PORT ALLEN — When Monique O. Kitts discovered the body of her husband, who had been shot to death in their bed on July 9, 2010, she made a frantic 911 call.
“Oh my God! Help me! My husband is dead! Someone is in my house!” Kitts’ voice echoed through the courtroom Friday as the tape of the 911 call, which had been dialed into the West Baton Rouge Parish dispatch center, was played for the jury in the murder-for-hire trial. “I just walked in the door! There’s glass everywhere! Someone must have broken into my house!”
Prosecutors contend the Addis woman was merely play-acting in a murder-for-hire staged to appear as a home invasion, claiming Kitts hired a contract killer to slay her husband so she could cash in on his insurance policy.
Prosecutors are seeking to prove that Kitts, the owner of the All Aboard Daycare in Plaquemine, hired Karl Michael Howard, 30, of Roswell, Georgia, to murder her husband.
Both Kitts and Howard are standing trial on charges of second-degree murder and conspiracy to commit second-degree murder in the slaying.
Hearing the audio Friday, Kitts folded over in sobs as she relived the moment she walked to her bedroom and found her husband, Corey Kitts, fatally shot three times in the couple’s bed.
Maj. Paul Marionneaux, with the West Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office, was one of the first officers to respond to her 911 call. He told jurors he found no signs of forced entry into the couple’s home in the River Landing subdivision, nor was there evidence anything of value was taken from the house.
“At first glance, it was a pretty odd scene,” Marionneaux testified. “There were things of value that should have been taken if it was burglary.”
Assistant District Attorney Tony Clayton tried to drive Marionneaux’s point home by showing the jury photos of a set of car keys, a few bills of money and a cellphone, which were scattered across a bedside night stand next to where Corey Kitts’ body was found.
The jury also was shown photos of an overturned accent table and fragmented pieces of a glass vase that had been shattered near the back door of the Kittses’ house.
Marionneaux, in his testimony, questioned the trajectory of the vase fragments and the position in which the accent table was flipped over.
“The odd part about this is that when something breaks, the fragments usually disperse evenly,” he said. “They are usually an equal distance from the breaking point.”
“You ever investigate a crime scene where it looked like the crime scene was staged?” Clayton asked.
“Yes,” Marionneaux replied.
During cross-examination, Allen Myles, Monique Kitts’ lawyer, suggested there weren’t any signs of forced entry because Corey Kitts could have let in someone he knew — someone who might be the actual killer.
“That’s not plausible in this situation,” Marionneaux replied. “You have to assume he knows the person intimately. I wouldn’t just let someone in my house and get back in bed.”
Myles also challenged Marionneaux to estimate how long he thought it would take to stage a burglary in the Kitts’ home.
After Marionneaux replied 20 minutes, Clayton, in his redirect, asked Marionneaux to use the Mississippi-counting method to time how long it took him to flip over a chair and drop a water bottle on the courtroom floor to symbolize the breaking of the vase and flipping of the accent table depicted in the crime scene photos.
Marionneaux counted only to 2-Mississippi before Clayton had kicked over the chair and dropped the water bottle.
The jury on Friday also heard testimony from Brusly police Officer Thomas Southon, who recounted what he called a “strange” burglary call he responded to at the Kittses’ residence a month before the slaying.
Southon, who was working with the Addis Police Department in 2010, told jurors he had responded to a 911 call made by Corey Kitts on June 9, 2010.
Corey Kitts had reported seeing a red Mazda-type vehicle parked outside his home that morning before he went to work. He also said about $4,000 in cash was missing from his home.
Southon said he never followed through with a proper investigation because Monique Kitts, who showed up at the house that night, was reluctant to let him inside the home.
“Something just wasn’t quite right about it,” Southon testified. “With the level of nervousness from Mrs. Kitts, I didn’t think a burglary took place.”
The trial will enter its sixth day on Monday when testimony from Charles Watson, a forensic scientist with the Louisiana State Crime Lab, will continue.
Watson testified Friday that bullet casings found beside Corey Kitts’ body could not have been used in a gun the victim owned and that police tagged as evidence from the crime scene.
“Today we were attempting to lay out exactly how this murder took place,” Clayton told reporters during a trial break. “The last phase will be forensic cellphone records showing the paths they traveled and what took place leading up to the murder.”
Myles, who was denied several requests for a mistrial on Friday, asserts defense attorneys will present facts to prove his client’s innocence.
“Clayton says things in court that he has no evidence of,” Myles said Friday afternoon about his requests for a mistrial. “We cannot let these types of remarks be made. He has continually defied the judge’s orders and then he goes back and does the same thing.”
Follow Terry Jones on Twitter, @tjonesreporter.