Kake man held in Juneau jail was distraught over brother's passing

Posted: Sunday, October 24, 2010

Eugene Cavanaugh, 44, and his brother Roderick, 42, were best friends, hunting partners and teammates on the 1983-84 Kake High School state championship Thunderbird basketball team. On Friday, Eugene was in court, charged with assaulting his nephew and upset over his brother's passing weeks earlier.

"They were inseparable," their mother, Dorothy Cavanaugh, said Friday afternoon outside Juneau District Court after Eugene's hearing. "They were best friends and they looked out after each other. They talked every day together. They fished together, hunted, they laughed ... they were very close."

Rod died Oct. 2 after the bicycle he was riding careened down a Kake hill and smashed into a telephone pole. He wasn't wearing a helmet and state troopers believe alcohol was a factor.

"I lost my best friend," Eugene said in court to Judge Keith Levy. "I went on a huge drinking binge ... I would never hurt my nephew. I caught him with my girlfriend and I got a little pissed off."

Eugene was referring to Thursday evening. According to a report by Kake Village Public Safety Officer Aaron Loges and Alaska State Trooper Jeff Landvatter, Eugene barged into a room in Kake where his girlfriend and his nephew were watching television with a friend. Cavanaugh yelled at his nephew, struck him, pulled out a pocketknife and began stabbing the couch near him.

"It was his brother's room," Dorothy said. "No one was to be in that room. It upset Eugene deeply. His girlfriend and his nephew were playing video games and the door was shut."

According to the report, Eugene then put his nephew into a headlock and placed the knife to his throat threatening to kill him. Eugene left the area after allegedly stabbing his nephew once above the collarbone. The nephew said he was able to push Eugene's arm away. The nephew was transported to the Kake Medical Clinic where the Village Public Safety Officer observed the laceration to be 1 centimeter long and 1 centimeter deep, according to the report. Eugene turned himself in at Juneau and was lodged at Lemon Creek Correctional Center.

"I love my nephew," Eugene said when the report was read in court. "I will always love him, I would never hurt him."

Levy advised Eugene to not make any statements and asked him questions to determine if he could afford an attorney or needed public advocacy.

Eugene was charged with one count of second-degree assault, a class B Felony.

Eugene stated he had a house, boat, truck and hand troll license so Levy said he did not qualify for a public defender. The state asked for and the court granted bail at $20,000.

Approached in the lobby by Dorothy, District Attorney Doug Gardner was told that none of Cavanaugh's assets currently work, are not sellable property or worth purchase and he only has $400 to his name.

Gardner decided to return to the courtroom to pass that information on to the judge. But when the judge asked Eugene about the disarray of his properties, Eugene said he had just fixed the items.

"He was just being proud," Dorothy said. "Kake men are proud ... he didn't want to seem destitute."

Levy said he appreciated what everyone was trying to do for Eugene but by his own admittance the items worked and therefore the value did not support a public defender.

A preliminary hearing will be set within 10 days unless Eugene is indicted by a grand jury.

• Contact reporter Klas Stolpe at 523-2263 or at klas.stolpe@juneauempire.com.

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