head. According to court documents, the bullet appeared to have been fired by McGowan.

He initially was charged with murder in Leavenworth County District Court. In February, prosecutors dismissed the state murder charge after a federal grand jury indicted McGowan.

McGowan now faces federal charges of kidnapping, using a firearm during a crime of violence, being a felon in possession of a firearm and possessing a firearm after being convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence.

A court hearing scheduled for Thursday was continued at the request of his attorneys.

The defense asked for the delay until a decision is made on whether prosecutors will be authorized to seek the death sentence.

Local federal prosecutors must get authorization from the U.S. Department of Justice to pursue a capital case. Prosecutors in Kansas have submitted the case to the Justice Department’s death penalty review board in Washington, D.C., according to a motion filed by McGowan’s attorneys.

They expect a decision to be made within 90 days. If the review board approves the request, the final decision rests with the U.S. attorney general.

The defense said that although the current charges do not qualify for the death penalty, they expect prosecutors to seek another indictment containing a charge eligible for the death penalty.

McGowan is being held without bond. The next hearing in the case is scheduled for Oct. 21.

To reach Tony Rizzo, call 816-234-4435 or send email to