Pilot killed 3 neighbours to cover up his past – then history caught up with him

Dressed in his PSA Airlines uniform, pilot Christian “Kit” Martin turned heads as he strode to the departure gate at Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport, Kentucky, on 11 May 2019.

The former army major with a military career that spanned 30 years was ready to fly a plane to Charlotte, North Carolina, for PSA, a regional subsidiary of American Airlines. But as he got to the security checkpoint, ready to board the plane for the early morning flight, he was stopped by police.

Suddenly heads were turning for all the wrong reasons. Martin was put in handcuffs, arrested and publicly taken into custody. He would never fly again.

The charge? The triple murder of three of his neighbours. It was an enormous fall from grace, and it was only going to get worse for Martin. His past was about to catch up with him.

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Martin had risen to major in the US Army

Four years earlier, Martin had been living in the small town of Pembroke, Kentucky. After a prestigious army career flying helicopters, Martin was in emotional turmoil.

His marriage to his wife, Joan, had ended and the split had turned bitter. Martin had also discovered that Joan had been married to another man when they wed in 2004.

She would go on to be charged with bigamy and was given five years “pretrial diversion” – a supervision programme. But in turn, Joan accused Martin of being controlling and abusive.

As Joan moved out of the family home with her son from a previous relationship, neighbour Calvin Phillips, who lived across the road, helped Joan with her belongings. Calvin lived with his wife Pamela.

Martin with his then wife Joan, who he later discovered was a bigamist

While there was absolutely no evidence of an affair, Martin believed that Calvin and Joan had been in a relationship.

Accusations were flying around – and more were coming – as tempers frayed.

While moving out, Calvin and Joan found a military computer and computer discs which they believed contained classified information. They took them to the police.

Martin was suddenly facing a court martial and a discharge from the army. He was accused of mishandling classified military information and there were also charges relating to the sexual abuse of a minor.

Calvin, 59, was due to be a witness at the court martial. Fiercely denying the charges, Martin insisted that his ex-wife had made up the accusations because she had vowed to “ruin him” after their breakup.

Edward Dansereau lost his life with people wondering f he was in the wrong place at the wrong time

On November 18, 2015, a burnt-out car was found in a cornfield near Pembroke. The blaze had been so fierce that, at first, investigators didn’t realise there were two bodies inside. The charred remains were identified as Calvin’s wife Pamela, 58, and Edward Dansereau, 63. Edward was another of Martin’s neighbours. Their deaths were no accident. They both had multiple gunshot wounds.

The car was traced to Pamela’s home where police were shocked to find another horrific crime scene. Pamela’s husband Calvin was dead in the cellar. He’d suffered multiple gunshot wounds and his killer had attempted, unsuccessfully, to burn his body and had shut the cellar doors in a bid to hide the crime.

A triple murder investigation was opened. Who would want to kill the three neighbours? Quickly investigators discovered that just weeks after his death, Calvin was due to testify at Martin’s court martial. Had Calvin been killed to stop him testifying and the others murdered to hide the true target?

Putting Pamela and Edward’s bodies together could make it look like they were having an affair. Did the killer intend to move Calvin’s body before it was discovered to frame him for the murders?

Victims Calvin and Pamela Phillips were shot

But despite extensive investigations, there was nothing to link Martin with the killings and the case ran cold. Martin faced his court martial as planned but without Calvin as a witness. Martin was convicted of mishandling classified information, and also assault on a child. He was sentenced to 90 days in prison and was dismissed from the army.

Martin moved away to North Carolina and built a new life. At the start of 2018, he got a job with PSA Airlines.

But back in Pembroke, Calvin and Pamela’s family were determined there would be justice for them, and for Edward.

They pushed investigators to reopen the case and then came forward with new evidence. The Phillips family found a spent bullet shell casing on the back porch door near the cellar door in Pamela and Calvin’s home. They couldn’t explain how it had been missed years earlier when the police had scoured the crime scene, but they also found a set of Martin’s dog tags on a shelf in the house.

The bullet casing matched a gun that belonged to Martin. Investigators could also now place Martin’s mobile in the area where Pamela and Edward’s bodies were found. Finally, there was enough evidence to charge him.

In May 2019, Martin was arrested at Louisville Airport, moments before he was
due to fly. After his arrest, Martin was still in uniform when his mugshots were taken.

Immediately, Martin denied having anything to do with the deaths of his neighbours. He claimed he was at home at the time with his girlfriend – now his fiancée. She stood by him and would testify they were together at the time of the killings.

As the trial approached, Martin’s ex-wife Joan invoked the Fifth Amendment to avoid testifying. In court this year, the prosecution said that Martin shot Calvin in his home on the morning of 18 November 2015, to stop Calvin testifying at his court martial. He dumped the body in the cellar and tried to burn it. When Pamela returned from her job at a bank, he killed her too by shooting her in the head.
He also shot Edward in the head.

He worked for a regional subsidiary of American Airlines

Was Edward in the wrong place at the wrong time or was he killed to cover up the real target? It was impossible to say as Martin denied his part in the killings. Either way, Pamela and Edward were both collateral damage.

After the killings, Martin had set his alarm for 1.10am the next morning so he could drive Pamela and Edward’s bodies to the field three miles away and set fire to the car. The explosion was heard by a neighbour and the heat of the fire almost disintegrated the car.

The casing found five months after the murders was matched to a gun in Martin’s safe. And the dog tags in the house were his.

The defence said there were no witnesses, no DNA evidence and they disputed the bullets came from Martin’s gun. They also raised questions about the “sudden discovery” of the bullet casing – missed by police – and the dog tags. Could the tags have been planted there by his angry ex-wife Joan? She had, after all, allegedly vowed to “ruin him”.

They also said that Calvin had actually intended to testify in defence of Martin at the court martial – not against him. But this was news to Calvin’s family.

In June this year, after a two-week trial, Martin was found guilty on all charges. Three counts of murder, as well as counts of burglary, arson and tampering with evidence.

At the sentencing, the family of the victims shared their memories. Matt Phillips, Calvin and Pamela’s son, said his mum was warm and kind and his dad was outgoing and energetic. He called them “direct opposites” but they were made for each other. “They’re just gone,” he said. “And the concept of home, where you go for Thanksgiving or for Christmas, or just to go home, this concept of home has been taken… It’s gone.”

Edward’s daughter, Erin, told the court that her dad was a professional jazz pianist
and “passionate lover of life”.

“His spirit was infectious, and his spirit made everyone feel like they were loved,”
she said of her father. “If you were lucky enough to form any kind of relationship with him, it meant he loved you. There were no grey areas. You had a loyal friend for the rest of your life.”

The judge went with the jury’s recommendation of life in prison without parole. His legal team said they’d appeal.

As hard as he tried, Martin couldn’t protect his reputation. And three innocent people lost their lives.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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