Shawn M. Kavanagh, the Bellflower man accused of triple murder in 2014, has waived his right to have his trial heard by a jury. He has instead requested a “bench trial,” a proceeding in …
Shawn M. Kavanagh, the Bellflower man accused of triple murder in 2014, has waived his right to have his trial heard by a jury. He has instead requested a “bench trial,” a proceeding in which the judge is the sole decider of guilt and punishment.
Kavanagh has spent nine years in county jails awaiting a trial that has been chronically postponed. Among the many reasons for the delays, Kavanagh’s trial was twice postponed in 2020 due to the court’s inability to hold a large-scale jury screening during the COVID pandemic. The trial was postponed again in 2021 and 2022 due to unexpected occurrences in the personal lives of Kavanagh’s public defender attorneys.
Now, Kavanagh and his attorneys are asking to forgo the jury altogether, and instead have his trial decided by St. Charles County Judge Rebeca Navarro-McKelvey. Kavanagh’s trial remains set to be heard in Judge Navarro-McKelvey’s St. Charles courtroom over seven days in March.
Kavanagh’s attorneys submitted the request for a bench trial during a Feb. 1 pre-trial hearing.
Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty in the case, while the specialized public defenders representing Kavanagh have indicated they intend to argue for his life to be spared if he is convicted.
Kavanagh is charged with three counts of first-degree murder for the February 2014 killings of Tara Lynn Fifer, 22, of Montgomery City, Lexy Vandiver, 29, and her son, Mason Vandiver, 7, both of Jonesburg. He is also charged with first-degree domestic assault against Jessica N. Powell; along with four counts of armed criminal action and one count of burglary.
Kavanagh’s trial dates have been postponed numerous times across nearly six years. Along with the COVID cancellations, trial delays have resulted from various medical difficulties or personal tragedies among the public defenders representing him. Several more postponements occurred because of turnover on Kavanagh’s defense team, requiring a reset on the time that defense attorneys are given to familiarize themselves with the details of the death penalty case.