A 32-year-old man has been sentenced to life in prison without parole or parole for a stabbing that killed a woman, a mother, and her 7-year-old son, who was allegedly trying to protect her, in an attack that prosecutors said was prompted by the husband’s fear that his then-wife had a sexual relationship with one of the victims.
Shawn Kavanagh was sentenced Tuesday in Missouri after being convicted of first-degree murder, first-degree domestic assault, first-degree burglary and armed criminal action, authorities said.
He was convicted of stabbing his then-wife, Jessica Powell, Tara Lynn Fifer, 22, Lexy Vandiver, 29, and Vandiver’s 7-year-old son, Mason, on Valentine’s Day, 2014, near Jonesburg, Missouri, prosecutors said. Jonesburg is more than 80 miles west of St. Louis.
Powell survived. A total of 75 stab wounds had been inflicted on the four victims, the prosecutor said. The court heard during the trial that Mason died trying to protect his mother, reported St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
He had faced the death penalty in the trial, but St. Charles County Circuit Judge Rebeca Navarro-McKelvey reportedly decided on the lesser sentence because he called 911, confessed and provided evidence of his mental illness.
“Today I’m going to give you what you don’t deserve,” she told Kavanagh, the Post-Dispatch, which covered the case, reported she said. “I will grant you grace.”
The victims’ family and friends were reportedly devastated.
“He doesn’t deserve to live,” Heather Vandiver, Vandiver’s sister-in-law, said outside court, the newspaper reported. “He stabbed a little boy. He deserves to die.”
Prosecutors who had sought the death penalty were disappointed.
“I respect the judge’s verdict, but I am disappointed. As she said in the hearing, that is the case if a case deserves the death penalty. Justice has waited too long for these victims and their families,” Warren County Prosecutor Kelly King said in a statement. “I can only hope that the families can now put this part of these horrific crimes behind them and move on with their lives. I sincerely appreciate the work of our first responders, the assistance of the Attorney General’s Office, and the cooperation and patience of the victims’ families. Without their efforts, we could not have prosecuted this case. Disappointing as the sentence is, Mr Kavanagh will spend the rest of his life in prison.”
In the hearing, Kavanagh apologized.
“I’ve done so much damage and all I can say is, ‘I’m sorry,'” Kavanagh said, the paper reported.
During the trial, Kavanagh’s public defenders sought a second-degree murder charge to avoid a possible death sentence, citing mental illness, the newspaper reported.
Kavanagh has reportedly confessed.
“I know I blacked out,” Kavanagh told a sheriff’s lieutenant, according to the Post-Dispatch, referring to tapes of the interrogations played during the trial. “I lost it.
“I just wanted to be with my wife on Valentine’s Day.”
Got a tip we should know? [email protected]