Son will be tried in mom’s killing
All charges filed in McCahan’s case bound over for trial
BEDFORD — All charges in a Saxton man’s criminal homicide case were bound over to court by Magisterial District Judge Brian Baker during a preliminary hearing Wednesday.
Charles Victor McCahan, 32, will face trial on criminal homicide and related charges in the death of his mother, Ouita Paige McCahan, in January.
During the preliminary hearing, District Attorney Lesley Childers-Potts called Saxton Police Department Officer Brian Becker and Saxton Police Chief Frederick Chadwick III to testify.
Becker said that he came into contact with McCahan on Wednesday, Jan. 19, when he responded to an active robbery report at Weaver’s Garage.
According to court documents, McCahan told Becker that he tried entering Weaver’s Garage after someone in a blue and white truck hauling a Bobcat skid steer began shooting at him with a shotgun.
Becker testified that McCahan said his mother was deceased in their apartment.
Becker alerted Chadwick, who went to the apartment.
Chadwick testified that he had to contact the housing authority to get into the apartment and that two other officers also responded.
Upon obtaining a key to the apartment, Chadwick and the officers found McCahan’s mother covered with a blanket, “everything except her feet,” and then he checked her neck for signs of life but found no pulse, Chadwick testified.
Chadwick stated that he and the officers then backed out of the apartment, secured the scene and called the Pennsylvania State Police and forensics.
Once the search warrant was obtained, the scene was processed and the body was taken to ForensicDx in Windber for an autopsy, Chadwick said.
The autopsy was performed the next day.
Chadwick testified that the doctor showed him bruising on the victim’s neck and chest, petechial hemorrhaging on the eyes and which of the victim’s ribs were broken. The doctor concluded that the victim’s cause of death was manual strangulation and blunt force trauma, Chadwick said.
Chadwick testified that on Jan. 28, he interviewed three of the McCahans’ neighbors who told him it was usually only McCahan and his mother in the residence, with no one coming or going.
Chadwick said all three neighbors told him that no one went inside the apartment and that if anything was delivered, McCahan would open the door a crack to get the item and then close it again.
Chadwick also said that the neighbors told him the victim “did come outside occasionally when McCahan wasn’t there.”
Becker testified and Chadwick corroborated that, during his arraignment in Magisterial District Judge Brian Diehl’s office on
Jan. 19, McCahan made a spontaneous statement that his mother had tripped over a cat, fallen down the stairs and broken her neck.
During cross examination of Chadwick, McCahan’s attorney, Public Defender Karen Hendershot, questioned how closely the neighbors paid attention to who came and went from the McCahan residence.
She asked Chadwick if there was a sign-in and -out sheet at the complex and if the complex had security cameras, to which Chadwick said no. He also said he didn’t know if there were any deliveries to the residence on Jan. 19.
Upon further questioning, Chadwick told Hendershot that they were still waiting on forensic testing results, that the victim did have prior medical issues, that he was not aware of any domestic violence reports from that residence and that no one had indicated concern of domestic violence regarding the McCahans.
Chadwick testified that no fingerprints were collected from the scene on Jan. 19, so there would be no fingerprint reports from that day.
Chadwick also testified that the witnesses had told him that they couldn’t believe McCahan would harm his mother. One speculated that McCahan could only harm his mother “in a fit of rage,” Chadwick said, but they could not provide him with an example.
Following Chadwick’s cross examination, Childers-Potts recalled Becker to the stand.
Becker stated that during his conversation, McCahan said he had a “stressful relationship” with his mother, that she was holding him back and that they “don’t get along, period.”
Upon cross examination by Hendershot, Becker said that McCahan indicated his mother was impeding his employment.
There were no witnesses called by the defense.
During closing arguments, Hendershot said that the charges against McCahan were “all intent-based crimes” that alleged he had strangled his mother and assumed he caused the other injuries.
She said that there was nothing to establish intent or confirm that they “even have the correct individual.”
Hendershot argued that all the evidence was circumstantial, that it was not established who strangled the victim, that there were no forensics, no log-in, no security cameras and that the police had only talked to three people in “what was described as a whole complex.”
“There are so many more questions in this situation than there are answers,” Hendershot said.
She also dismissed the witnesses’ accounts, saying they could not provide any specifics about the exact date in question, so they could only speculate.
“They were all surprised that he would harm his mom,” Hendershot said. “A tense relationship is not enough for intent — his connection as the suspect is very circumstantial.”
Childers-Potts argued that there were a few pieces of information that were exceptionally relevant to the case, such as McCahan being the one to tell police that his mother was dead.
Another was that McCahan provided police with two different stories about how his mother died, Childers-Potts said.
“It’s important because they did not match the autopsy conclusions and were untrue,” Childers-Potts said about McCahan’s stories. “He provided false information twice.”
She finished her arguments by saying that the prosecution was not required to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at a preliminary hearing.
Magisterial District Judge Brian Baker said that “based on the testimony given,” all charges against McCahan were valid and would be bound over to court.
Mirror Staff Writer Rachel Foor is at 814-946-7458.