PORT ALLEN — Cellphone data was presented to a West Baton Rouge Parish jury Monday detailing the possible whereabouts of several people suspected as major players in an elaborate murder-for-hire case involving a woman prosecutors believe had her husband killed so she could cash in on $800,000 in insurance and retirement benefits.
Cellphone data for Monique O. Kitts shows the owner of the All Aboard Daycare in Plaquemine had made more than 700 phone calls to Karl Michael Howard, 30, of Roswell, Georgia, in the months leading to her husband’s slaying four years ago. And more than 7,000 phone calls between the two took place between her husband’s death in 2010 and their arrests in 2013, according to testimony Monday from Detective Kevin Cyrus, of the West Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office.
Both Kitts and Howard are standing trial on charges of second-degree murder and conspiracy to commit second-degree murder in the slaying of Corey Kitts. He was fatally shot three times in the couple’s bed the morning of July 9, 2010, in their home in Addis’ River Landing subdivision.
Data culled by West Baton Rouge Parish investigators from the cellphone records of Corey Knox, an alleged co-conspirator in Kitts’ death, appear to support earlier testimony that Knox and Howard met at a Jack in the Box restaurant on Plank Road in Baton Rouge before driving to Addis the morning of the murder.
Data also place Howard and Knox near the Addis subdivision on at least two different occasions before Kitts was killed. Knox testified last week that the pair had been “casing” the Kitts’ residence.
Knox testified Thursday that he served as the getaway driver for Howard but claimed he didn’t realize Howard had shot Kitts that day.
Prosecutors dropped the second-degree murder count against Knox, who agreed to testify and who still faces a conspiracy charge.
Cyrus’ analysis of the cellphone records of Monique Kitts, Howard, Knox and David Ray Johnson, a man who last week testified in court that he had an affair with Monique Kitts, was brought into evidence as the trial rolls into its second week.
“I cannot pinpoint a person’s exact location. I can only pinpoint a geographic location,” Cyrus testified.
That was a point defense attorney Allen Myles, who represents Monique Kitts, reminded jurors of after Cyrus spent more than an hour reviewing a batch of cellphone records.
“You cannot tell us exactly where (their) feet are on the ground, can you — based on cellphone records?” Myles asked Cyrus during cross examination.
“No,” Cyrus replied.
“When there is no cell activity, we don’t know where anyone is. Right?”
“No,” Cyrus answered, “but you can take the before and after locations of when their signals hit cell towers and determine geographic locations between two points.”
Cyrus testified he was able to theorize where certain individuals were during specific times because of the “unique fingerprints” cellphones leave on a network as they digitally communicate with various cellphone towers to obtain the strongest transmission signals.
On the morning of Corey Kitts’ death, Cyrus showed jurors, there was no cellular activity between Howard and Knox between 8:37 a.m. and 9:26 a.m. — the time it is suspected Kitts was slain — after an outbound text was sent from Howard’s phone to Monique Kitts’ cellphone.
Knox testified last week that Howard had instructed him to shut off their cellphones, or leave them behind, before they traveled from the Jack in the Box to Addis.
Data from Monique Kitts’ phone also show that on June 8, 2010 — about 3:58 p.m. — Kitts was in the geographic area of the Campus Federal Credit Union near LSU before traveling to an apartment complex on Mead Road, off Sherwood Forest Boulevard, where Howard was staying while in town. Prosecutors believe that may have been one of the times Monique Kitts paid the man to kill her husband.
Cellphone data also place Monique Kitts in Atlanta at least twice before the slaying — supposedly to meet with Howard.
Assistant District Attorney Becky Chustz tried to use Cyrus’ testimony to discredit Howard’s alibi that he was running errands with a friend in Baton Rouge at the time Corey Kitts was slain. Cyrus testified that cellphone data indicate Howard and the friend were not “remotely in the same area” between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. on July 9, 2010.
Earlier Monday, prosecutors used testimony from human resources representatives from Shintech, the plant Corey Kitts worked at until his death, to try to suggest Monique Kitts’ motive for killing her husband.
Bryan Casebonne, human resources supervisor for Shintech’s Louisiana region, told jurors that Monique Kitts was entitled to nearly $800,000 in payouts from her husband’s insurance and retirement benefits, which Corey Kitts signed up for when he was hired in October 2000.
Michelle Hickner, who was the human resources supervisor at the time of Kitts’ death, testified later that Monique Kitts made frequent calls to her after the death regarding when she would receive her husband’s final paycheck and benefits payout.
“She just called basically wanting to know how the process was going to work,” Hickner testified.
“How often would you say she called?” Chustz asked.
“I don’t remember specifically, but it was a lot,” Hickner replied.
In his cross examination of Hickner, Myles suggested that Kitts may have needed the money to bury her husband and provide for their two children.
The District Attorney’s Office is expected to rest its case when the trial resumes Wednesday.
Eighteenth Judicial District Judge J. Robin Free postponed the trial’s proceedings because of Tuesday’s elections.
Follow Terry Jones on Twitter, @tjonesreporter.