The airline pilot arrested over the weekend and accused of killing three people in Kentucky in 2015 had said in an interview months later that he had no motive for the murders since one of his alleged victims was his “star defense witness” in a sexual assault court-martial he was facing.
PSA Airlines pilot Christian Richard Martin, 51, was arrested Saturday at Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport and charged with three counts of murder, one of arson, one of attempted arson, burglary in the first degree and three counts of tampering with physical evidence.
He is accused of murdering his neighbors, married couple Calvin and Pamela Phillips, and Edward Dansereau.
Calvin Phillips was found fatally shot at his home in Pembroke, Kentucky, Attorney General Andy Beshear said Saturday. The bodies of Pamela Phillips and Dansereau were found in Calvin Phillips’ car, which had been set on fire in a cornfield a few miles away from the couple’s home, he said.
Following the murders, Martin, who goes by “Kit” and served in the Army from 1986 to 2016, was grilled by military investigators, and his house was raided by a SWAT team, according to NBC affiliate WSMV.
He was eventually released and later moved to North Carolina.
In April of 2016, he was interviewed by WSMV, and said he had no concern he would be held responsible for the murders because he actually needed Calvin Phillips to testify for him in an upcoming court-martial he was facing in which his ex-wife, Joan Harmon, had accused him of physical and sexual abuse and mishandling classified military materials.
The court-martial found Martin guilty of two counts of mishandling classified information and assault on a child under the age of 16, an Army statement said. He was punitively dismissed from the Army, forfeited all pay and allowances and was sentenced to be confined for 90 days.
Martin had served in the Army Reserve from 1986 to 1990, on active duty from 1990 to 1993, in the Army National Guard from 1993 to 2005 and on active duty again from 2005 until he was dismissed in August 2016.
Martin said in the April 2016 interview with WSMV that he suspected Harmon had been involved in a long-term affair with Calvin Phillips.
“Everyone in town knew what was going on while I was at work every day,” Martin said. “They were together all day long, and they didn’t really try to hide it or anything like that.”
But Martin said he wasn’t jealous. In fact, he was grateful to Phillips.
Martin and Harmon had their marriage voided about three years before the November 2015 murders, after he had learned Harmon was actually married to another man.
“I just call her the ex-bigamist,” Martin said in the 2016 interview. Phillips “had gotten me out of this huge mess. I had moved on.”
When Martin and Harmon split, she had promised him “I will ruin your career, I will ruin your life, I know how to do it,” he said. She then accused him of rape, sodomy, child abuse, child molestation, and stealing a military computer, Martin said.
Harmon also “went to the FBI and told them I was an international spy, which is, I know, crazy,” Martin said, adding that Phillips had accompanied her to make that accusation.
“I think his motivation was if I get this guy out of the picture, then I can keep this mistress across the street,” Martin said.
Several attempts to reach Harmon for comment were unsuccessful. Harmon told WSMV in 2016 that she never had an affair with Phillips, and while she admitted to pleading guilty to bigamy, she did so because she couldn’t afford an attorney.
Before he was found guilty in his court-martial, Martin had hired private investigators to help him build a defense. They interviewed Phillips, who said he thought Martin had stolen an Army laptop, according to Martin and tapes of the interviews obtained by WSMV. Phillips said he found the computer when he was helping Harmon clear her stuff out of Martin’s house.
But Phillips also told investigators that Harmon had never said she or her children were abused by Martin. He was scheduled to testify before the court-martial for both Martin and the military, according to WSMV.
Martin said he considered Phillips an asset in his case. “He was my star defense witness,” he said. “My private investigator went through all the allegations with him … and just went down the whole line and just refuted everything. And I was like, I’m golden.”
“And the other thing he had done for me was he had gotten me out of this bigamist relationship. This woman had basically been milking me for eight years, and I didn’t know it. And so I owed him for that really,” Martin said in the interview.
The family of Calvin and Pamela Phillips have long contested that Martin didn’t have a motive to kill the couple.
“I think that notion of this star witness thing is absurd,” Calvin Phillip’s sister, Diana Phillips, told WSMV in 2017.
“My parents died for this court-martial,” the Phillips’ son, Matt Phillips, said Monday. “My father was a federal witness. This was an attack not only on my family but on the entire justice system,” he said.
When asked by WSMV in April 2016 who would have killed the Phillips and Dansereau, Martin suggested Phillips had dealings in a brothel and had been using drugs.
“He was passed out in the road, OD’d like a couple months before the murders too,” Martin said. “If I had wanted to kill him, that would have been a great time to do it, you know, I could’ve just run him over. He was just sitting out there,” Martin told WSMV. No evidence has been presented to support Martin’s claims.
Martin is being held at the Christian County Detention Center without bond and is due to be arraigned May 22. If convicted, he faces life in prison. Prosecutors have indicated they may seek the death penalty, according to court documents.
American Airlines, which owns PSA Airlines, said Martin, who was arrested at a TSA checkpoint as he prepared to fly as first officer from Louisville to Charlotte, was placed on “administrative suspension” pending the outcome of the case.
Tucker Richardson, who defended Martin in during the court-martial said in a statement that when Martin was first suspected of the murders in 2015, “it was believed that Calvin Phillips, one of the victims, was going to be a prosecution witness against Kit, thus establishing a motive.”
“However, based upon our investigation, the truth of the matter was that Mr. Phillips was going to help Kit’s defense,” Richardson said. “We have no idea what prompted this indictment after all these years, but we feel that justice will prevail and Kit Martin will walk away an exonerated man.”