A former American Airlines pilot was found guilty Wednesday of murdering three people in Kentucky in 2015.
After a two week trial, a jury found Christian Richard Martin guilty of all charges against him, including three counts of murder, one count of arson in the first degree, one count of attempted arson, two counts of burglary in the first degree, and three counts of tampering with physical evidence, Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron announced.
Martin fatally shot three of his neighbors, Edward Dansereau and married couple Calvin and Pamela Phillips on Nov. 18, 2015, Cameron said.
Calvin Phillips was found dead in his Pembroke home the next day and the bodies of Pamela Phillips and Dansereau were found in Calvin Phillips' vehicle, which had been set on fire in a corn field a few miles away from the couple's residence.
“Our hearts and prayers are with the family and friends of these victims,” Cameron said. “The families and the Pembroke community have endured a profound loss. While this verdict in no way eases that pain, I hope that they find some peace and comfort today."
Martin’s attorney, assistant public advocate Tom Griffiths, did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Thursday.
The Kentucky Attorney General's office took over the case in 2017 after the Phillips' son, Matt Phillips, went to then-Attorney General Andy Beshear and expressed fear that the investigation had gone cold.
Prosecutors zeroed in on Martin, who had moved from the jurisdiction of the case — Christian County, Kentucky — to North Carolina.
Martin had worked for PSA Airlines, a subsidiary of American Airlines, for slightly more than a year when he was arrested on May 11, 2019, as he prepared to fly as first officer on a flight from Louisville to Charlotte, North Carolina.
His trial was originally scheduled to happen in Christian County, but pre-trial publicity prompted a judge to order it be held over 100 miles away in Kentucky's Hardin County.
Prosecutors said that the murders happened two weeks before Calvin Phillips was scheduled to testify in a military court-martial trial, in which Martin, who served in the Army from 1986 to 2016, faced multiple charges.
But Martin maintained that he had no motive to kill Calvin Phillips because he believed he was going to be his "star witness" in the upcoming court-martial. The case revolved around Martin's ex-wife, Joan Harmon, accusing him of physical and sexual abuse and mishandling classified military materials.
Martin said in an April 2016 interview with NBC affiliate 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 accused him of rape, sodomy, child abuse, child molestation, and stealing a military computer, he said.
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 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 on behalf of 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.
The court-martial eventually found Martin guilty of one count of mishandling classified information and assault on a child under the age of 16. He was punitively dismissed from the Army, forfeited all pay and allowances and was sentenced to 90 days in jail.
The family of Calvin and Pamela Phillips have long maintained that Martin did in fact 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," Matt Phillips said in 2019. "My father was a federal witness. This was an attack not only on my family but on the entire justice system."