Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Man says promise
resulted in shooting

The murder suspect says he shot
because his partner did as well

HILO >> Big Island murder suspect John McGovern testified in his own defense yesterday that he shot Cassidy Toole last year because he was "confused" and had promised to shoot Toole if threatened.

McGovern, 19, testified in Hawaii Circuit Court he shot Toole moments after a second man, Kyle Hill, 20, shot another victim, Wesley Matheson.

Hill told him the two victims were "snapping" and threatening to beat him up, McGovern said.

But McGovern said he did not see or hear any threat. "I didn't see any reason to shoot Wes," he testified. But he had promised to shoot Toole if Hill shot Matheson.

McGovern said he did not want to seem like a coward.

He also was not sure whether Hill would double-cross him, killing him next. "I just saw the easiest solution, or the easiest way, and that's what I did," he said.

McGovern's testimony contrasted with testimony against him last week by Hill, who said he and McGovern planned the killings to steal drugs from the victims.

McGovern testified that weeks earlier a friend had sold Toole and Matheson, both 20, a bad batch of the drug Ecstacy. The two repeatedly beat up McGovern's friend, he said.

Toole and Matheson also blamed McGovern and Hill for the bad deal. The two heard rumors that Toole and Matheson planned to kill them, he testified.

But Toole and Matheson got their money back, and tensions appeared to die down. McGovern and Hill discussed killing the other two, but only if threatened, McGovern said.

On May 6, 2002, McGovern and Hill went to Toole and Matheson's rural Puna home to sell a .22-caliber rifle to them. They practiced firing the rifle in the back yard.

Hill went into the house, then came back and said the other two were "snapping," McGovern said.

Hill and McGovern went back to the house, but McGovern saw no sign of trouble. Hill and Matheson went outside.

"Next thing I know, I heard a gunshot," McGovern said. He saw Matheson fall forward. He thought, "Wow, now I've got to shoot Cas."

As planned, he shot Toole. "I just reacted to what was going on and did what I was told," he said.

In other defense testimony, former Oregon state medical examiner Dr. William Brady said a bullet wound found in Matheson's jaw would have left him bent over, spitting and coughing blood. That appeared to cast doubt on Hill's testimony that Matheson was lying on his back, face up, when McGovern fired the second shot.

Hill testified that each of the men shot each of the victims once, for a total of two bullets each.

Hill's testimony was part of a plea agreement that allows him to avoid a first-degree murder charge and ensures the possibility of parole. McGovern faces first- and second-degree murder charges.


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