CALERA, Ala. (WBRC) - Trial began on Tuesday for the murder of Kathleen (Kat) Dawn West. Her husband, William Jeffery (Jeff) West, is accused of killing her. He says he is innocent.
Kat was found dead and partially nude across the street from the couple’s home in Calera on Jan. 13, 2018. Court documents revealed she died of blunt force trauma to the head.
Trial Day 3
A forensic scientist was called to the stand on Thursday. She testified that over 40 items were submitted to the Department of Forensic Science for testing. A white tank top from the master bedroom, a towel from the master bathroom, and two swabs from a bottle of Lucid Absinthe were all tested for the presence of blood. The scientist says blood was found on all four items, and were a match to Kat West. She also said semen was found on the vaginal swab from Kat, but it was not enough to positively identify who it was from.
Former Calera Police Detective, now Sergeant, Mike Mehlhoff was called to the stand next. He testified that he arrived to the scene around 5:50 a.m. Mehlhoff says he checked the backyard and saw a trampoline, but did not find any blood. Assistant District Attorney Daniel McBrayer stated that texts that Mehlhoff retrieved from from Kat’s phone depicted arguments between the couple. One from Kat reading, “Show me now, or it’s goodbye. No more games. I’M NEVER DOING THIS HOLIDAY AGAIN WITH YOU. It goes the same every year. My fam treats you like FAMILY. Your mom treats me like shut (sic). I’m done with you being a to (sic) scared to stand up to your mom for being a bitch, after almost 14 years of promises. I love you. You don’t love me.” Another text from Kat to Jeff reads, “You’re throwing away 14 years of marriage. That’s what I meant to you??”
Defense Attorney John Robbins says that most of their fights are nothing more than common couple arguments. He showed the jury many texts threads between Kat and Jeff where the couple talked about eating meals, the mail, dogs, their daughter, hanging out, and showed several topless pictures that Kat sent to Jeff.
Mehlhoff also testified to the authenticity of screenshots from the Health app on the couple’s iPhones. Kat’s phone detailed that the final movement was Jan. 12 from 10:45-10:54 p.m. for a distance of 0.04 miles. It did not detail movement again until the next morning when police obtained it for evidence. Jeff’s phone detailed the next-to-last movement as Jan. 12 at 10:17 p.m. for 10 steps, and the final movement from 11:03-11:10 p.m. for a total of 18 steps. The next movement detailed on Jeff’s phone was the next day, Jan. 13, from 5:12-5:22 a.m. for a total of 59 steps.
ADT Security records were also shown, depicting that the front door of the couple’s home was opened and closed at 10:53 p.m. The records show the front door was opened again at 1:51 a.m. and not closed until 5:12 a.m. Mehlhoff testified to the authenticity of these records as well.
A video interview between Jeff and detectives was shown to the jury in its entirety. This interview occurred on Jan. 13. In the interview, Jeff tells detectives about he and his wife’s timeline of going to dinner on Friday, Jan. 12 at Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen, then heading to Red Zone Sports Grill next. He says they left around 8:15 p.m. to head to R&R Liquors, where the Lucid Absinthe and Jameson were purchased. Jeff said they made a stop at Publix then headed home. He stated that the two had a few drinks and he took pictures of Kat for her website, at her request. Jeff says they hung out for a couple of hours and drank, he said he consumed six drinks total that night, and he went to sleep around 10:30 p.m. because he had work the next morning. He states Kat stayed up drinking, and was drinking out of the bottle, sitting at the kitchen table when he went to bed.
When asked by detectives if the couple had been having disagreements, Jeff said it was just “normal stuff.” He also stated that he didn’t like her drinking habits. Jeff said Kat would frequently get drunk and “walk outside in just underwear, up and down the street.” He also said she would “twirl around in the back yard on the pergola.”
Referring to possible arguments that night, Jan. 12, Jeff told detectives, “Last night was actually a really good night. Everything was going good.”
Detectives asked Jeff about Kat’s adult content website, and he said, “I’m not jealous of it. They’re just pictures. She got money for it.”
Jeff was also questioned about possible violence. Detectives said, “We know she was murdered. She had significant holes in the side of her head.” Jeff responded, “I’ve never hit her. I would never hurt my wife. Not even accidentally.” Jeff also told detectives that Kat said he hit her once, but said he was “blocking her from hitting him, and hit her face.” They asked him if he “blocked her” the previous night, and he said no. Jeff told detectives he “didn’t know what happened to Kat until they told him, and was being 100 percent honest.”
A latent fingerprint examiner was called to the stand next. He testified that from the nine prints lifted off the Lucid Absinthe bottle, two had enough characteristics to make a comparison. The expert said the prints matched the left thumb and left ring finger of Jeff.
Trial Day 2
Former Calera Police Officer and current Shelby County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Luigi Ragazonni testified that he arrived on scene and began the crime log. He says Jeff approached him and asked what was happening, and Ragazonni said they had identified a dead woman as Kathleen West. Jeff told him that was his wife. At that point, Ragazonni spent time with Jeff in his home, having “human-to-human conversation.” In Ragazonni’s bodycam video, Jeff can be heard saying, “She’s hurt herself before. She’s been drinking and fell down stairs before.” Jeff also said he went to sleep the night before and woke up to blue lights and the dog barking. Jeff told Ragazonni that he found the front door wide open, the oven on and Bagel Bites in the microwave. The pair also spoke about family, hunting, guns and work while Ragazonni was in the home.
Calera Police Evidence Technician Josh Leonard testified about objects found in the home and obtained as evidence, including several empty drinking glasses. One had lipstick remnants. Leonard says the clothing that both Kat and Jeff were wearing that night was taken in as evidence. Several other items were taken in as well, including a towel in the bathroom that appeared to have blood on it, according to Leonard. DNA swabs were taken from Jeff’s mouth and all of his fingers. A large piece of wood with a nail in it found in a drainage ditch was obtained as evidence, as well as the Lucid Absinthe bottle, DNA swabs of the grass, pavement and curb near Kat’s body. Leonard says no blood was found in the home using an alternate light source (ALS). Robbins had Leonard reinforce the fact that all drains and sinks in the house were checked with the ALS.
Another Calera Police Evidence Technician, Jay Cardwell, said he searched the truck at the home and found a rifle, a black knife and Mossy Oak arrows. Cardwell says hunting gear was found in the truck and backyard. He also says several firearms were found in the home and collected as evidence. Cardwell says he photographed Jeff on Jan. 14 and noticed a scratch on his arm, but wasn’t sure if it was an old injury.
Alabaster Special Investigation Supervisor and Forensic Investigator Daniel Goodwin testified about searching Kat and Jeff’s phones. Goodwin says Jeff’s phone called Kat’s phone at 5:19 a.m. on Jan. 13 for a duration of 28 seconds. Jeff’s phone also called a contact labeled “Case” at 5:19 a.m. for a duration of 0 seconds.
Steve Johnson, Pelham Police Department Evidence Unit Supervisor, develops fingerprints from crime scenes. Johnson says he was asked by Calera Police to process a liquor bottle on Jan. 19, 2018. He did so, and said he lifted nine prints. When Assistant District Attorney Ben Fuller asked if he found anything unusual about the bottle, Johnson said he found what looked like dried blood on the bottom, and also found a defect/small chip on the bottom of the bottle. An ALS was used to investigate the liquor bottle, and Johnson says he took DNA swabs of the bottle as well.
Trial Day 1
Shelby County Assistant District Attorney Daniel McBrayer began Tuesday with his opening statement, saying a witness found Kat’s body, lying half in and half out of the road near her home. McBrayer says a glass Lucid Absinthe bottle was found near Kat with her blood and Jeff’s fingerprints on it.
Jeff’s Defense Attorney, John Robbins, stated there are two sides to every story. Robbins says that on Jan. 12, 2018, Jeff and Kat had an enjoyable date night. It consisted of them going to dinner, buying Lucid Absinthe and whiskey at R&R Liquor Store, and then heading home for drinks and for Jeff to take pictures of Kat for her adult website. Robbins says Jeff knew about Kat’s website she operated under the name Kitty Kat West, and he didn’t have any issue with it.
Robbins says Kat’s blood alcohol content that night was .23, and she most likely fell and hit her head. Jeff told friends that Kat often got drunk and would roam outside, sometimes jumping on the trampoline or doing cheerleading jumps off of utility boxes. Robbins says the manner of death was ruled as undetermined, and says murder did not occur. “No murder, no killing happened that night. Jeff is not guilty.” Robbins also said, “The media is only here because of the sexual nature of this case. And I find that to be a little sad.” Kat’s parents continue to stand with Jeff.
The first witness called to the stand was a Calera police officer. He says they arrived on scene around 5 a.m. on Jan. 13 and found Kat unresponsive without clothing on her bottom half. He says a cell phone and alcohol bottle were found next to her, and a head injury was apparent. The officer says what appeared to be a pool of blood was next to Kat and trickling downhill.
The next witness was a young woman who found Kat’s body. She was heading to work when she saw what she thought was a body. That’s when she says she called her mother, picked up her mother and stepfather, and returned to the location of the body.
Waukesha Blevins, the young woman’s mother, was the next witness called. Blevins says after arriving to the location and discovering it was a motionless person, she called 911. “She looks dead. Why hasn’t anyone called this in yet?” Blevins can be heard saying on the 911 call. She and her husband checked to see if Kat could answer them, at the instruction of the 911 dispatcher, but got no response. Police and medical personnel were sent to the scene.
A Calera police officer and evidence technician was called next. He confirmed an alcohol bottle was collected as evidence, and it was half full, propped up on the cell phone, which was also taken as evidence. He says a Lucid Absinthe label was found the next day and collected as evidence. He also took a DNA swab of the blood on the grass next to Kat’s head.
A co-worker of Jeff’s, Guy Carney, was called to the stand. He testified that when he spoke with Jeff over the phone about the death of Kat, Jeff stated that she got drunk frequently and would go outside and jump on the trampoline. Jeff told Carney that he thought she might have hit her head on the trampoline bar. Carney also stated that Jeff told him while in an interview with detectives, Jeff was told blood was found in their home with a cleaning agent nearby. Jeff told his co-worker he didn’t know about it being there.