Kitts claims innocence at sentencing hearing in murder-for-hire plot _lowres

Karl M. Howard

Greed and failing finances motivated Corey Kitts’ wife to hire someone to shoot Kitts as he slept in his bed one morning in July 2010, prosecutors said Monday.

Assistant District Attorney Tony Clayton laid out for jurors the murder-for-hire conspiracy between Kitts’ wife, Monique O. Kitts, 45, of Livingston, and Karl Michael Howard, 30, of Roswell, Georgia, during opening statements on the first day of Monique Kitts’ and Howard’s murder trial.

Clayton said Corey Kitts, 40, worked nights at Shintech and was focused on supporting his wife and children and their nice life in an Addis subdivision.

“Monique had something else on her mind: You see, she wanted Corey killed because she wanted money,” Clayton told the courtroom.

The owner of the All Aboard Daycare in Plaquemine, Monique Kitts hired Howard, a telephone company employee living in Atlanta, to kill her husband so she could cash in his $549,000 life insurance policy, Clayton said.

Kitts and Howard have each been indicted on second-degree murder and conspiracy to commit second-degree murder in the slaying. Eighteenth Judicial District Judge J. Robin Free is presiding over the trial at the West Baton Rouge Parish Courthouse.

Clayton told jurors that Kitts had made unsuccessful attempts several years earlier to hire other men to kill her husband. David Ray Johnson, alleged to have been the go-between for Kitts’ earlier efforts to find a contract killer, is expected to testify at the trial for prosecutors.

Clayton said Johnson, who was a milk delivery man for Kitts’ day care and another in White Castle, told investigators he never intended to hire someone to kill Kitts’ husband but was simply taking her money.

Corey Kitts was found dead in his home on July 9, 2010, by Monique Kitts and her daughter. Investigators have said Corey Kitts was shot three times in the head at point-blank range in the bedroom of his home in Addis’ River Landing subdivision. Clayton said investigators believe Kitts was shot between 9 a.m. and 9:30 a.m.

Clayton said investigators were able to establish a conspiracy by tracking conversations through cellphone records between Monique Kitts, Howard and accused getaway driver Corey Knox, 29, of Baton Rouge, in the months, days and hours before and after the slaying. Detectives also found a series of payments Monique Kitts made to Howard and learned Kitts left around $4,000 in her home for Howard to take with him after he killed her husband, Clayton said.

Knox, who is also facing second-degree murder and conspiracy to commit second-degree murder charges, is expected testify about the payment and other aspects of the murder for prosecutors in a planned plea deal.

Defense attorneys attacked the prosecution’s greed theory and their expected use of cellphone records and bank transactions.

The defense attorneys charged that the defendants’ cellphone call and location records do not prove prosecution theories by simply matching them with records of when Howard was off work, when Monique Kitts had made bank withdrawals or where the defendants were thought to be the day of the murder.

The defense attorneys said prosecutors have not corroborated what those records show and claimed the case boils down to “two snitches,” Johnson and Knox, whose testimony, the defense attorneys claim, are lies to save their own skin.

Allen Myles, Monique Kitts’ defense attorney, compared the state’s case to a railroad crossing with cross-arms down, lights flashing and alarms ringing but which, after a look down the tracks, reveals a different story.

“No train. That’s the state’s case. That’s it,” he said in his opening statement.

Public defender Tommy Thompson, who is representing Howard, said Howard was raised in Baton Rouge but had moved to Atlanta for work and was visiting Baton Rouge with his mother for a niece’s 13th birthday party in the days leading up to Corey Kitts’ slaying.

Thompson pointed out that though prosecutors made much of cellphone records showing Howard was in the Sherwood Forest area at that time, Howard and his mother, who was living with him in Atlanta, stay with family in that area when they visit Baton Rouge.

“I’m not asking you to look for reasonable doubt. I’m asking you to see when it stands up and says, ‘Here I am,’ ” Thompson told jurors.

Myles and Thompson also questioned why Monique Kitts would want to kill her husband for $549,000 when he was earning $100,000 per year and could make that amount in five years of work.

Myles also raised the prospect of other suspects. He claimed Corey Kitts had numerous affairs during his marriage and had six girlfriends at the time of his death.

“These six women, think they have boyfriends, husbands? That’s 12 suspects,” Myles said.

Myles also acknowledged that Monique Kitts, while she loved her husband and, before he died, was trying to preserve her marriage, had an affair in the late 2000s with Johnson, the man she is alleged to have propositioned earlier to find a killer for Corey Kitts.

But Myles said Monique Kitts had broken off the relationship by 2007, three years before Corey Kitts was killed.

It also emerged during opening statements that Johnson wore a recording device at investigators’ request and attempted to elicit a confession from Monique Kitts.

Myles told jurors that when Johnson tried to raise the alleged contract with Howard on tape — something Kitts already had supposedly confided to him — he was scared to bring it up, a clear sign, Myles said, that Johnson is not being truthful.