Judge Dismisses Indictment in Cavaness Killing

Jay Barrett/KMXT

A state Superior Court judge has dismissed a second-degree murder indictment against a Kodiak man.

Judge Fred Torrisi dismissed the indictment against Chawn D. Summerall on June 1st, and then denied the prosecution’s motion to reconsider on June 9th. The state has until the end of the month to inform the court if it plans to seek re-indictment.

Summerall is accused of beating Darrell Cavaness into unconsciousness on the night of January 22, 2008, in a home on Natalia Street. Cavaness died in an Anchorage hospital a week later due to severe head injuries. Summerall was indicted by a Kodiak Grand Jury in June 2009.

In his decision, Torrisi said that the prosecution’s reliance on hearsay evidence and the fact that the grand jury was not informed that Summerall was also struck with the piece of wood that is believed to be the murder weapon, requires dismissal of the indictment.

The prosecution’s case hinged on a statement made by Joshua Erickson the night of the beating to Kodiak Police, which the police officer then related to the grand jury. Erickson, who was apparently present when Cavaness was assaulted, has invoked the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination, and would not testify before the grand jury.

Torrisi said that under those circumstances, he concluded that the quote, "cumulative effect of the hearsay evidence and failure to represent exculpatory evidenced did appreciably affect the decision to indict, and so requires dismissal."

District Attorney Jane Stein and public advocate Marcey McDannell could not be reached for comment. Kodiak Police Chief T.C. Kamai declined to comment.

Summerall remains jailed for violating probation on a separate felony DUI charge.

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