Ex-American Airlines pilot convicted in gruesome 2015 triple murder in Kentucky
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Two years after commercial airline pilot Christian “Kit” Martin was pulled off a jet at the Louisville airport and charged with a gruesome triple murder in western Kentucky, a jury Wednesday found him guilty, according to the attorney general’s office.
Martin, 53, was convicted of the murders of three people in Christian County in a case that was tried on a change of venue in Hardin County.
The case attracted national attention when Martin, a former Army major who flew for American Airlines, was handcuffed at the airline gate as he was about to take off May 11, 2019. He was still wearing his pilot’s uniform when he was booked on three counts of complicity to murder, arson and other charges.
The attorney general’s office of special prosecutions said Martin on Nov. 18, 2015, fatally shot three of his neighbors: Edward Dansereau and Calvin and Pamela Phillips, a married couple.
Calvin Phillips was found dead in his Pembroke, Kentucky, home on Nov. 19, and the remains of Dansereau and Pamela Phillips were discovered in a burnt vehicle in a field.
Special prosecutors Barbara Whaley and Alex Garcia told the jury that Martin killed Calvin Phillips because he was about to testify in Martin’s military court-martial trial on multiple charges.
The military court eventually convicted Martin on one count of mishandling classified information and one count of assault on a child. He was sentenced to 90 days in jail and was discharged after 30 years of military service.
The prosecution claimed that Dansereau and Phillips’ wife were collateral damage.
“The families and the Pembroke community have endured a profound loss,” Attorney General Daniel Cameron said in a statement Wednesday night. “While this verdict in no way eases that pain, I hope that they find some peace and comfort today.”
The sentencing phase of the trial will begin Thursday.
Martin’s attorney, assistant public advocate Tom Griffiths, did not immediately respond to a request for comment after the verdict.
He argued in an opening statement that the prosecution’s theory that his client wanted to silence a witness in his court martial made no sense because Phillips also was set to testify for the defense in the military trial.
The jury heard conflicting accounts of the crime that went unsolved for years.
In an opening statement earlier this month, Whaley said Martin had the motive to kill Calvin Phillips because a conviction in the court martial could have ended his 30-year military career.
She also said prosecutors would show that a shell casing found five months after the crime was conclusively shown to have been fired from a .45-caliber handgun found in a safe in Martin’s home across the street.
Whaley, an assistant attorney general, also told the jury that the victim’s family later found Martin’s dog tags on a shelf in their historic home.
But Griffiths noted there were no eyewitnesses to the crime, no DNA and no fingerprints. And he said he would present forensic proof that the bullets that killed the victims did not come from his client’s gun.
Griffiths suggested the damning evidence — the shell casing and military ID which mysteriously were missed by police who scoured the home — must have been planted there, possibly by Martin’s angry ex-wife, who had vowed to ruin him.
Reach Louisville Courier Journal reporter on Twitter: @adwolfson.
This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: American Airlines ex-pilot convicted in Kentucky 2015 triple murder