Life sentence will be recommended for kidnapping that resulted in 5-year-old girl's death

A man who shot a 5-year-old girl in 2014 in Leavenworth has pleaded guilty in federal court to kidnapping and killing the child, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Marcas McGowan, 32, Atchison, pleaded guilty Thursday in U.S. District Court to one count of kidnapping resulting in death and one count of discharging a firearm during a crime of violence. As part of a plea agreement, there will be a recommendation for a life sentence for McGowan.

In his plea, McGowan admitted that on July 18, 2014, he shot and killed Cadence Harris after he kidnapped her and exchanged gunfire with police, according to the release from the office of Tom Beall, acting U.S. attorney for Kansas.

"The murder of Cadence Harris will go down in the history of the Leavenworth Police Department as one of the most cold and calculating ever," Leavenworth Police Chief Pat Kitchens said in a statement. "It will be seared into the collective conscience of the officers for the remainder of their career and beyond."

The incident began with a domestic dispute in Atchison between McGowan and his girlfriend, Christina Harris, who is the mother of the victim. During the argument, McGowan threatened Christina Harris with a gun and she called 911. McGowan put Harris’ daughter in his car and drove away as police arrived, according to the release from the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Police pursued McGowan as he drove through downtown Atchison, across the river into Missouri and then back into Kansas to Leavenworth at speeds of up to 95 miles an hour. While fleeing from law enforcement, McGowan reportedly fired his gun at the officers.

On Metropolitan Avenue in Leavenworth, he crashed through a construction barricade and stopped the car. When he got out of the vehicle, he ignored police orders to drop the weapon. Officers returned fire and shot McGowan, who eventually stopped pointing his gun at the officers, according to the release.

In the car, police found the girl dead from a gunshot wound. Forensic evidence revealed McGowan had shot her at close range with a 9 mm handgun while she was in the car, according to the release.

"Every single officer tried heroically on that day to rescue 5-year-old Cadence Harris from very grave danger," Kitchens said in a statement. "Each officer put their lives at risk and were also in grave personal danger."

McGowan initially was charged in Leavenworth County District Court through the County Attorney's Office. Those charges were dismissed once McGowan was indicted in the federal case.

Leavenworth County Attorney Todd Thompson was appointed as a special assistant U.S. attorney to help with the federal case.

Sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 6. Both parties have agreed to recommend a sentence of life for the kidnapping charge, which is the statutory minimum penalty. The firearm count requires a statutory minimum penalty of 10 years consecutive to the other sentence, according to the release from the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Last week during an awards ceremony, the Leavenworth Police Department honored two dispatchers and two police officers for their roles in the July 18, 2014, incident.

Twitter: @LVTNewsJohnR