Following the jury finding Christian “Kit” Martin guilty of all charges in the 2015 Pembroke triple murder case held in Hardin County Wednesday, the jury met again Thursday morning to deliberate on Martin’s recommended sentence.
Martin, 52, 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.
He was found 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.
Martin appeared one last time in Hardin County court in front of Christian Circuit Judge John Atkins along with his defense attorneys Tom Griffiths, Doug Moore and Olivia Adams to hear what the jury would recommend as his fate in prison.
The jury ultimately recommended that he be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Life in prison without parole is the maximum punishment Martin could receive in the case, while 20 years in prison is the minimum amount the jury can recommend.
Prosecution presents witnesses
Prior to closing arguments being heard by the jury on the matter of sentencing, the commonwealth presented a few witnesses to testify on the impact of losing Calvin and Pamela Phillips or Dansereau.
Attorney General Special Prosecutor Barbara Whaley called Calvin Phillips’ father John Phillips to reflect on raising Calvin as well as the impact of outliving his son.
“It’s been the most devastating thing we’ve ever had,” John Phillips said. “You never dream something like this would happen to your family. So, you think it’s a nightmare that may end, but it never does.”
Calvin and Pamela’s only son, Matt Phillips, also retook the stand to testify on the loss of both of his parents.
Matt previously took the stand on behalf of the commonwealth during the trial phase of the case and was able to share some of the impact of losing his parents, but it had focused more on Calvin than his mother.
Thursday, when he took the stand during the sentencing phase, he took the chance to recall more of his life with his mother Pamela than he did before.
“My mom was incredibly kind,” Matt Phillips said. “She had a warmth about her that I think, biased as I may be, was very rare and anyone that knew her, knew her as one of the sweetest people they had ever known.”
Matt Phillips continued to testify about losing both of his parents as a whole and how that loss means he no longer has a place that feels like home.
“They’re just gone 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,” he said. “My parents loved that house and I grew up in a wonderful little town and it still feels like home, but there’s this void that is, just devastation and totality.”
The last witness the commonwealth called was the daughter of Dansereau, Erin Hilton.
While Hilton spoke about how losing her father impacted her family, she also spoke on behalf of Dansereau’s father who passed away in 2017.
While Hilton read her written impact statement, she quoted what Dansereau’s father, Harry Dansereau, said about losing his son at Dansereau’s funeral.
“ ‘No one in this gathering can question the depth of my sadness at the loss of you, my loving and caring son, my friend and my unequaled fellow traveler,’ ” Hilton said as she read his speech. “True to your nature, you lost your life trying to help someone else.”
Hilton continued to share that her son, who is named after Ed Dansereau’s father, was heavily impacted by the loss of his grandfather.
“He battled anger and anxiety issues at a very young age,” Hilton said. “He couldn’t sleep most nights, because he was afraid of someone breaking in. He had to just deal with heavy stuff at a very young age.”
Hilton’s daughter, who was only two years old at the time had also been significantly impacted, Hilton said.
Following the witnesses sharing their impact statements, the defense was able to deliver its closing arguments to the jury regarding Martin’s recommended sentencing.
Defense’s closing arguments
Before the jury could deliberate on the sentencing issue, the defense requested the jury recommend Martin be given grace and an opportunity to be who the defense believe him to be — a son, father, fiance to Laura Spencer and a loyal friend.
To begin the defense’s closing argument, Adams told the jury that Martin maintains his innocence.
“Despite your verdict, Martin maintains his innocence and to reach the verdict that you did, guilty on all counts, you have to think that our client, our friend, is a monster,” Adams said.
“Kit is not a monster. He is not the cold, calculated, military killing machine that the prosecutor has painted for you the last two and a half weeks.
“Just as each of you are lots of things to lots of different people — sons, daughters, husbands, wives, brothers, sisters — Mr. Martin is too.”
Adams continued to tell the jury that Martin is a wonderful father and fiance and deserves grace from the jury.
She also said that Martin has spent his time in jail the last two years helping other inmates with their cases.
“I’m standing here today, asking you to show Kit some grace,” Adams said.
“You have the opportunity today to set a sentence that just might allow Kit, one day, to know his grandchildren, that might allow his grandchildren to know him outside of a room with glass and a table.”
Adams continued to tell the jury that the right decision would be to ensure that Martin does not spend the rest of his life in prison.
Prosecution’s closing arguments
The prosecution during its closing statements stated that Thursday was about the victims in the case.
“You found him guilty of murdering all three of those innocent, precious individuals and that’s what today is about,” Attorney General Special Prosecutor Alex Garcia said. “It’s about who they were and that’s the thing. The defense got up here and said who they think the defendant is, he stole lives.”
Garcia continued his argument reiterating what the families testified to regarding the impact of the loss of Calvin and Pamela Phillips as well as Dansereau. Garcia shared that none of those three individuals will be able to spend the holidays or any more time with their loved ones.
“They will go through holidays with empty chairs at their dinner tables,” Garcia said.
“Their grandkids will live without hearing their voices. The defendant will be able to make phone calls. He’ll be able to have visitations. He’ll get to experience the rest of his life with his family members. Ed won’t, Pam won’t and Calvin won’t.”
Garcia also argued that Martin does not deserve grace when he did not show grace to the three individuals he was found guilty of killing by the jury.
“The defense wants to talk about grace, well how much grace did he show those three victims on November 18th,” Garcia said.
Garcia ended his closing statements by asking the jury to sentence him to life without the possibility of parole.
The jury ultimately sided with the commonwealth, recommending that Martin be sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Atkins set his final sentencing hearing for Sept. 2, adding that the hearing would be held in Christian County Circuit Court at the Christian County Justice Center in Hopkinsville.
According to New Era archives, Martin allegedly shot and killed Calvin Phillips with a .45 caliber pistol and shot Pamela Phillips and Dansereau with a .22 caliber firearm.
Court documents also state that Martin allegedly set fire to Mrs. Phillips’ car while she and Edward Dansereau were inside and attempted to set fire to the Phillips’ home with Mr. Phillips’ body inside.
Martin is charged with three counts of murder, two counts of first-degree burglary, one count of first-degree arson and three counts of tampering with physical evidence.
Martin’s indictments allege that Martin acted “alone or in complicity with others or another.”