‘Monster’ in the Cockpit: Inside the Crazy Case of the American Airlines Pilot Accused of Triple Murder
Before Christian ‘Kit’ Martin was nabbed at an airport for the 2015 murders of his neighbors, he'd faced accusations before: of stealing military intel and terrorizing his ex-wife.
An American Airlines pilot charged with the 2015 murders of his Kentucky neighbors had a history of disturbing allegations leveled against him—including claims that he sexually abused his ex-wife and beat up her son.
Christian “Kit” Martin, 51, was arrested Saturday just before his commercial plane took off from Muhammad Ali International Airport in Louisville. In his booking photo, Martin appears emotionless while wearing his white pilot’s uniform.
Police cuffed Martin one day after a grand jury indicted him in the slayings of his former neighbors: Calvin and Pamela Phillips, and Edward Dansereau. Martin, a former Army major who moved to North Carolina after the killings, faces three counts of murder, one count of arson, and three counts of tampering with evidence, among other charges.
The brutal slayings occurred on or around Nov. 18, 2015, when 59-year-old Calvin Phillips was found shot to death in the cellar of his Pembroke home. His wife, Pamela, 58, and their neighbor, Dansereau, 63, were discovered fatally shot inside Pamela’s torched vehicle, which was abandoned in a corn field. All victims were viciously murdered beyond recognition, according to the Kentucky Attorney General’s office.
“Every day, we are haunted by what was done to them and haunted further that someone was still free to do as they wish, beyond the civility of mankind or laws of our nation,” the victims’ families said in a statement. “We are overwhelmed with this positive step towards resolution for people we love dearly.”
Martin is scheduled to appear in court on May 22 for an arraignment. The pilot worked for PSA Airlines, a regional subsidiary of American Airlines, since January 2018 and has been suspended pending the outcome of the criminal case. It’s unclear if Martin has a lawyer yet.
Calvin and Pamela’s son, Matt Phillips, said he’s relieved Martin could be facing justice. “After what was done to my parents... They were executed and so, to know that he was still walking around every day is excruciating,” Phillips told WAVE 3 News in Louisville.
On Monday, the indictment shed more light on what allegedly happened to the victims. Martin, “acting alone or in complicity with another or others,” murdered Calvin by shooting him with a .45 caliber pistol, the document states. The Army vet then shot Pamela and Edward with a .22 caliber weapon, placed them in a car and set the vehicle ablaze, the indictment alleges.
The indictment states Martin broke into the Phillips residence, armed with a deadly weapon, in order to attack his victims.
Matt Phillips said that two weeks before the killings, his father was scheduled to testify against Martin at a court-martial, or military trial.
Before they died, Calvin and Pamela believed they were being stalked, Matt told News4 in Nashville in 2017. Pamela allegedly informed her son that she’d seen Martin in the fields near their home. “My parents felt like they were being surveilled, watched,” Matt said.
According to Matt, the victims were trying to help Martin’s ex-wife and her son move out of Martin’s Pembroke home. In the course of moving, they allegedly discovered discs labeled “secret operation” and a photo that indicated Martin’s stepson was physically abused, and turned them over to the FBI.
Those materials, Matt said, led to Martin’s court-martial in 2016.
On Monday, the stepson, Justin Harmon, came forward to call Martin a “monster.”
“He would hide behind a mask out in public, in front of everybody, and act like he was this great major in the military,” Justin told News4, adding, “Behind closed doors he was very evil. He was a tyrant, he was a monster. All of the above.”
“I was the one he targeted the most,” Justin told the Nashville TV station. “Beat me all the time. Smack me around, punch me, whatever.”
Justin said Calvin once witnessed Martin hit him. “I was out mowing the lawn one day and I made the line a little too crooked, and he started smacking me around for it and told me I was doing it wrong,” Justin told News4. “And then Cal came over and took me out of there.”
His family never had doubts about who was behind the Pembroke murders.
“I believe that he took out the witnesses,” Justin said. “I hope that he gets the worst punishment that’s available to him.”
In May 2016, Martin was found guilty of two counts of simple assault and two counts of mishandling classified information, according to the Kentucky New Era, a daily newspaper in Hopkinsville. Martin faced other charges, including the sexual abuse of his wife and her children but was found not guilty.
The pilot ultimately served six months in a military prison, News4 reported.
“(Martin) attempted to create a facade outside in the community,” prosecutor Capt. Jacob Bashore said at the time, according to the Leaf Chronicle in Clarksville, Tennessee. “...but he couldn’t stop that veil from being pierced.”
Bashore said Martin downloaded classified intel—which included a “kill list” of military targets—while he was deployed in the Middle East.
Calvin and Martin’s ex-wife were the ones who turned over the list and other classified materials, which were found on a pair of laptops, two discs and a thumb drive, the Leaf Chronicle reported. Calvin’s sister later discovered and provided military investigators with other documents, News4 reported.
According to the Leaf Chronicle, witnesses who were aged 12, 15, and 19 said Martin abused them physically and sexually as early as 2008 when he was stationed in Germany.
Martin’s defense attorney, Tucker Richardson, suggested his ex-wife lacked credibility, and had allegedly warned Martin she’d “ruin his career” if they divorced. The defense also pointed out that she was already married to a Tennessee man when she wed Martin in 2004, and that she pleaded guilty to bigamy in 2015.
Reached via email, Martin’s ex-wife told The Daily Beast that his private investigators “have harassed me, my family and friends.”
“He has told countless lies,” she said of Martin. “He has used many legal tactics and games. My children and I have been through enough.”
“Pam and Cal were like family. They helped me escape an abusive man. They loved me and my children and we loved them,” the former spouse added.
In one April 2016 interview with News4, Martin said he believed his wife and Calvin Phillips were having an affair—an allegation they both denied. The woman later told the TV station of the extramarital accusation, “My ex-husband has been trying to say that since I left him.”
After the murders, military investigators detained Martin for days and a SWAT team raided his home, but Martin wasn’t charged, News4 reported.
As a result of his court-martial, Martin joined Save Our Heroes, a nonprofit that aids service members “who are facing false allegations” in military courts. The group’s website lists Martin as Director of Support.
One December 2016 Facebook post by Save Our Heroes described Martin’s case like a made-for-TV movie:
“Kit thought he had it all; a fairy tale marriage to a beautiful wife, three step-kids he raised as his own, and a distinguished military career ahead of him. Unknown to him, his marriage was a fairy tale, actually it was a fraud; it wasn’t real, and when he tried to divorce his cheating ‘bigamist’ wife; a woman with a secret past, she promised to ruin his life.”
Mike Conzachi, a private eye and Save Our Heroes’ director of investigations, told The Daily Beast he believes Martin’s current murder charges are “a complete setup.”
“This is a case in which they were given, early on, who had the motive to commit this crime,” said Conzachi, who worked on Martin’s 2016 defense. “They knew that from day one. They ignored that and focused on Kit Martin.”
Conzachi, who is a retired homicide detective, said authorities should be looking at Martin’s ex-wife instead. “This is not a guy who has a history of anything. He’s just an average good soldier who wanted to serve his country,” Conzachi added. “The only mistake he made was marrying a woman he didn’t know anything about.”
The private investigator also claims Martin’s ex-wife and Calvin tried to implicate Martin as an international spy, and as a result, the feds put Martin through a 3.5-hour polygraph examination. Martin was cleared, Conzachi told The Daily Beast.
In early November, about 12 days before the murders, Conzachi and a local Kentucky P.I. interviewed Calvin, and the audio was later provided to News4. Asked why he took Martin’s military computer and discs, Calvin answered, “When I see the amount of classified, I look at that and going, ‘This isn't supposed to be here.’”
During this interview, Calvin also said Martin’s ex-wife told him she was “afraid” of Martin and “concerned for her welfare.”
Calvin reportedly told the private investigators that Martin’s former spouse never said that Martin was molesting her children or sexually abusing her.
After this conversation, Conzachi said, Martin’s team considered Calvin “the primary defense witness.” (Martin said he considered Calvin his “star witness” in one TV interview, though Calvin’s sister called the idea “nonsense” in 2017.)
“I know Kit Martin,” Conzachi told The Daily Beast. “He is an outstanding human being. He’s lived his life in an exemplary manner. He has never had one whisper or hint of any misconduct whatsoever. The guy hasn’t even gotten a parking ticket.
“Actually, he’s kind of so squeaky clean that he’s nerdy.”
Asked for comment on Conzachi’s claims that Martin’s ex should be investigated for the murders instead, Matt Phillips said, “He’s paying someone to say that. Please consider if this is a credible source.
“In the end, there will be a trial and that evidence will bring about a verdict.”