PORT ALLEN — The prosecution’s star witness, the man who admitted he was the getaway driver in a murder-for-hire, testified Thursday he was one of the people approached to do the deed.
Corey Knox, 29, told a West Baton Rouge Parish jury that Karl Michael Howard 30, of Roswell, Georgia, asked him if he wanted to “make some money” by killing Corey Kitts for “someone” Howard knew.
That “someone” allegedly was Kitts’ wife, Monique O. Kitts, who is standing trial with Howard on charges of second-degree murder and conspiracy to commit second-degree murder in the 2010 slaying of her husband in their Addis home.
“He asked me to kill somebody but didn’t say his name,” Knox said of Howard. “He wanted me to do it and I said, ‘Hell no!’ ”
Knox admitted he served as the getaway driver for Howard but claimed he didn’t realize Howard had just fatally shot Corey Kitts, who was asleep in his River Landing subdivision home.
Knox was supposed to stand trial this week, along with Monique Kitts and Howard, but on Oct. 20, prosecutors dropped the second-degree murder count against him after he agreed to testify against his alleged co-conspirators.
Baton Rouge attorney Tommy Damico, whose firm is representing Knox, said they will negotiate with prosecuting attorneys for a deal for Knox, who still faces a conspiracy charge, after the trial’s conclusion.
“I really just wanted to get what happened off my chest,” Knox said in court Thursday. “I wanted to let y’all know what happened. I’ve been thinking about it every day since it happened.”
Knox’s testimony concerned only Howard. In court, Knox claimed he never met Monique Kitts and didn’t know who she was.
Knox testified that on the morning of July 9, 2010 — the day Corey Kitts was murdered — he met Howard at a Jack-in-the-Box on Plank Road in Baton Rouge between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m., drove Howard to the Kitts home in Addis, parked in the driveway of the Kitts’ home and sat in the car for approximately two minutes while Howard went inside the couple’s home.
Knox said he and Howard had driven past the home at least two times before the morning of the slaying.
“We just made the block two or three times, looking at the house,” he said.
When Howard returned to the vehicle, Knox said, he was carrying an envelope filled with cash — some of which he shared with Knox.
It wasn’t until news reports later that day that Knox said he learned of Corey Kitts’ death.
“I’m not going to say I didn’t know why we were there,” Knox told jurors Thursday. “I knew whoever stayed there wanted someone dead at the home. I just didn’t think (Howard) could do it since he asked me to do it. I thought he was just going there to get some money.”
Knox’s narrative was partially corroborated by a neighbor who testified Wednesday he saw a “large … metallic silver” Dodge Durango parked in the driveway of the Kitts home the morning of the slaying.
Knox testified he was driving his mother’s gray Durango that morning and even remembered seeing the neighbor come outside to “warm up his car.”
Defense attorney Allen Myles, Monique Kitts’ lawyer, and public defender Tommy Thompson, who is representing Howard, attempted to discredit Knox’s testimony by using cellphone records showing that Knox was making phone calls to Howard during the period he said he was with the accused killer, driving him to West Baton Rouge Parish.
Thompson and Myles also got Knox to admit he never actually saw Howard in possession of a gun when he went into Corey Kitts’ home, nor did he hear any gunshots while he waited in the car.
“You didn’t hear any gunshots?” Myles asked.
“No, sir. I just stayed in the vehicle,” Knox replied.
Knox later added, “I think I would have pulled off if I heard some shots.”
Later Thursday afternoon, prosecutors attempted to link Monique Kitts to their “murder-for-hire” theory by calling to the stand Corey Kitts’ sister and a State Trooper who claimed he overheard Monique Kitts appear to admit she regretted having her husband killed.
Clonise Kitts-Stewart, the victim’s sister, said Monique Kitts was acting nervously and kept fidgeting with her cellphone the morning of her brother’s death while the two women exercised together at a neighborhood park in Brusly around 6:45 a.m. “From the time she got out her vehicle, she kept checking her phone,” Kitts-Stewart testified as she fought back tears. “I told her put the phone down; this is our time.”
Kitts-Stewart also said Kitts was adamant about cashing in Corey Kitts’ life insurance policy to “take care of some things.”
Trooper 1st Class Ted Savoy testified that while he was stationed outside the Kitts home shortly after Corey Kitts’ body was discovered by his wife and other family members, he overheard Kitts appear to admit playing a part in her husband’s death.
“She was crying. She fell to her knees in the driveway. Put her face in her hands and said, ‘My God, what have I gone and done?’ ” Savoy told jurors. “When I heard that I was like: I wish I had my mic(rophone) on. It took me a minute to process what was going on.”
Myles, in his cross-examination of Savoy, argued that the state trooper probably misunderstood his client, given her highly emotional state at the time.
“If you had heard someone confess to a murder, you would have arrested her then, right?” he asked Savoy.
“Yes, if I was sure,” Savoy replied.
Follow Terry Jones on Twitter, @tjonesreporter.