Shawn Kavanagh, who brutally stabbed three people to death and seriously injured a fourth in a 2014 Valentine’s Day massacre, will now spend the rest of his life in person.
St. Charles …
Shawn Kavanagh, who brutally stabbed three people to death and seriously injured a fourth in a 2014 Valentine’s Day massacre, will now spend the rest of his life in prison.
St. Charles County judge Rebecca Navarro-McKelvey announced her decision Tuesday, April 11, choosing the life sentence over the death penalty. She sentenced Kavanagh to four consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole.
Kavanagh was found guilty March 23 for the murders of Tara Lynn Fifer, 22; Lexy Vandiver, 29; and Lexy’s son, 7-year-old Mason Vandiver, in February 2014. Kavanagh was also convicted for the severe wounding of Jessica Powell, Kavanagh’s estranged wife, who was at Lexy’s home with the other three victims when Kavanagh attacked them. The guilty verdict was issued by Navarro-McKelvey following three days of testimony and arguments.
Since the trial phase of the case, Navarro-McKelvey had deliberated on what punishment Kavanagh should receive. With a courtroom split between family and friends for Kavanagh and the murder victims, the judge stated she believed the fatal stabbings were premeditated but also believed Kavanagh’s rage had been caused by a psychotic disorder that his attorneys argued Kavanagh suffered from during the trial.
“If you are truly a religious person, you will atone for the evil you have done,” Navarro-McKelvey told Kavanagh.
The judge’s decision left family and friends of the victims heartbroken as they shared tears outside the courtroom.
“He doesn’t deserve to live,” said Heather Vandiver, sister-in-law of Lexy Vandiver. “He stabbed a little boy. He deserves to die.”
Warren County Prosecuting Attorney Kelly King was also disappointed with the punishment.
“As (Navarro-McKelvey) stated in the hearing, if any case deserves the death penalty, this is the case,” King said. “Justice has been too long coming for these victims and their families. I can only hope the families can now put this part of these horrific crimes behind them and move forward 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.”
King added, "As disappointing as the verdict is, Mr. Kavanagh will spend the rest of his life in prison."
Kavanagh spoke during Tuesday’s hearing, saying there was no one else to blame but him and admitting the murders were a “horrific act.”
“I’ve done so much damage and all I can say is, “I’m sorry,’ ” Kavanagh said.
Tuesday’s sentencing concluded a lengthy case that has been mired in delays for nine years for a variety of reasons, including the COVID-19 pandemic, attorney turnover, medical conditions and other circumstances. The case was heard in St. Charles County after Kavanagh requested a change of venue and waived his right to a jury trial.
For more on this story, see the April 13 edition of The Warren County Record.