Murder charges announced against Marcas McGowan in shooting death of 5-year-old Cady Harris

LEAVENWORTH, Kan. - The man accused of kidnapping a 5-year-old girl and leading police on a chase that led to the death of the child was officially charged with murder.

Marcas T. McGowan, 30, was officially charged Monday afternoon, said Leavenworth County Attorney Todd Thompson during a Tuesday morning news conference. McGowan made his first court appearance minutes before.

McGowan is officially charged with six crimes in connection with the death of 5-year-old Cadence “Cady” Harris. He is being held on a $1 million bond and faces charges of:

  • First-degree murder during the commission of a felony
  • Aggravated endangering of a child
  • Fleeing and eluding police
  • Endangering a child
  • Aggravated assault of a police officer
  • Criminal possession of a firearm

McGowan’s next court appearance is scheduled for August 8.

Harris was shot and killed in the early evening of July 18 following a chase that spanned both sides of the state line and multiple counties. Harris was allegedly taken by McGowan and was in the car he was driving. McGowan and police exchanged gunfire, and Harris was shot and killed. Thompson said McGowan's alleged actions leading up to the chase led to Harris' death, supporting their charge of murder.

When asked whether McGowan was the person who killed the girl, Thompson only replied, “I’m not going to go into any further evidence at this time, that’s something we save for the court.”

Leavenworth Police Chief Pat Kitchens said his initial assessment of the July 18 evening events were that his officers took appropriate action given the nature of McGowan’s alleged crimes, but that the Kansas Bureau of Investigation was still looking into the case.

“Generally speaking, it’s a judgment of the officers involved from a procedural perspective it has to be a very dangerous situation, we’re very conservative about your policies relative to chasing,” said Chief Kitchens.

Despite the charges announced on Wednesday, Thompson said they could change at any point in time during a criminal investigation.

Rafe Foreman, a criminal law professor at UMKC, said Wednesday's announced charges leaves plenty of room for uncertainty about how Harris' life ended.

"There are some big questions: How did she die? What was the cause of death? Who caused or perpetrated it?" Foreman told 41 Action News after viewing video of the news conference.

If prosecutors had evidence McGowan killed the 5-year-old girl, it is very likely there would have been a different murder charge, Foreman explained.

Instead, the felony murder accusation places responsibility on the defendant for what happened, arguing his dangerous actions of fleeing police with her in the vehicle resulted in the Harris' death.

Foreman said that leaves several possibilities on the table. For one, it could mean a bullet fired by a police officer caused Harris' death. It could also signal that she didn't die by gunshot wound, but rather from some other cause.

But it could also mean authorities still don't know the answer because ballistics evidence from the scene is not complete or they are awaiting a final determination from the medical examiner.

Several criminal law experts told 41 Action News on Wednesday those types of details take longer to gather than the public realizes.

Foreman applauded prosecutors for taking their time with the case.

"Things can change. New witnesses can come in and new test results can come back," he said. "Let's let law enforcement and the district attorney do their jobs and get this case right. Because if they don't get it right, we're going to spend thousands of dollars of taxpayer money on appeals."

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