ST. CHARLES COUNTY, Mo. – It was an emotional ending to a drawn-out criminal case involving brutal Valentine’s Day stabbings. Shawn Kavanagh had asked a judge for a lesser charge than murder first, for his 2014 knife attack that killed three people.
FOX 2 was the only media station in the courtroom when the verdict came down. It came after an excruciating nine-year wait.
“It was relief,” said Haley Roberts. “I felt like Lexi, her son, and my sister were all being seen, all being heard.”
Roberts said she never gave up hope for justice in the murders that took the life of her sister, Tara Fifer, who was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.
In February 2014, in Warren County, Kavanagh called 911 to say he had stabbed four people. Three of them, including a 7-year-old child, died in the attack. His target was his wife at the time, who survived. Kavanagh was almost immediately arrested and charged, yet the case dragged through the court system.
Roberts spoke to FOX 2 after a hearing last month about some of the unusual delays.
“One of the judges passed away. One of his lawyers had gotten pregnant at one point and just wasn’t able to withstand trial,” Roberts said in February.
She said other delays were of the defendant’s choosing, such as the change of venue, which brought the murder case here to St. Charles County, an hour’s drive for Roberts and her family.
“It’s been stressful. There’s been a lot of emotions,” Roberts said. “I think that as a family, we found out a lot more than what we knew prior to what we knew when walking into the courtroom.”
Like the fact, Kavanagh would fight for a second-degree murder conviction. FOX 2 spoke to Roberts about that before the judge’s verdict.
“It’s hard to be here today and know that the fate of his conviction is riding on what the answer is today,” she said. “There’s been a lot of sleepless nights the last few weeks just waiting for this.”
After a three-day bench trial this week, Judge Rebecca Navarro-McKelvey found Kavanagh guilty nine times—three counts of first-degree murder and six additional felony counts related to Kavanagh’s stabbing rampage.
“It felt like a thousand pounds lifted off of me, off of my family,” Roberts said. “I mean, you could feel it in the entire courtroom; everybody, like our shoulders, could finally drop and we could stop carrying this on our own.”
Next is the decision about whether Kavanagh will be put to death. That phase will play out in court next week.
“I will not miss that. But it doesn’t matter how it goes, either way, that’s not going to bring my sister back,” Roberts said. “I’m glad that he’s been convicted how he was supposed to be, and from now it’s in God’s hands.”