Her real name was Kathleen Dawn Martin West, but most people knew her as “Kat” or “Kitty Kat” on social media. She was a 42-year-old stay-at-home mom living in Calera, Alabama, with her husband Jeff and their 12-year-old daughter. As you can see, Kat was quite a looker, and she was known for her beauty and carefree personality. In fact, she was dubbed a Marilyn Monroe lookalike.
Kat would constantly post photos of her, her family, and her daily suburban life to her Facebook and Instagram accounts. Jeff, a college campus security officer and U.S. Army veteran, got fed up with her online antics. From the outside looking in, this was a happy couple living a happy life. But behind closed doors, it was a whirlwind of a relationship that led to one of them in the grave and the other behind bars.
In the early morning hours of January 13, 2018, Kat was found lifeless and partially naked across the street from her home. It was definitely not the happy ending that those who knew this seemingly happy couple ever expected. Kat met Jeff back in 2004, and after four months of dating, they got married in 2004 in Las Vegas. Within a year, they had their daughter Lola.
Brittany Driesler, the couple’s friend, said that when she first met the Wests, she thought they seemed like an unlikely duo. “I know opposites attract,” she began, “but I was like, ‘that guy pulled that girl?’” Carol Robinson, a veteran crime reporter and CBS consultant, says Kat’s death was unusual for Calera…
“A beautiful woman nude in the street, in a nice subdivision. That is what doesn’t happen every day around here,” Robinson said. The city has an average of one homicide per year, so locals were thirsty for details. Naturally, the person everyone looked toward first was Kat’s husband, Jeff. Jeff, however, maintains his innocence.
At the time of Kat’s death, the 47-year-old former Army recruiter was working as a security officer at the Birmingham-Southern College campus. According to their friends and family, the two were opposites. Despite all their differences, the couple made it work by going on date nights and spending as much time together as possible. The thing is, though, that Kat was a busy woman.
Not only was she raising a child, but she also had her alter ego to tend to… Kat wasn’t the typical stay-at-home mom. Her free time was spent mostly online, where she made a name for herself as “Kitty Kat.” She had her own website where she would share racy photos of herself, charging her followers money to get the full view.
She enjoyed the attention and the fact that people would lust over photos of her wearing lingerie, costumes, or simply nothing at all. She described herself as an exhibitionist, and she used her social media presence on Twitter and Instagram to advertise her adult, subscription-only website called OnlyFans. And her husband, Jeff? Well, he knew all about it. In fact, he even assisted his wife in her efforts.
Kat grew up in Florida and was a lover of the outdoors. As a young girl, she doted on all her dolls. She always had set her heart on someday being a mother. When she got older, she started modeling. According to Kat’s friend Brittany Driesler, she developed a “strange fixation” with Marilyn Monroe.
“She tried to recreate some of her photos, her hairdos,” Brittany said. “She was trying to emulate her in every way,” agrees Robinson, the crime reporter who learned that Kat’s resemblance to the famed bombshell was more than skin deep. “There were always self-esteem issues there,” Robinson said.
According to their friend Brittany Driesler, Kat was “very out loud” about her online activity and that Jeff “loved it.” Jeff admitted to having helped photograph Kat for her online followers. This side hustle seemed to be going well for the Wests, that is, until the morning of January 13, 2018.
The night before, on January 12, the couple went on one of their ritual date nights. Jeff’s parents came over to babysit Loa so they could go out for dinner. They had dinner at Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen, drinks at the Red Zone Bar and Grill, and made their third stop on the way home at R&R Wine & Liquor.
At the liquor store, the couple was seen on security camera footage buying a bottle of Lucid Absinthe and Jameson Irish Whiskey. The videos even show Kat laughing, and Jeff patting her on the rear end. They eventually made it home with the two bottles in tow.
At home, they continued their date with about six more drinks, after which Jeff posted a picture of their drinks and of Kat in undergarments and heels on social media. The photos – likely taken for her website – are believed to be what led to the couple’s argument, one that ultimately ended in violence.
That night was the last time Kat West was ever seen alive. Initially, it was assumed that Kat was severely inebriated and simply fell, hit her head, and accidentally died. This theory — that her death was accidental — was actually not that far-fetched for those who knew Kat.
She was said to have often gone outside to dance or jump on the trampoline in their backyard after a few drinks. But that proved to not be the case. Her blood-alcohol level was, after all, .23, which is about three times the legal limit.
The couple’s 19-year-old neighbor, Macorsha Purifoy found Kat lying face down across the street from their home on her way to work the next morning. She was wearing nothing other than a sports bra, and blood was still gushing from her head.
Beside her body was her cell phone and a half-empty bottle of absinthe (a very intoxicating type of liquor). The bottle was placed on her cellphone, making it appear staged. The police decided to classify her death as a homicide. Something about her death was fishy…
It was only after investigators gathered statements, reviewed the evidence, and read the autopsy that the authorities began to suspect that foul play was involved. According to the authorities, it was Jeff who committed the crime. Reportedly, Jeff beat his wife on the head with a bottle of Lucid Absinthe.
His motive? He hated her explicit lifestyle (even though he was involved in it). If you had asked Jeff, he would have told you that the person guilty of killing his wife was a “fan” of Kat’s who stalked her. The police reportedly looked into this possibility, that a fan of hers may have stalked and killed her, but they said they found no viable online suspects.
Calera Police Sgt. Mike Mehlhoff observed some noteworthy evidence at the crime scene. Firstly, there was the positioning of the bottle and the phone, which indicated that the scene may have been staged. Mehlhoff also noticed two pools of blood – one on the ground and one in the grass.
For this reason, he believes Kat’s body had been moved. Forensic pathologist Dr. Stephen Boudreau carried out the autopsy and ruled the cause of death as blunt force trauma to the head. He further explained that since Kat was short, it’s unlikely that such a head wound would be the result of an accidental fall.
Furthermore, the length of the wound was consistent with the size of the liquor bottle found at the scene. Steve Johnson, Pelham Police Department’s Evidence Unit Supervisor, processed the liquor bottle and discovered that the fingerprints on the glass matched Jeff’s. Johnson also found dried blood on the bottom of the bottle.
In an unusual manner, evidence in this case was gathered from both Jeff and Kat’s Health app in which they logged their daily movements. Evidently, Kat’s final movements were on January 12th between 10:45 to 10:54 p.m. with a distance of 0.04 miles.
The app did not detail movement again until the next morning when authorities took her body for evidence. As for Jeff, the app detailed his next-to-last movement on January 12th at 10:17 p.m. for 10 steps. His final movement was between 11:03 and 11:10 p.m., for a total of 18 steps.
Jeff, however, stated that he went to sleep at 10:30 p.m. His next movement was the next morning, January 13th, from 5:12 to 5:22 a.m. for a total of 59 steps. (It’s hard to get away with murder these days with apps like these).
Jeff stated that he woke up that morning to the sound of police sirens on his street and his dog barking. However, the neighbor who found Kat’s body testified that while she was on the phone with a 911 dispatcher, she saw Jeff pacing back and forth inside his home.
It was also reported that after being told his wife was dead, Jeff appeared calm and collected. (There is camera footage of his reaction after the on-scene officer told him the news. The footage has not been released to the public, yet it was entered into evidence at the trial).
It didn’t take long for the case to make its way to the news. Media outlets began reporting on the story, and the narrative centered on Kat leading a “double life.” Thanks to the media, people quickly learned that the mom had a $15.99 subscription on her OnlyFans account.
The AP reported: “Kathleen Dawn West described herself as a full-time wife and mom on Facebook, but she lived another life on other social media platforms, calling herself an exhibitionist and posting risqué photos with a chance for subscribers to see sexier images for $15.99 a month.”
A friend of Jeff and Kat’s spoke with DailyMail.com (on condition of anonymity) and insisted that Jeff knew his wife was an “online seductress.” The source said that Jeff even “got off” on the notion she was desired by countless men.
“She was a sweet lady who was fun, playful and loved to tease either sex,” the source dished out. “I know Jeff was well aware of whatever it was she or they were doing.” Kat had done little to hide her activities and posted links to her paid-for material on Twitter. Only six days before her death, she posted: “Happy sinful Sunday. New pics up on site. Please check out my subscription.”
There was a string of text messages between Jeff and Kat over the weeks prior to the murder which was also admitted into evidence. The messages were used to show just how unstable their relationship truly was. Eight days before her death, Kathleen sent a message to her husband that read: “I know you’re scared to tell me you don’t want to be with me, but it’s only hurting me more by lying.”
She also wrote: “if you don’t want me, say it.” Jeff’s response: “Baby, I want you. Do you want me? We really never talked after NYE.” Kat warned Jeff in her messages that he was “throwing away 14 years of marriage. That’s what I meant to you?”
Kat wrote to Jeff: “Show me now, or it’s goodbye. No more games. I’M NEVER DOING THIS HOLIDAY AGAIN WITH YOU.” In court, the prosecution pointed out frequent arguments the couples had via text, which were mostly one-sided, with Kat being the verbal aggressor. Aside from their accusatory messages, the couple also send loving notes to each other, proving just how turbulent their marriage was.
Mixed in with all the messages were nude photos that Kat would frequently send to her husband, along with his responses, like “looking good hot momma.” They had a tendency to end their texts with “12345” – which was their code for saying, “I love you for life.” The couple even had matching tattoos on their wrists that read “4Life.”
Jeff West was arrested on February 22, 2018. He pled not guilty, and his bail was set at half a million dollars. From the beginning, Jeff insisted that he would never hurt his wife. His side of the story is that he and Kat began arguing when they got home from their date that night.
Jeff said that he wasn’t happy about the amount of time Kat was spending on her phone and online. He admitted to having thrown her phone outside. His defense was that after he threw her phone out the window, she must have gone outside to fetch it, fell down, and died.
According to the prosecutors in the case, that was the moment when Jeff grabbed the bottle off the table, followed her outside, and as she bent over to pick up her phone, he struck her. But Jeff insists that he went to bed instead.
In his story, it was only once he awoke to the sounds of the police outside that he realized that Kat was not in bed. What the witness neighbor referred to as “pacing” was what Jeff claims was him walking around the house – to look for Kat.
Jeff’s lawyer, John Robbins, maintained throughout the trial that all of the evidence presented against Jeff was circumstantial. He stated that his client was innocent – that no murder had been committed. He also defended Jeff against the claim that he didn’t “act as someone would when they were told that their spouse was dead.”
Robbins reminded the court that Jeff is a trained soldier, and soldiers are trained to keep their emotions in check. That coupled with the fact that people deal with stressful situations in different ways. When the issue of Kat’s lifestyle came up as a motive, Jeff said he was not jealous: “It’s just pictures. She got money for it.”
The officers who responded to the scene included former Calera Police Officer and current Shelby County Sheriff Deputy Luigi Ragazonni, who also testified in court. According to Ragazonni, he arrived on the scene and started documenting details.
As he was taking notes, Jeff approached him and asked him what happened. Ragazonni told Jeff that they received a report of a dead woman who had been identified as Kathleen West. Jeff told him that she was his wife. The two then entered Jeff’s home, where they continued to talk at length.
A number of evidence technicians arrived at the scene and later testified to the validity of the evidence they recovered. Dr. Boudreau, the forensic pathologist, gave descriptions of his findings during the autopsy.
During the trial, a video interview between Jeff and detectives that took place on January 13th was shown to the jury. Jeff described what happened on their last date night, the state of their marriage, Kat’s habits, etc. Jeff was then asked if there was a history of violence between them. He stated that he never hit nor hurt his wife.
Jeff also claimed that he didn’t know what happened to Kat until he was told by police. When Jeff was asked if the couple had arguments, he said they did, but that it was nothing out of the ordinary. They did, however, argue over her drinking. “I don’t like her drinking,” he told the detectives.
When asked why they bought liquor that night, Jeff said, “I love her, and she said she could control it.” However, in court, the prosecution reminded jurors that Jeff is a trained crime scene investigator who knew very well what he was doing that night. “He is what he always was, calculating,” prosecutor Daniel McBrayer said.
Another form of evidence was the ADT security records showing the times that Jeff and Kat’s front door was opened and closed during the night. Detective Mike Mehlhoff also testified to the authenticity of the screenshots from the Health app on their cellphones that recorded their movements.
Kat’s mother, Nancy Martin, told the court that her daughter was an alcoholic who also took medication for her bipolar disorder. “She could not just drink one drink… she’d say, ‘I need another one.’”
Since his arrest, Jeff has maintained his innocence. And believe it or not, two of his biggest supporters are people you might least expect: Kat’s own parents, John and Nancy Martin. The Martins fully believe that Jeff never would harm their daughter, who evidently had underlying issues.
John even told 48 Hours, “I know he didn’t do it.” During the sentencing hearing, it was evident that both of the couple’s parents supported Jeff’s claim that he wasn’t involved. Nancy even stated, “He’s a good man, and he didn’t do this.”
At one point during the jury’s deliberation, the jurors asked what the time of death was as it was never provided during the week-long trial. Eventually, the jurors came to a unanimous decision: Jeff West was guilty of his wife’s murder.
Jeff showed no emotion when the verdict was read in court. His bond was then revoked, and he was to remain incarcerated until his sentencing. Judge William Bostick III handed down a “fair, but not a maximum sentence.” He ordered Jeff West to serve 16 years in prison for the reckless manslaughter of his wife.
The judge took into account Jeff’s lack of criminal history, the pleas made by Jeff’s daughter, his mother, Sue West, and his mother-in-law, as well as other mitigating factors in the case when making his decision. Later on, Nancy spoke further about her belief in Jeff’s innocence.
“I absolutely believe this with all my heart because I know what we went through after she passed away. He lived with me. We went to the funeral home together. We saw her body together.” She continued to describe how she saw her son-in-law: “You can’t fake what he went through when we were at the funeral home, crying and saying this can’t be real.”
During the sentencing hearing, Jeff and Kat’s 15-year-old daughter Lola, a student at Calera High School, testified on behalf of her father, begging the judge to release him. She asserted that she grew up in a loving home.
She told the court that her father never spanked her, nor was he ever “loud or abusive.” She described him as calm. “He has always been my shield against the world,” she told the judge. “Please give me my father back as soon as possible.” At recess, she and her father hugged for nearly two minutes.
Before his sentencing, Jeff addressed the court to speak of all that he’s missed while in jail for the past three years. He never mentioned Kat by name nor spoke of her death, only saying, “I lost my best friend.” Judge Bostick said he gave less weight to Nancy Martin’s testimony.
He said: “In my opinion, she’s ignored the evidence in this case.” Bostick made it clear: “We don’t drag people into courts of law and try them for who they are. We drag people into courts of law and try them for what they did.”
The judge told Jeff in court: “In this case, the jury found you to be responsible for your wife’s death. They imposed that responsibility on you. You were afforded the opportunity to accept responsibility for causing your wife’s death.”
He continued: “You have, for your own reasons, taken the position that you don’t intend to do that. So, the jury had to do that for you.” He further explained that Kat’s death “was foreseeable” and that he doesn’t believe that Jeff woke up one morning and decided that’s the day he was going to kill her.
Initially, Jeff was offered a plea deal that would have allowed him an immediate release for time served. But he turned it down. He was not willing to take responsibility for a crime he insists he didn’t commit, and he was consistent throughout the trial.
“I’m sorry the prosecution wants him to come out and say I did this. Since day one, he has denied it, and that’s his position. It wasn’t going to change,” Jeff’s lawyer stated. “He had an opportunity to take that position and go home. He refused to admit to something that he didn’t do. You have to respect the person for that.”
Sue and her husband, Jerry West, broke down while talking about their son. “He has always been empathetic and kind,” Sue said. “He tries to see the good in everyone and every situation. He is the most forgiving person I know.”
“I need my child back… Logan [Lola’s birth name] needs her dad back. This has been an absolute nightmare.” The Martins have custody of Lola but share the responsibility with Jeff’s parents. “We are a family,” Sue said. Considering that Lola has now lost both parents, having all four grandparents is the silver lining.