The American Airlines pilot who was arrested for a triple murder minutes before he was to fly a plane out of Louisville airport pleaded not guilty on Wednesday to a slew of charges that could see him face the death penalty.
Christian ‘Kit’ Martin ambled nonchalantly into court in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, shackled at the waist and ankles. He had been due to appear via video from his temporary home in the jail across the street from the courtroom, but technical problems led to Judge John Atkins calling him in person.
Martin, dressed in an orange jail jumpsuit and gray Nike sneakers, did not speak during the brief hearing.
Martin, a former Army major denies killing three neighbors, Calvin Phillips, 59, his wife Pamela Phillips, 57, and Ed Dansereau, 63 in the small Kentucky town of Pembroke in 2015.
Calvin had been having an affair with Martin’s wife, Joan Harmon, and Martin killed Pam and Dansereau in a twisted plot to cover his tracks, neighbors believe.
Family and friends of the victims were at the hearing expecting to see Martin on a screen. Instead he walked just feet from them, looking them straight in the eye.
Afterwards, the Phillipses’ s son Matt said: ‘I don’t know what was in his mind this morning. My hope is that the case can go forward in a timely fashion. My grandparents are both 83. They deserve to see justice for their son.’
American Airlines pilot Christian Martin, 51, pleaded not guilty Wednesday to the 2015 murders of three people
In November 2015, authorities found Calvin Phillips (left), 59, shot to death in the cellar of his home. His wife, Pamela Phillips (right), 58, was found a few miles away in a cornfield inside her burned out car
The couple’s neighbor, Edward Dansereau (pictured), 63, was also found in the burning vehicle alongside Pamela
The couple’s son Matt Phillips appeared in court today hand-in-hand with his grandmother Margaret Phillips
Prosecutors say Martin shot Calvin Phillips with a .45 caliber pistol on November 18, 2015 and used a different weapon, a .22 caliber gun, to kill Pam Phillips and the couple’s neighbor, country musician Ed Dansereau.
Christian ‘Kit’ Martin was arrested as he was about to pilot a flight full of passengers on May 11
He allegedly dragged Cal Phillips’s body to the basement of Phillips’s house in Pembroke, Kentucky, and tried to burn it down. He drove the bodies of Pam Phillips and Dansereau to a remote road in her car and set it on fire.
The damage was so complete that police initially thought only one body was in the car and they couldn’t tell whether it was male or female. They couldn’t even make out the make or model of the vehicle.
Martin, 51, is charged with three counts of murder, two of burglary, two of tampering with evidence, one of arson and one of attempted arson. Prosecutors have not yet decided whether to seek the death penalty. Kentucky has only executed one person in the last 20 years.
Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear said he believes the state has ‘a very compelling case’ against Martin.
The twists and turns of Kit Martin’s case captivated people in southwestern Kentucky even before he was arrested an hour before he was due to pilot American Airlines Flight 5523 from Louisville’s Muhammad Ali Airport to Charlotte early on May 11.
The former Army Major thought he was married for a decade to Joan Harmon. It was only later he discovered Harmon was already married when they tied the knot and so the marriage was never legal.
Harmon was charged with bigamy in 2014 and given five years pre-trial diversion.
Martin’s former lawyer said his ‘downfall’ was meeting his wife Joan (right). He has been accused of murdering three people in 2015 and was arrested in Kentucky
This is the home where Christian Martin allegedly murdered Calvin Phillips in Pembroke, Kentucky, U.S. May 19, 2019.
This affidavit signed by Martin just two months before the murder shows his belief that his wife Joan lied to him and her two ex husbands
‘Kit’s real downfall was meeting Joan,’ his former lawyer Tucker Richardson told DailyMail.com. ‘She said she would ruin his life and, boy, has she succeeded.
‘This man is an American hero. He retired from the Army and founded a successful business chartering helicopters, Then, after 9/11 he quits and signs up again and does three tours of duty in Iraq.’
Martin told conservative blogger Bob McCarty that Harmon told him in 2014: ‘If you divorce me, I will ruin your career. I will ruin your life. I know how to do it.’
‘Then she started to list all the threats she was going to do. ‘I’m going to tell them you are abusive,’ Martin continued in the interview 11 weeks before the murders.
He told McCarty that Harmon was having an affair with a neighbor around that time. Although he did not identify that neighbor, McCarty confirmed to DailyMail.com that it was Cal Phillips, one of the murdered men.
Martin said when his ‘wife’ threatened him, in early 2014, he insisted on calling the police who told him he had to leave his house in Pembroke, just across the street from Dansereau’s house, and get a hotel room. By the time he could get back in, two weeks later, he claims Harmon and Phillips had stolen everything.
‘She and her boyfriend stripped it of everything they could carry, all my family heirlooms, documents, things of that nature,’ he told McCarty.
Soon after, Martin found himself the subject of a court martial, brought on by evidence provided by Harmon and Phillips. The murders occurred just two weeks before the scheduled date for the hearing December, 2015.
Calvin Phillips (left with wife Pam and Matt as a child) was to give evidence against Kit Martin at a court martial where he was eventually acquitted of child sex abuse charges but found guilty of mishandling classified information
‘I don’t know what was in his mind this morning,’ the Phillips’ son Matt said of Martin after the court hearing. ‘My hope is that the case can go forward in a timely fashion’
Martin has been indicted on two counts of first degree murder, arson, attempted arson, burglary and three counts of tampering with evidence
Phillips was due to be a witness at the military hearing. But even the role he was to have played is in dispute. Martin’s supporters say he had changed his mind and had decided to be a witness for the defense — attorney Richardson said he would have been Martin’s ‘star witness.’
But Phillips’s friends say he was going to give evidence against the former Army Ranger.
‘I don’t know where the story about Cal testifying for Martin came from,’ Phillips’s best friend Steve Durham told DailyMail.com in an exclusive interview. ‘But he clearly told me he was going to testify against him.’
Martin was eventually found guilty of mishandling evidence and assault. He was sentenced to 90 days in the brig and dismissed from the service.
Harmon, 47, did not respond to detailed questions emailed her. Her current boyfriend, William Stokes, told DailyMail.com she is in hiding.
Harmon was still married to her second husband, Guatemalan immigrant Carlos Guerra, when she and Martin walked down the aisle in 2004. Martin says it was only when he filed for divorce in 2014 that he found their marriage had never been legal.
Harmon had walked out on her first husband while pregnant with his child and told everyone — including their son — that the man had been decapitated in a logging accident in Oregon.
‘That’s a story you don’t forget,’ Martin told McCarty. But when he hired private detectives they found the man was still alive.’
Martin was Fort Campbell Army Major before retiring and becoming a commercial pilot
Neighbor Steve Durham told DailyMail.com that he believes Martin is guilty in the murder of his friend Calvin Phillips
Murder victim Edward Dansereau lived in this house in Pembroke, Kentucky. His charred body was found in a burning car miles away
She then married Guerra, who she had met as they worked together in a chicken processing plant in Iowa. They had two daughters, who are now 18 and 15.
But once she met Martin through Yahoo Personals she started to claim her husband had sexually assaulted her and the girls and she persuaded Martin to help her move out of the home she shared with Guerra in Madison, Tennessee, while he was at work.
‘She claimed I had climbed through the window with a knife in one hand and I had my other hand on her private parts,’ Guerra, 50, told DailyMail.com in an exclusive interview.
‘She took everything out of the apartment, all the furniture everything. It was completely empty,’ Guerra added. ‘All she left were my clothes.’
‘It was five days before my younger girl’s first birthday. I called the police but they said they could do nothing because it was a marital dispute.’
Guerra didn’t see his daughters for 10 years — and that was only after Martin’s detectives contacted him and he could finally locate his wife and file for divorce.
‘She is crazy,’ said Guerra. ‘Don’t believe a single word she tells you. She lies constantly.
‘She told the girls I was a trained killer in the Guatemalan military — but that is not true, I’m a fork lift driver. She told her son his father had been killed before he was born, how sick is that?’
Martin signed an affidavit supporting Guerra’s contention that Harmon should not be allowed to relocate with her children outside Kentucky.
‘It is my firm belief that my former wife will again flee from this area and conceal her whereabouts from the fathers of her children in an effort to prevent any contact between the children and their fathers,’ he wrote.
Martin is pictured with Laura Spencer – who is presumed to be his girlfriend- dressed in ceremonial military garb
Kit Martin and his ‘wife’ Joan Harmon lived in this house in Pembroke across the street from Dansereau before their marriage was voided in 2014 due to her bigamy’
But not everyone believes Martin had been wronged. Steve Durham told DailyMail.com he is sure police have finally got the right man in the triple murder.
‘I am convinced that Kit Martin killed them. No-one else had any reason to,’ Durham, 64, said.
‘I believe he shot Cal and then shot Ed and Pam and put them in the car. He tried to burn the house down and if that had happened it would have been a big collapse and they probably would never have found Cal’s body in the basement.
‘He made it look like Ed and Pam were having an affair and that Cal had killed them, then burned his house down and gone on the run — and they would never have found him.’
But the fire in the two-story brick house on Pembroke’s Main Street, failed to burn because all the windows were shut and there was not enough oxygen for the flames to take.
Friends of the Phillip family believe the couple were murdered because Calvin Phillips was going to give evidence against the former Army Ranger
Another neighbor, Mark A. Hicks, told DailyMail.com he too believed Martin is the killer. ‘There was a lot of heat and madness going on,’ he said.
‘Kit found that Cal was having an affair with his wife and it got into tit for tat actions one against the other. I have no doubt Kit killed them. Ed even said to me a few days before the killings, ‘I have got to get away. Things are getting crazy.’
Phillips’ son, Matt, agrees that Martin is the man who killed his parents. ‘It’s just a relief to know he’s where he should be,’ he said in an interview with Wave3 News.
‘After what was done to my parents…They were executed and so, to know that he was still walking around every day is excruciating,’ he added.
Martin had been linked with the murders since they occurred but prosecutors had never been able to get enough proof to take the case to court. The suspicions didn’t stop him getting a job with PSA Airlines, a subsidiary of American, in January 2018. The airline says he is now suspended pending the outcome of the case.
Even now Attorney General Beshear is not saying what new evidence allowed him to convince a Grand Jury to indict Martin.
McCarty, told DailyMail.com that he believes Beshear announced the charges for political reasons just 10 days before Tuesday’s Democratic primary for Governor, which he won.
‘I believe Beshear used the filing of multiple murder charges against Martin as a publicity stunt prior to the gubernatorial primary election,’ said McCarty.