The jury found Christian “Kit” Martin guilty of all charges in the 2015 Pembroke triple murder case held in Hardin County Wednesday night.
Martin was found guilty of killing Calvin and Pamela Phillips as well as their neighbor Edward Dansereau, and burning two of the bodies in a vehicle on Nov. 18, 2015.
After the jury spent seven and a half hours deliberating, the jury delivered its verdict to Judge John Atkins, who read the verdict out loud just after 8 p.m. Central Time.
The jury found Martin, 52, guilty of three counts of murder, two counts of first-degree burglary, one count of first-degree arson, criminal attempt to commit first-degree arson and three counts of tampering with physical evidence.
After hearing the guilty verdict, the defense requested that the jury be polled individually to hear if that was in fact each of their verdicts. All members of the jury said yes, it was their verdict.
The jury came to their conclusion after hearing both the defense and the prosecution deliver their closing statements Wednesday morning.
Defense’s closing argumentsMartin appeared in Hardin County court in front of Christian Circuit Judge John Atkins along with his defense attorneys Tom Griffiths, Doug Moore and Olivia Adams as the defense did its best to convince the jury to give Martin a not guilty verdict.
The defense began the final day of the trial with its closing arguments, stating Martin is not guilty and felt that the prosecution did not do its job to prove without reasonable doubt that Martin is guilty.
Griffiths’ first words were quoting what two witnesses, including Martin himself, testified to hearing Martin’s ex-wife Joan Harmon say the night the two separated.
“ ‘If you divorce me, I will ruin your life and I know how to do it,’ ” Griffiths said as his first words to the jury. “Well, she sure got that right. Nobody knows how to hurt us better than family.”
Harmon was a recurring theme throughout the defense’s closing statements as the defense asserted that Harmon may have committed these crimes rather than Martin.
Griffiths continued on stating that the prosecution has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Martin committed the murders, but argued that Martin is not guilty.
“The prosecutor bears the burden to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Chris (Martin) did this and they can’t and they haven’t, because he did not do this,” Griffiths said.
Griffiths then moved to discuss a focus of the commonwealth in the case, Martin’s potential motive to kill Calvin Phillips.
He argued that the prosecution had focused on Martin having motive to kill Calvin Phillips as he was slated to testify against Martin in the military court martial against Martin.
Griffiths countered that theory by reminding the jury that it heard testimony that Calvin was also scheduled to testify on behalf of Martin in the case and that Martin testified that Calvin was his most important witness.
“Chris wanted him there at that court martial, because he would be able to give a different version than Joan’s version,” Griffiths said.
“He’d be able to say what were the real circumstances under which those items for the court martial were found. That was critical, because we’ve heard from multiple witnesses about the way Joan does business.”
Girffiths argued that Harmon had a “constant malicious presence” in Martin’s life as well as a history of making threats, abusing animals, lying and making allegations against her significant others.
He began his focus on Harmon by stating that according to testimony from several witnesses as well as video that Harmon had possession of Pamela Phillips’ phone and attempted to take it to AT&T in Hopkinsville. Griffiths added that cell phone location evidence also put Pamela’s phone in Elkton, where Harmon was living at the time.
He also asserted that Harmon had access to Martin’s guns and truck and could have used his .45 Glock to essentially frame him.
Griffiths also focused on the evidence in this case, stating that the dog tag discovered in the Phillips’ home allegedly belonging to Martin was the “most ridiculous” piece of evidence he had ever seen.
“The most obviously planted thing I’ve ever seen is this (dog tag),” Martin said to the jury. “It is actually ridiculous.
“Chris told you and just like everyone I have ever seen who has dog tags in the military, they come in a pair, they’re on a chain. Chris has a rubber sort of bumper thing on his. None of those things are true on this.”
Griffiths also suggested that Calvin Phillips’ subpoena was found spread out too neatly on the top of a messy desk to not have been put on display for law enforcement to find.
Griffiths confirmed that two firearms examination experts matched the .45 caliber shell casing found at the Phillips’ home five months after the initial investigation to Martin’s .45 Glock that was obtained from his safe.
However, he argued that none of the bullets that were recovered from Calvin’s body were able to be matched to Martin’s Glock and were “unlikely” to have been fired from his gun.
Griffiths continued his statements by reminding the jury that the Durhams, Steve and Linda, had keys to the Phillips’ home and could have possibly planted evidence. He added that Ken Buckner, who was hired to do construction on the Phillips’ home, also testified that he quit working on the home after finding the home unlocked and things moved while no one was supposed to be there following the murders.
As to the commonwealth’s witnesses testifying that Calvin and Pamela told their friends that they feared Martin would kill them, Griffiths stated that no one testified in the trial that Martin had made any threats to the Phillips family.
Griffiths also provided side-by-side video of Martin’s security footage putting him on the back porch towards midnight on Nov. 18, while security footage from the home of John Hommick, who owns the property the burnt vehicle was discovered on, showed smoke had began drifting over to his property from the burnt car.
Finally, another large part of the defense’s argument centered around cell phone evidence and the location of Martin’s and Pamela’s phone.
Griffiths reiterated that testimony regarding cell phone location put Martin at his home on Nov. 18 at the time of the murders, using his phone almost constantly. On Nov. 19, cell phone evidence put Martin’s phone in Pembroke, Fort Campbell and Clarksville, while Pamela’s phone was indicated to be in the area of Elkton all day.
Griffiths ended his statement by asking the jury to find Martin not guilty and consider that was only “desperate” evidence in the case.
Prosecution’s closing arguments
The prosecution, however, during its closing statements argued that Martin should be found guilty as enough evidence was presented to prove that Martin is guilty as well as argued that no one else had the means or the motive to commit the triple murder.
Attorney General Special Prosecutor Barbara Whaley stated to the jury that no one else could have committed these military-precise murders and that the defense implicated Harmon to divert the jury’s attention from Martin and the evidence against him.
She added that the evidence was not planted and the case is not a “grand conspiracy.”
“This was not a group effort to plant evidence, to fabricate testimony, this was not some grand conspiracy to charge and take this man to trial for these crimes,” Whaley said to the jury, adding the Kentucky State Police and the Christian County Sheriff’s Office put everything they had into the case without having a motive to pin the murders on Martin.
Whaley continued to argue that KSP Lead Detective Scott Smith testified to smelling a distinct odor of kerosene at the scene of the burnt car, the same flammable liquid Martin had 5-gallon jugs of at his home.
As for cell phone evidence, Whaley pointed out that Martin had past work experience at GTE Wireless, maintaining a cellular network and with that experience, Martin knew how to manipulate cell phones.
As the commonwealth did during its case presentation, Whaley brought focus again to Martin’s motive, which she stated was to prevent Calvin Phillips from testifying at the court martial against him and ending his military career.
“Try as they might, that trial was still going forward with Calvin Phillips as you heard from (U.S. Army) Maj. (James) Garrett as the critical witness, the case would never have been brought without Calvin Phillips,” Whaley said, adding that Calvin also helped turn over the evidence that was used in the court martial against Martin.
Whaley also focused on Martin’s means and opportunity to commit the murders, with years of military experience, several guns in the home as well as the knowledge of the Phillips’ schedules.
“Carrying out, planning, preparing a military operation that no one else could have pulled off, least of all Joan Harmon,” Whaley said, adding that it would have been almost impossible for Harmon to take Martin’s .45 Glock and one of his three .22 caliber guns, kill three people with “military precision” and dispose of two of the bodies by burning them.
She also stated that the last thing someone who committed three murders would do is keep one of the victims’ cellphones and later take it to AT&T.
“Keep in mind, if she had done it she would know that she had Pam Phillips’ cell phone, because that’s whose phone was found in her yard, where (Martin) threw it,” Whaley said to the jury. “The very last thing she would do is take the phone and turn it into the AT&T store.”
Whaley finished her argument by emphasizing the evidence the commonwealth presented to the jury, including the hairs found in Dansereau’s vehicle that were considered to be “similar” to Martin’s hair.
She continued to state the ballistics testing indicated that the bullets found in the bodies of Pamela and Dansereau could have been fired by any of the three .22 guns Martin owned.
She also argued that while most of the crime scene was cleaned up, Martin, who she said had been interrupted by friends of Calvin and Pam came to the house looking for them, forgot about the dog tag he left there and simply missed the .45 shell casing on the back porch.
She concluded her closing statements requesting that the jury do “the right thing” and find Martin guilty on all charges.
The jury will return to Hardin County court Thursday at 8 a.m. to recommend the sentencing in the case.