Summerall Gets 20 Years with 9 Suspended in Cavaness Death



Chawn Summerall is fingerprinted following sentencing in Kodiak Superior Court. Jacob Resneck/KMXT photo

Jacob Resneck/KMXT

One of the two men implicated in the 2008 beating death of Darrell Cavaness faces up to 20 years in prison following a judge’s sentence in Kodiak Superior Court. A jury had acquitted 31-year-old Chawn D. Summerall of second degree murder in December though he was convicted of felony assault which he plans to appeal.

— summerall sentence pkg 3:42 "The prosecution … I’m Jacob Resneck."

The prosecution described Chawn Summerall as a violent individual who had preyed upon Darrell Cavaness, a soft-spoken former commercial fisherman who had physical and mental disabilities from a past head injury.

District Attorney June Stein says the January 22, 2008 slaying occurred on Cavaness’ 41st birthday where he was in the company of men he had thought were his friends.

— stein1

Stein argued against probation noting this was Summerall’s third assault conviction. She said he deserved the maximum sentence of 20 years.

— stein2

But Summerall mounted a vigorous defense maintaining his innocence to the end. In a four-minute prepared statement, he apologized to Cavaness’ family for the pain they had suffered, pointed the finger at co-defendant Joshua Erickson, who is still awaiting trial, and promised to reform.

— summerall1

Summerall’s court-appointed attorney Marcelle McDannel also argued it was Erickson who was responsible for Cavaness’ death. He was found beaten unconscious in a Kodiak apartment and never regained consciousness. He died some days later in an Anchorage hospital from severe trauma.

McDannel said her client is a chronic alcoholic guilty of antisocial behavior but is not the inherently violent offender portrayed by the prosecution.

— mcdannel1

Summerall further accused police and prosecutors of targeting him because of his refusal to testify against Erickson. But his statement was cut short following objections by the prosecution.

Before handing down sentencing Judge Fred Torrisi said despite Summerall’s claim of innocence in Cavaness’ death, a jury had found guilty of assault. He handed down a sentence of 20 years with nine suspended. All of this is on the condition he abstains from alcohol and drugs.

— torrisi2

With more than two years of time already served and more than half of the sentence suspended, Summerall could be out of prison in five years.

A number of friends and family members of Cavaness who had written letters to the court listened to the verdict by teleconference though no statements were read aloud in court.

The trial of Joshua Erickson has yet to begin. His next court appearance is scheduled for May 20th.

I’m Jacob Resneck.


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