Kitts takes stand in murder for hire trial

 

 

Following a Grand Jury investigation in February of 2013, the 18th Judicial District court charged a 44-year-old Livingston Parish woman with first-degree murder in the death of her husband.

Three months later, the court amended that charge to second-degree murder and added a conspiracy to commit murder charge when prosecutors discovered the woman had hired a hitman to shoot her husband while he slept.

The former West Baton Rouge Parish business owner had moved to her Suma Lake Drive apartment in Satsuma, following her husband’s murder three years earlier.

The initial police investigation began at 7:42 on a Wednesday evening, June 9, 2010, when Addis Police Department Patrolman Thomas Southon responded to a 911 call from a new homeowner at 3120 River Landing Drive. Corey Kitts reported the theft of $4,000 and a suspicious red vehicle previously parked across the street from his residence in an empty lot.

Officer Southon had been parked a half-mile from the upscale River Landing subdivision when the dispatch came. He arrived at the home two minutes later, but no one answered when he knocked at the door.

Perplexed, Officer Southon sat outside the home for 25 minutes until Corey’s wife arrived.

Monique Kitts explained that her husband worked nights and had left for the plant. She owned All Aboard Daycare, a local childcare center, and had just arrived home from work, she said.

She explained that she had withdrawn $4,500 out of the bank to pay bills. She placed $4,000 in the nightstand next to her sleeping husband and went to work. When Corey Kitts woke and began dressing for work, he found the money missing and recalled seeing a red Mazda parked nearby when he arrived home that morning.

Monique Kitts told Officer Southon he could not enter the home to investigate the burglary because she did not want to alarm her daughter.

Officer Southon requested Corey Kitts’ phone number, but Monique said she could not give that out. She said she would call her husband and ask him to contact the police instead.

Corey Kitts never called the police again, and the Addis Police Department did not follow-up to ask why.

One month later, on a Friday, July 9, 2010, just before 1:PM, another 911 call came from the Kitts residence. This time, Monique Kitts reported a possible burglary in progress, and, instead of a patrolman, the operator dispatched Addis Police Detective William Starnes, along with Major Paul Marionneaux of the West Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office.

At the house, the officers found the door open and no evidence of forced entry. Inside, they found toppled furniture in the kitchen, broken glass, coins, and other items on the floor.

Announcing their presence, they made their way through the house and heard someone yelling from the master bedroom. There, they found Monique Kitts, and her children, Dorey Kitts and Corey Kitts, Jr. crying.

Corey Kitts lay on his back in the king-sized bed with three head wounds visible, one in his cheek, one in his neck, and another in his ear. Based on the location of the shell casings on the floor, the officers concluded a shooter stood next to the bed and shot Corey Kitts while he slept.

An autopsy confirmed the three wounds came from a 9-millimeter handgun and that those wounds caused Corey Kitts’ death, and at that point, the case went cold and remained that way for three years.

When Officer Richie Johnson, a colonel with the West Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office, announced the Grand Jury investigation in 2013, reporters asked why now, amid rumors that the Addis Police Department had botched the investigation.

Colonel Johnson, serving as chief investigator for the District Attorney’s office, responded, “We have been investigating it, but we just weren’t ready [to prosecute] until this point.”

The break in the case, according to later court records, came when investigators began examining Monique Kitts’ cell phone history. This process did not take three years to complete, supporting reports that the District Attorney’s office picked up the case after the Addis Police Department dropped the ball.

The sheriff’s office discovered that cell phone records for the period preceding and following the murder revealed frequent communications between Monique Kitts and two men, Karl Michael Howard and David Johnson.

In 2006, David Johnson delivered milk for Kleinpeter Farms Dairy to two daycares, one owned by Monique Kitts, and another owned by her sister, where Monique worked before opening her business. Johnson told investigators the two became friends, exchanged telephone numbers, and ultimately developed a sexual relationship.

In December of that year, Johnson said, Monique began making comments indicating problems at home. She jokingly suggested that she would be better off if her husband died, saying she could cash in his half-million-dollar insurance policy.

Eventually, he said, the conversation became more solemn, and she asked Johnson to find someone to kill her husband. Johnson said he accepted money to facilitate the homicide-for-hire over several months, but had no intention of following through.

In 2008, Johnson said, Monique asked Johnson if he thought their mutual friend, Karl Michael Howard, would kill Corey. Johnson introduced Howard to Monique months earlier when Howard needed someone to help him prepare his taxes.

Johnson said he told Monique that Howard probably would kill her husband and asked her for $1,000 to broker the transaction. According to Johnson, he again took her money but did not speak to Howard about the hit. He speculated that Monique might then have approached Howard directly.

Corey Knox testified that he and Karl Michael Howard had been friends over thirteen years and that Howard sometimes referred to him as “Cousin,” although they were not related.

Knox said Howard called in 2013 and asked if he wanted to make some money. Knox initially said yes, but when Howard told him he would have to kill someone, Knox told him, “Hell, no.”

According to Knox, Howard persisted, telling him that it would be easy and that the door would be unlocked, but he still declined.

However, he said, he and Howard drove by the Kitts residence on two separate nights before Corey Kitts’ murder. A night or two before, Knox said, they pulled up at the house, and Howard walked into the Kitts’ yard. Knox testified that he was unsure as to what took place after Howard entered the yard and that Howard returned quickly.

According to Knox, on the day of the murder, Howard called him from the Jack-in-the-Box on Plank Road and told him that his red Mazda was in the shop and that he needed a ride to collect money owed to him.

Knox arrived between 8:00 and 9:00 that morning, driving his mother’s gray Durango, the vehicle later seen by a neighbor at the Kitts residence.

Knox said Howard pointed out the house as they passed it. Knox backed up and parked his vehicle in front, and Howard left the car and walked along the side of the house.

Howard – an obese man, who waddled side-to-side and shuffled while he walked – returned to the car two minutes later, Knox said, ready to return to Jack-in-the-Box. There, he gave Knox two hundred dollars from a white bank envelope and thanked him for his help.

Corey Knox – the only one involved with a prior criminal record – insisted he had no idea they had visited Corey Kitts’ home during the time of his murder. He also claimed not to notice the 88 texts and social media messages exchanged between Karl Michael Howard and Monique Kitts before and after the murder.

At trial, defense attorneys said the prosecution’s case boiled down to “two snitches,” Johnson and Knox, who lied to save themselves. They also questioned why Monique would want to kill her husband for a $549,000 insurance policy when her husband earned $100,000 per year and could make that amount in five years at the plant.

Today, Monique O. Kitts and Karl Michael Howard serve life terms at hard labor without the benefit of probation, parole, or suspension of sentence, while Corey Knox and David Johnson remain free.


“Bayou Justice” is a weekly true crime column featuring exciting or notable crime-related stories often focusing on cold case files in South Louisiana; stories based on interviews with key players, among them: police investigators, lawyers, victims, and their families. If you have information regarding this case or another unsolved crime, contact Crime Stoppers or your local police agency, or email bayoujustice@hammondstar.com.

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