Tragedy follows Cadence Harris' mother - WNEM TV 5

Tragedy follows Cadence Harris' mother

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Christina Harris Christina Harris
ATCHISON, KS (KCTV) -

Tragedy has repeatedly touched the life of the mother of a 5-year-old girl shot to death in Leavenworth Friday night.

And some wonder if more could have been done to protect the children of Christina Harris from violence. She has been involved in multiple tumultuous relationships that have included abuse.

"She's either a terrible mother or she's had a terrible choice of husbands," Thomas Forge told KCTV5 Tuesday.

Forge was on a jury that acquitted the father of one of Harris' babies of a child abuse charge. Forge and the prosecutor wonder if the right person was charged.

Harris could not be reached for comment Tuesday. A relative said Harris has retained an attorney and Harris had no additional comment.

In 2006, Harris' first baby died from what was determined by a medical examiner to be Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. She lost custody in 2008 of her 4-month-old infant son when he nearly died from horrific abuse. The baby was shaken so badly that he has permanent brain damage and physical issues.

By 2009, Harris was involved in a new relationship with Marcus McGowan and it was abusive.

In 2009, Harris had to protect children from gunshots fired by Marcus McGowan, according to court documents. Harris' then 5-month-old daughter, Cadence, was in the vehicle with her as McGowan shot at it. McGowan was not Cadence's father but Harris and others say he was a father-like figure to Cadence.

McGowan would wind up going to prison for violating his probation from his 2009 crimes after he was repeatedly involved in abusive issues with Harris. The couple's on-again, off-again relationship came to a head during a fight Friday night. McGowan fled with Cadence and became involved in a high speed chase with police.

McGowan would crash in a construction zone. Police say he became involved in a shootout with officers who wounded the man. At some point Friday night, Cadence was fatally shot.

While Harris said she expected McGowan to harm her, she said Monday that she never expected McGowan would harm her daughter because she said he loved Cadence so much.

"He loved her. He never hurt her. He got off on hurting me, but I don't know what he was thinking," she said.

Cadence's death has stirred up old memories of the 2008 shaken-baby case for some of those involved in the investigation and prosecution.

Atchsion County Prosecutor Jerry Kuckelman said Tuesday that Cadence's death has made him reconsider the injuries to Harris' baby who nearly died.

In 2008, the child suffered life-threatening injuries that included a broken leg, broken rib, skull fracture and brain hemorrhaging. The child survived, but has long-term issues. Social workers would place the child in foster care.

Prosecutors charged the baby's father who was watching the baby at the time.

"I've thought about it was there something we could've done different did we charge the wrong person? But at the time based on the evidence we had, both myself and the officers involved believed (the father) had inflicted the injuries," Kuckelman said.

Forge said he and some of the jurors wondered if Harris was responsible.

"You couldn't ask her questions. She wasn't on the stand. You couldn't question her behavior in any way. He was on trial and not her," Forge said.

KCTV5 reported Monday that the child was still in foster care. A woman claiming she is a close friend told KCTV5 on Tuesday that the foster family would go on to adopt the boy who is now 6 years old. She said the family wants to know that they love the boy very much and he is thriving much better than doctors expected, while still having significant physical and mental issues.

KCTV5 reached out to state child-care officials Tuesday, but due to privacy reasons they could not comment on whether the boy has been adopted and that Harris voluntarily gave up her rights to the boy.

Since Cadence's death, Kuckelman has been troubled.

"When it happened, you think, man was there something we could've done," he said. "But you never get an answer to that question. You never will know."

But he is quick to point out that Harris has never been charged with child abuse.

"Parents have rights," he said. "Kids don't always live in ideal situations but whether it rises to the level of where you can remove them from the home is very difficult to do under our laws."

Cadence will be buried on Friday.

Leavenworth County Attorney Todd Thompson will announce at 9 a.m. Wednesday what charges he is seeking against McGowan. Police have asked Thompson to file numerous charges against the 30-year-old man including first-degree and kidnapping. The news conference will be carried live on KCTV5.com.

Copyright 2014 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) All rights reserved.

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