Murder trial tangles family ties
Testimony continues surrounding stabbing death of MSU student
On the drowsy morning of Feb. 23, it took mere seconds for an alleged scuffle between friends to become a tragedy.
It took one text message to turn a brother into a protector, a move that blurred the line between self defense and intent to harm.
In the two years that MSU student Andrew Singler dated Okemos resident Shay McCowan, he became a part of the McCowan family. He was like another son to Randy McCowan, and Singler and Connor McCowan were “like brothers.”
Randy McCowan testified Tuesday, saying Singler became a part of the family, and even stayed at their home temporarily. He said he’d spoken with Singler previously regarding situations where he “disrespected” his daughter.
But in the early hours of Feb. 23, everything changed.
Singler and Shay McCowan argued in the hours before, with Connor McCowan caught in the middle after hearing about the argument from his sister. Connor McCowan drove to Singler and Shay McCowan’s apartment in Meridian Township at about 4 a.m., ready for a confrontation. Afterward, Singler was left with two stab wounds, in his chest and arm.
This week, Connor McCowan is on trial for allegedly fatally stabbing Singler, and was charged with open murder.
Connor McCowan and his sister were close from the start, with him doing what he could to protect her.
“He is my best friend,” Shay McCowan testified in Ingham County Circuit Court Monday, becoming emotional during her testimony.
Throughout the relationship, Connor McCowan and Singler also became close. Randy McCowan, Connor McCowan’s father, called Singler a “big brother” and “mentor” to his son in court Tuesday. When the two wrestled, Randy McCowan said Singler always appeared to be the stronger of the two.
When Singler and Shay McCowan argued, she often asked Connor McCowan to intervene and “distract” them from their disagreements, she said in testimony. Shay McCowan said Singler never became violent until one fight last February, an incident she never reported to police.
“We got into an argument, and it led to some pushing and shoving,” she said during court testimony. “He pulled a sheet over me and hit me so hard I had a handprint on my stomach for about three or four days.”
Connor McCowan became emotional during both his father and sister’s testimonies, shedding tears as they spoke.
Intervention gone wrong
When Connor McCowan received a text message from his sister the morning of Feb. 23 describing injuries Singler had inflicted on her — injuries police said she never was treated for — his first instinct was to defend her.
“I’ll f***ing knock his teeth out,” he said in a text message, according to phone records obtained by police.
When Connor McCowan arrived at Singler and Shay McCowan’s apartment, MSU alumnus and roommate Tyler Aho said he appeared calm. Aho tried to hold Singler back from lunging at Connor McCowan and was unsuccessful.
Later that morning, Randy McCowan was shaken awake by his son, who appeared frantic and distraught. Connor McCowan told his father Singler had struck him in the head three consecutive times, that he feared for his life and had “accidentally cut” Singler.
At the time, Connor McCowan told his father he did not know the extent of Singler’s injuries. After Randy McCowan calmed his son down, he said his first thought was Singler’s welfare.
“I immediately tried to contact Andrew, because Connor didn’t know if he was seriously injured or what happened,” he said.
Upon Singler’s arrival just after 4 a.m. at Sparrow Hospital in Lansing, trauma surgeon Dr. Ben Mosher said he had a 10 percent chance of survival. He had lost more than one liter of blood and had no vitals. He was pronounced dead at 5:15 a.m.
“Andrew would have been alive right now if (Connor McCowan) had stayed home,” Ingham County Assistant Prosecutor John Dewane said.
Chris Bergstrom, Connor McCowan’s attorney, will begin making his case Thursday morning.
Throughout the trial, Bergstrom has attempted to prove that Connor McCowan did not travel to Singler’s apartment with the intention to inflict harm.
When he cross-examined John Bechinski, the forensic pathologist who performed Singler’s autopsy, Bechinski could not determine how much force it would take to inflict the wounds Singler was left with.
“After the knife gets through the skin, the rest of the process is relatively easy,” Bergstrom said Monday. He compared the wound to leaning up against a wall with a knife, leaving a hole in the wall as a result.
Bergstrom also made mention of sports-inflicted head injuries Connor McCowan received during high school, which he believes could have affected his overall demeanor. On the night of the stabbing, Randy McCowan said his son was behaving the same way he did immediately after he was injured during football practice in high school.
The trial is scheduled to continue 8:30 a.m. Thursday. It is unknown how long it will last. McCowan is charged with open murder in the case.