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Witnesses at Dawson City man's murder trial describe what happened the night man was killed

The outside of the courtroom in Dawson City's museum. The 2nd-degree murder trial of Kane Morgan started on Tuesday and is expected to last 9 days. Morgan was charged in connection with the 2018 death of Kevin Edward McGowan in Dawson. (Chris MacIntyre/CBC - image credit)
The outside of the courtroom in Dawson City's museum. The 2nd-degree murder trial of Kane Morgan started on Tuesday and is expected to last 9 days. Morgan was charged in connection with the 2018 death of Kevin Edward McGowan in Dawson. (Chris MacIntyre/CBC - image credit)

The first week of a Dawson City, Yukon, man's second-degree murder trial heard from multiple witnesses to the events that took place the night Kevin Edward McGowan was killed.

Kane Morgan was charged in connection with the death of McGowan, 41, who died during the early hours of April 30, 2018, in Dawson.

Morgan has pleaded not guilty to the charge.

Yukon Supreme Court chief justice Suzanne Duncan said at the outset of the trial in Dawson that Morgan has admitted to causing McGowan's death by blunt-force trauma, and that the Crown must prove intent to kill.

McGowan, who was from B.C., had only been in Dawson City for a matter of weeks when he died, according to people who knew him. He had moved to town to work as a chef that summer. Days after McGowan's death, police ruled it a homicide.

Crown prosecutors Leo Lane and Peterson Ndlovu called a total of 10 witnesses to the stand this week to testify before the jury.

One witness, Shane Frost, said he was with Morgan and McGowan before going to a house party that night. He said the three were having beers by the river.

Frost said he and Morgan took magic mushrooms before going to the party. Frost told the court that the mushrooms started to kick in at the party and Morgan began to act "snakey." Frost described Morgan waving his arms and rolling around on the floor.

Two more witnesses, Colton Blackjack and Chris Blanchard, testified that they also saw Morgan at the party that night, acting erratically.

Frost said Morgan continued to "freak out" at the party causing some people to leave, including McGowan. Frost said Morgan also left the party shortly after McGowan.

Witness recounts encounter with Morgan 

Four others took the stand this week to recount what they heard around the time McGowan was killed.

One of those witnesses, Jacob Ramer, told the court he heard arguing in the area where McGowan's body was later found.

Ramer testified that he was working at the Dawson City men's shelter that night. He said around 12:30 a.m., he heard yelling in the street, but didn't think much of it at the time. He said when he looked out the window he could only make out one person.

Ramer said around 1:15 a.m., he left work and drove toward the intersection of King Street and Second Avenue where he heard the yelling earlier.

The intersection of King Street and Second Avenue in Dawson City. Kevin Edward McGowan's body was discovered here during the early hours April 30, 2018.
The intersection of King Street and Second Avenue in Dawson City. Kevin Edward McGowan's body was discovered here during the early hours April 30, 2018.

The intersection of King Street and Second Avenue in Dawson City. McGowan's body was discovered here during the early hours April 30, 2018. (Chris MacIntye/CBC)

He said he didn't notice anyone on the ground at the time but he did see a man, later identified as Morgan, walking toward the intersection.

Ramer said he felt something wasn't right as Morgan was walking down the street with his shirt wide open on a cooler night.

He said he drove around the block to catch up with Morgan and that's when he noticed a body on the ground. It was McGowan.

An off-duty EMS volunteer, Ramer pulled over and got out to help.

Ramer explained to the jury that he asked Morgan what was going on, and Morgan replied that McGowan was being robbed. Ramer said that when he told Morgan he was going to call 911, Morgan became frantic.

Ramer testified that he didn't feel the situation was safe so he got back into his car and called the police. He said he drove around the block once more, to get away from any possible harm to himself, and when he circled back to where McGowan's body was, Morgan had left.

RCMP Const. Lee Popescul responded to the call that night.

Popescul testified that he received a call around 1:30 a.m. notifying him of a man laying face down on the ground, half naked.

Popescul said when arrived, he and Ramer did an assessment of McGowan and found it didn't appear that he was breathing. He explained CPR was attempted until paramedics arrived.

McGowan was transported to the Dawson City hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Returned to the party

Frost told the court that approximately 30 minutes after Morgan had left the party earlier that night, the man had returned to the house covered in blood. Frost said Morgan went to the washroom to clean up and then sat on the couch.

Frost described Morgan as calmer than he previously was, but said he sat on the couch shaking.

He said after a while, he and Morgan left the party together and went to the ATM and took out money. Then Morgan went to his house to change his clothes. He took Frost to his cousin's house to get his stuff and from there, the two drove to Whitehorse.

Frost said at no point did Morgan talk about the events that happened between the time he had left and returned to the party.

Frost said they ditched Morgan's truck off the highway toward Haines Junction and hitchhiked to Whitehorse.

Kane Morgan of Dawson City, Yukon, outside the building that houses Dawson's court room. Morgan was on trial for second-degree murder in the 2018 death of Kevin McGowan, in Dawson City.
Kane Morgan of Dawson City, Yukon, outside the building that houses Dawson's court room. Morgan was on trial for second-degree murder in the 2018 death of Kevin McGowan, in Dawson City.

Dawson City, Yukon, resident Kane Morgan earlier this week, outside the building that houses Dawson's courtroom. Morgan has admitted to committing an unlawful act causing death, but has pleaded not guilty to the charge of 2nd degree murder. (Chris McIntyre/CBC)

Blunt force trauma

The final witness called on Thursday was forensic pathologist and medical examiner, Dr. Jason Morin.

Morin performed the autopsy on McGowan and determined the cause of death to be blunt force trauma to the head and neck.

Morin told the courtroom that McGowan also sustained injuries to the torso, and right hand, but he attributed the injuries to the torso with resuscitation-related injuries.

Morgan's defence lawyer Danny Markovitz cross-examined a few of the Crown's witnesses mainly to clarify, or confirm testimony that they had given in prior statements, and to ask about the level of intoxication Morgan may have been under that night.

Families visibly upset

Morgan's family has been at the trial since it began.

McGowan's family flew in from B.C. to attend for the first time on Thursday.

Both families were visibly upset as witness testimony was given and evidence was shown.

Kevin McGowan (wearing hat) with his parents and brother in January 2018. McGowan was killed in Dawson City, Yukon, in May 2018.
Kevin McGowan (wearing hat) with his parents and brother in January 2018. McGowan was killed in Dawson City, Yukon, in May 2018.

Kevin McGowan, wearing the hat, with his parents and brother in January 2018. McGowan was killed in Dawson City, Yukon, in May 2018. (Submitted by Dianna and Dave McGowan)

While RCMP photos and videos of the crime scene were shared, members of McGowan's family were seen wiping tears from their eyes. At one point, a few family members had to excuse themselves from the courtroom.

On the other side of the room, Morgan's father sat quietly with his eyes closed and a blank look on his face.

Morgan's partner also sat behind him, often handing him water, and at one point fixing his hair.

The Crown told jurors it had no further witnesses on Thursday afternoon.

Chief Justice Suzanne Duncan told the jurors they would be excused from court until Monday morning, when defence will call witnesses, including Morgan himself.

Court will resume on Monday at 10 a.m.