PORT ALLEN — The monthlong trial for a woman accused of killing her husband in a murder-for-hire scheme came to an end Thursday when a West Baton Rouge Parish jury found her and the gunman she hired guilty of second-degree murder.
Monique O. Kitts, 45, of Livingston, and Karl Michael Howard, 30, of Roswell, Georgia, face life sentences in the slaying of her husband, Corey Kitts.
Corey Kitts, 40, was shot three times on the morning of July 9, 2010, while sleeping in the couple’s bedroom in the Addis home he shared with his wife and their two children.
The jury’s decision, which was delivered after more than six hours of deliberation, sent a ripple of emotion through the packed courtroom as the families who were divided by the murder cried over the jury’s decision.
Monique Kitts put her head down and sobbed after the jury’s decision was read. West Baton Rouge deputies took her into custody shortly after the verdict was read.
“That’s how innocence behaves when it has been wrongly convicted,” Allen Myles, her attorney, later told reporters.
Monique Kitts’ family and the couple’s two children, Dorey and Corey Kitts Jr., refused to talk to reporters as they were escorted from the courthouse.
Both children’s eyes were swollen from crying, and they were comforted by their mother’s sister.
“There’s a sadness over our entire office because of those kids,” Assistant District Attorney Tony Clayton said outside the courthouse. “She was involved in taking their dad’s life from them. And now those kids are without a mom and a dad — and that’s the tragedy of this whole deal. Hopefully, this family can heal.”
Corey Kitts’ family shed tears of their own after the jury’s decision was read.
“We’re so thankful,” Patricia Kitts, Corey Kitts’ mother, said outside the courtroom with her arm reaching toward the sky. “We feel like justice has been served.”
Corey Kitts’ sister, Clonise Kitts, said, “Tonight, this whole community is satisfied with the verdicts that have been given.”
Clayton said Monique Kitts and Howard will be sentenced by 18th Judicial District Judge J. Robin Free on Jan. 7.
The trial was a whirlwind of testimony and evidence — which included damaging cellphone records — that was presented to the jury over a four-week period.
Prosecuting attorneys portrayed Kitts as a liar, schemer and a woman hellbent on “getting rich quick,” while her defense lawyer described her as a loving wife, mother and former businesswoman who lost everything when she was wrongly accused of being involved in her husband’s murder.
Myles told reporters he plans to appeal the jury’s decision, which he said he had trouble understanding.
“How can you have a conspiracy if everybody testified that they didn’t agree to being in one?” Myles said outside the courthouse Thursday night. “(The jury) should come out and tell us why they did what they did because it didn’t match the evidence. It’s hard to understand.”
Prosecutors argued that Monique Kitts had her husband killed so she could cash in on more than $800,000 from his employment benefits and life insurance.
Clayton laid out Monique Kitts’ motive through the testimony of David Ray Johnson, who admitted to having an affair with Monique Kitts.
Johnson testified Howard told him Monique Kitts gave him a key to her house in Addis, and that was where he found Corey Kitts asleep in his bed and shot him.
Johnson also told the jury that Howard said he expected to be paid $100,000 for the murder. But when Monique Kitts didn’t have the money, Johnson said, Howard began threatening her life.
Clayton said any money Monique Kitts expected to gain from her husband’s death will now pass down to the couple’s two children and a daughter Corey Kitts fathered before he married his wife.
“Crime just doesn’t pay,” Clayton said. “Karma has it where the kids will get the money now.”
The prosecution’s case against Monique Kitts and Howard was largely helped by the testimony of Corey Knox, a man who also was indicted in Corey Kitts’ death but flipped on his co-conspirators just days before the trial began.
Knox testified that Howard, a Verizon employee living in Atlanta at the time, originally asked him to kill Corey Kitts. Knox told jurors that after he refused, Howard coerced him into serving as the getaway driver on the morning of the murder.
Knox also testified he and Howard cased the couple’s home in Addis’ River Landing subdivision on at least two occasions in April 2010 — testimony prosecuting attorneys backed with cellphone records.
Clayton said Knox’s testimony connected many of the dots in their case.
Knox has been in jail since he was arrested in 2013.
“Corey Knox will be offered accessory after the fact … (he) has served the maximum amount of time he can serve under that,” Clayton said. “I thought his testimony was devastating to the defense. He corroborated everything.”
Follow Terry Jones on Twitter @tjonesreporter.