Justice on Main Street
Updated: Jul 31, 2022
Welcome to Crime Raven, real life stories from law enforcement crimes and issues, crime fighters face. This podcast discusses crimes researched using publicly available information or personal recollections. Content may be graphic disturbing or violent, and maybe upsetting to some. Listener discretion is advised.
Suspects are considered innocent until found guilty in a court of law.
We introduced you to Calvin Phillips, Pam Phillips, and Ed Dansereau in part one. We presented the investigation into their murders, and the prosecution's case at trial. In part two, we'll share the defense's case and then pull it all together.
The Martin defense began with testimony from Laura Spencer's children who were in high school at the time of the murders. The kids had moved into Martin's Pembroke home with their mother in late summer of 2013. They lived with him for just over two years. Laura's now adult children testified that on November 18th, 2015, they were out of the house in school and later extracurricular activities. They didn't return home until 9:00 PM. Both Spencer children gave the same account saying that when they arrived home on the night of the 18th, Martin and their mother were together in the upstairs den, watching TV. They said that the rest of their evening was spent on homework and social media in their rooms before sleeping. Laura's kids noted that the house was old and creaky, and if Martin had left the house during the night and he hadn't, they would have heard him.
When Laura Spencer took the stand, she gave a similar account of time as her children. For two years, they lived with Martin and Martin daughter on South Main Street. Laura said she didn't know anything about the murders when they happened. Still, Laura said she was cooperative with the police and gave them codes for phones and devices. Laura was asked to go over what she recalled from November 18th through the 20th in 2015. Some of her recollections were refreshed by statements she had given to police on December 3rd, 2015, following the murders. Laura said that on November 18th, the kids went to school in the morning and were gone until 9:00 PM. Martin came home at 5:30 PM and he had flowers to celebrate their anniversary. She said that they ate dinner, watch TV, and went to sleep between 10 and 11:00 PM. She noticed nothing unusual about the evening.
Laura recalled that the following day, November 19 was also typical. She thinks that she spent most of the day at home alone. Martin went to work at 9:00 AM. He probably came home in the afternoon to drive Laura's daughter to horse riding instructions at 4, about 45 minutes away in Tennessee.
On November 20, Laura said she was hanging around the house cleaning and doing laundry. At around 11:00 AM, a Police, SWAT team suddenly entered the house. At first, she didn't know what was happening. Laura said she heard a breaking window and someone yelling. She said she ran out of the house, traumatized, saying she was sure that they were there to kill her. Laura was emotional as she recounted this story, shaking with her hands over her face. The defense attorney asked who she thought was there to kill her, and Laura cried out "Joan Harmon!"
When questioning continued, Laura revealed that the family lived in hotels after the police search warrant for a couple of weeks. They had a rental in Hopkinsville for awhile, and they later moved to North Carolina. In one of the last questions Laura was asked, she said that it was true that Calvin Phillips was going to be a witness for Martin in the court martial
Martins, adult daughter, Amanda Flag, lived with Martin in the Pembroke house, when the marriage to Joan Harmon ended. Amanda told the jury that Joan and her dad had regularly argued before the breakup. During the decisive argument in 2012, Martin told Joan that he wanted a divorce. Amanda said that Joan told Martin she would ruin him and his military. After that Amanda and her father left the house and had to stay away for three weeks. They were allowed to go back after a court hearing. They arrived at the South Main Street house to find that Joan had taken everything personal property and animals. Amanda said for a time after that, Joan had regularly harassed them. They found tire slashed and dead animals in the mailbox.
Catherine Foster was fresh out of law school and a newly minted Commonwealth's Attorney in 2012, when she prosecuted Joan Harmon for bigamy. She said that Martin was the victim in her case against Harmon. Harmon had not followed the process required to obtain a legal divorce decree before marrying Martin. US Army JAG Officer Major Garrett had called Catherine Foster about the Martin court-martial. Catherine said that Major Garrett pressured her not to prosecute Joan Harmon because she was a witness in the Army's case. Foster asserted that Garrett tried to influence the bigamy case, and that was unusual and unprofessional. Still, she admitted on cross examination, the discussion of defendants and witnesses by prosecutors from different jurisdictions was common.
Lisa Petrie testified that she was the manager of LNR soda bar in the tiny community of Elkton, Kentucky. She said that most of the workers at LNR were locals and she managed around 25 people, seven to eight on each shift. One of the waitresses she worked with was Joan Harmon. Lisa also knew Joan Harmon from the local school where Joan's kids attended and Lisa helped out part-time as a teacher's aid. Lisa was called to testify by the defense because of a report that she had filed with the police. In the police statement, Lisa said that after the Pembroke murders, Joan Harmon's demeanor had changed. She came to work happy and excited. Lisa thought it was strange, disturbing behavior.
Ken Buckner is a home improvement and remodeling contractor who lives and works in the Pembroke area. He'd done upgrade projects on both the Martin and Phillips homes. Ken testified that he once saw Joan Harmon carrying a concealed pistol, and that he worked on the Phillips home in the weeks after the murders. Buckner complained that he had arrived to find the house open and equipment moved during the project on some mornings. He said he didn't feel safe working there, so he quit. On cross examination, the prosecutor asked the Ken about working on Martin's house. He said that he had done some work on the front of the house, which included fixing the front door.
Ken Murray's trucking company, employees Williams Stokes, who was Joan Harmon's boyfriend at the time of the murders. Murray testified that based on his records on November 18th, 2015, William Stokes took a truckload of lumber from Elkton to Bowling Green. This trip generally takes two hours plus 30 minutes to unload. Stokes logged no other work that day. Murray said that he gave the Christian County Sheriff's Office the schedule documents for Stokes after they'd served him with a subpoena.
Doris Stokes is the brother of William Stokes. He was a volunteer firefighter in Christian County for about seven years, and over that time went on many call-outs. On November 19 he responded to both the Rosetown Road car fire, and later to Phillip's residence. In further questioning, Doris said that he has been friends with Joan Harmon in the past.
Ed Stokes testified that he is the brother of Doris and William, but that he doesn't talk to any of his brothers regularly. Ed worked for Christian County Sheriff's Office for 17 years. On April 17th, 2013, he was working in the Sheriff's Office when Martin came in with a court order to release weapons seized following the disturbance at the Martin's house. Ed Stokes had the paperwork for the transaction and item number three on the form is a Glock 21, the suspected murder weapon in 2015. Several 22 caliber weapons, and a shotgun were also returned to Martin at that time. Ed said that in 2015, he was also one of the responding officers for the Rosetown Road car fire, and also went to the Phillips residence to help with the search warrant service. While there Ed was asked by a commander to leave the Phillips house to avoid possible family conflict because his brother, William, was in a relationship with John Harmon.
Katherine Demps is Martin civil attorney who represented him in the divorce. She filed for an annulment of the marriage because Joan could not produce any record of a divorce decree from her first marriage. It turned out that Harmon was not married to Martin because she'd never divorced her last husband, which ultimately ended and Joan's bigamy conviction. In 2015, Demps said that she drafted the document, allowing power of attorney to Laura Spencer on November 16th, 2015. Demps noted that she and Martin communicated regularly and exchanged emails on the morning of November 18, starting at 9:00 AM and into the evening around 9:00 PM. On November 19, they emailed each other in the morning and periodically throughout the day, starting at 9:00 AM. Demps also represented Martin for part of the court-martial.
The defense recalled Lieutenant Smith from the Christian County Sheriff's Office. They showed him clips of the CCTV video for Martin's home, focusing on specific clips that he had not shown in his earlier presentation. The defense was able to clarify that the prosecution case left out some of Martin's movements on the 18th. Some of these omissions could have given the false impression that Martin returned to the house when a corresponding departure was not shown. This happened because only one channel of the multiplex system was shown to the jury during the prosecution's case. Basically the defense was showing that at best, the police portrayal in the video is incomplete and at worse, deliberately misleading.
As the defense presentation came to a close Martin, took the stand. He immediately denied any participation in the murders. Then the defense attorney led Martin through a chronological account of his adult life. Martin story started with him enlisting in the Army. He served from ranks E1 to E5, and then attended college in an ROTC program. Upon graduation, Martin received a commission, the start of three years of active duty flying helicopters. He then transferred to the Army Guard. After 9-11, Martin's request to return to active duty was granted. He served three combat tours in Iraq as a Battalion Commander. In 2016, after Martin was discharged from the Army, he wanted to continue working in aviation. So he went through a fixed-wing transition course and became an airline pilot. The defense attorney asked him a series of questions centered around when he lived in Pembroke. He and Joan bought the property in an auction. The house was in serious need of maintenance. Still, it was reasonably close to the base and sat on two and a half acres, which appealed to them because they'd always dreamed of raising farm animals. Martin said that the remodel of the house started right away and was always in progress while he occupied it. The front door was warped and never worked correctly. So he nailed it in place, hoping eventually it would unwarp. Martin said the front door was never used. Instead, everything was done out the back door through the screen porch. The house was old and it didn't have adequate insulation. So it was cold in the winter. He used a kerosene heater as a supplemental heat source and had just purchased a new one in the fall of 2015. November 18th, 2015 was the first time he used it. And that is why he set an alarm that would wake him up in the middle of the night so he could check on the heater.
Martin met Joan online. She told him that she ran away from her husband because he was abusive to her and the kids. Martin was under the impression that she'd been divorced for a while. The relationship progressed and they had a courthouse ceremony in 2004. They were together for nine years and married for eight. Martin said that towards the end of the relationship, Joan began to act weird. She became controlling and he noticed that she was lying. She changed key points in stories about her life that she had told over the years. He said, Joan didn't work. She didn't want to work, which was part of the problem. As things went downhill, they tried counseling, but the problems persisted. Martin said the marriage with Joan ended in 2012. On the night they separated Joan stormed around the house, making accusations. He tried not to fight in front of the kids and he tried to walk away, but she followed him. Martin told her that he wanted a divorce and she told him that if he left, she would ruin his life and enumerated how she was going to do that. They both called the police. When the police arrived and sorted the stories out, Martin agreed to leave for the night. He and his daughter stayed at a hotel. The next day, when he returned to the house, he was served with a DV restraining order. And part of that order was the couldn't return home. Martin went to a court hearing two weeks later during which his request to return home was granted. Martin described that Joan had taken everything except the heaviest furniture. He added, "which the cops eventually smashed". Joan even took all the animals. His personal dog, a German shepherd named Sarge was brought back to him from Joan's by Ken Buckner. Sarge had a broken leg and was obviously malnourished. The vet told him it was the worst case of abuse he'd ever seen.
The defense attorney asked Martin questions about the neighborhood and the neighbors. He said that his relationship with Calvin Phillips was initially cordial. They socialized shooting guns in the Phillip's backyard; went to an antique car festival. Martin said Joan spent more time with Calvin than he did. He knew Pam worked long hours going to work very early and coming home late Martin reasserted the claim that Calvin would give testimony at the court martial favorable to Martin. He said that his private investigator had an interview to that effect that it had been broadcast on a local TV news channel. This testimony was meant to imply that there was a recorded interview of Calvin by the private investigator.
Martin described Ed as a good guy who had a regular schedule out of town. He also knew that Ed was a musician and played piano well.
The defense attorney reviewed some of the prosecution evidence, which Martin generally dismissed, saying the expert testimony showed he was not guilty. Martin said that the timing of the power of attorney was not suspicious. He wanted Laura to have it in case anything happened to him. Martin had issued power of attorney whenever he was on Army deployment. When Martin looked at the dog tag that was found in Phillip's house, he denied it was ever his. He said he'd had numerous dog tags over the years and had given some to his kids, but no one else. He pointed to the string and said he would never have one on a string.
Martin talked about his arrest at the Louisville airport. He would be the pilot on a departing flight. And he was arrested just after passing through security. He was incensed, saying the seamless chaotic. Martin was angry that it happened in public where passengers could see what was happening.
The cross examination of Martin began with a brief recap of Martin's time in the Army. Martin had attended Ranger School and the prosecutor asked him to give details about that training. Martin said it was a strenuous course that lasted three to four months. It mainly involved training in small unit tactics and leadership while navigating challenging terrain.
The prosecutor continued the questioning by asking Martin about employment the defense had omitted. Martin said that he had worked for GCI maintaining cellular and internet networks in Kentucky.
Questioning turned to Martin's two marriages. Martin said that he was married to his first wife, Stacy from 1991 to 2004 and they'd had three children. Stacy asked for a divorce in March 2004, but their relationship had been good since. The prosecutor challenged Martin on this assertion, presenting a copy of a letter that he had written to the State of Tennessee Child Support Enforcement. In the letter, he complained that Stacy was calling and emailing repeatedly threatening him. Martin was asked to read the most vitriolic parts of the letter. During that part of the testimony, Martin appeared agitated. He denied remembering anything about the situation or writing the letter.
Martin had met Joan Harmon through an online service around June 2004. They exchanged emails and texts before meeting in person and Joan moved in with him at Fort Rucker, Alabama, within a few months. Martin said that the marriage to Joan was good for several years through several assignments in Fort Rucker, in Germany, and in Rhode Island where he attended school. The relationship took a turn after they moved to Pembroke in July 2011. By summer of 2012, their relationship had badly deteriorated. After they separated, Martin said he didn't know where Joan moved to, but he did see her around Pembroke from time to time. He denied knowing that Joan stayed with the Phillips across the street for some time after she moved out of the house. Martin met Laura Spencer online in November within two weeks of Joan leaving. Laura Spencer had been just widowed in October 2012.
When the prosecutor asked Martin about what he knew about Calvin Phillips and his role in the court-marshall, Martin was evasive denying knowing the extent of Calvin's role. He did assert that Calvin was going to testify for him, clearly meaning that Calvin would give testimony favorable to Martin's case. The prosecutor challenged him on this, but Martin was insistent and denied his defense strategy was to discredit Calvin. The prosecutor then handed Martin a copy of the defense's reasoning for calling Phillips submitted before the court-marshall. Martin was asked to read it, and it clearly stated that Calvin was being summoned to refute inconsistent statements that he had made. The defense alleged that Calvin was one of the instigators in the investigation and had a motive to fabricate evidence. In follow-up questioning Martin admitted that Calvin was subpoenaed each time the court martial was reset. He also knew that the trial was going to proceed on December 1st.
At the prosecutor's request, Martin gave his account of what he did on November 18th, 2015. When the kids left her school, he was alone at his house until he drove to Fort Campbell at 9:00 AM. Martin was at work for most of the day. He picked up some things for their anniversary and arrived back home about 4:15 PM. Laura was there when he arrived. The Spencer kids returned home briefly, but then left for a group activity. He claims to have not noticed anything happening around the Phillip's home that day.
On November 19th, Martin noticed police activity around the Phillip's house. He said he talked to his lawyer and his private investigator that afternoon. The private investigator asked him about his weapons. Usually, Martin kept a Glock 45, his 22 and a 38 in the back passenger area of his truck. The PI told him to move his Glock from the truck to the safe, because Joan Harmon might still have a key to the truck. Martin denied that any of his guns had been used. He further disputed that the experts had left open the possibility that one of his 22s fired the fatal bullets, but acknowledged that the casing on the porch was from his Glock. He insisted that that casing was planted evidence.
At the end of the testimony in a criminal trial, each side can sum up and draw conclusions from the body of information presented. The defense goes first. In the Martin trial, the defense attorney gave a lengthy oration along a simple theme. There was no real evidence. And where evidence existed, it had been planted by Joan Harmon, or was ordinary behavior interpreted to look sinister.
With the no evidence theme, the defense had several areas to point to. First, there were no bullet matches. There was no compelling trace evidence match, no hairs, no fingerprints, no DNA. Any evidence that existed was tainted by the chain of custody. The police didn't find the casing or the 22 bullet because those were planted after the fact, which was possible because the crime scene was not secure in the weeks and months after the murders. The defense attorney labeled two items as desperate attempts to plant evidence. He said the dog tag and the court-martial subpoena, positioned as if on display on Calvin's desk, were ridiculous. Obviously intended to steer the investigation away from the real killer.
The last night Martin and Joan were together, she told him that she was going to ruin his life. Joan's manipulation of Calvin initiated the court-martial proceeding. When it looked like the court-martial wasn't enough, Joan killed Calvin and staged things to frame Martin. That Joan is evil can be seen in her actions. She's an abuser of animals. She almost killed Martin's dog, Sarge.
Joan Martin may have had help in those killings on South Main Street. Her boyfriend, William Stokes only worked two and a half hours on November 18th, and William's brothers were involved in the response and investigation of the murders.
The Phillips family was involved in getting Martin falsely accused of murder. This led to a string of injustices against Martin. The victim's families hired in New York city attorney to advise them on how to get charges filed. They met with politicians to increase the pressure on law enforcement. According to the defense attorney, this pressure led to a lousy indictment by a grand jury that was presented with false information. This flawed indictment has been followed by prosecution errors, like an inaccurate timeline.
At this point, the defense attorneys showed John Homack's surveillance video of his parking area. The north face and cameras showed wisps of white smoke from left to right around 11:50 PM. The defense asserted that It was a smoke from the car fire that happened two hours before the prosecution presented.
According to the defense attorney, the remaining evidence was just Martin living his everyday life made to seem sinister by reverse engineering. Martin could not have been walking in the field when Matlock saw him, but if he ever had been Martin walked his dog regularly. The gaps in the cell record were just when he happened to not be using his phone. Martin led an organized life. He bought a new kerosene heater and he set an alarm to check to see if it was working in the middle of the night. Even if kerosene was used in the car fire off Rosetown Road, it's commonly used for heating throughout the region.
The defense used the example of Martin being very organized to assert that he couldn't have committed the crime because whoever did was sloppy. They went back to the scene repeatedly, moving things around. Martin wouldn't do those things.
And the final point the defense made was that it didn't make sense that Martin would commit the crime because he had no motive. Calvin wasn't going to testify against him. Instead, he would flip and testify in favor of the defense
Prosecution's closing was focused on why and how Martin killed three of his neighbors. Martin had the means, the opportunity, and the motive. No one else did the crime because no one else needed or wanted to. For motive, Martin faced a fast approaching court-martial that would end his military career. He had hired two private investigators to dig up dirt to trash the witnesses and stop the trial. And they'd been unsuccessful.
Another motivating factor was that Martin wanted revenge. The neighbor, a fellow Army guy living just across the street had betrayed him by helping Joan move out. The disloyalty was compounded when Calvin turned over evidence to the FBI. Calvin sensed this when he told people he knew that he thought Martin would try to harm him.
Martin had the means to carry out the murders, not only in terms of equipment, but also know-how. The prosecutor said that the crime was cold-blooded, calculated, military-style execution. Martin had the training and the capacity to do this. He had trained in over land navigation. The car dumpsite across the field was less than two miles from the house. He had reconned the dump area. Mr. Matlock saw him there. Martin knew how cell services worked. So he left his phone at home because he knew it would be tracked.
And Martin had the opportunity. He knew the schedules of the victims. He lived just across the street from the murder scene. Martin's alibi was that he was inside his home all the time with his family. And it doesn't hold up when you watch the backdoor video. On it, he goes in and out alone several times, even late into the evening when his girlfriend and her kids say he couldn't have left without their notice.
The prosecution presented the Martin defense as a made-up conspiracy. .Joan Harmon and William Stokes are diversions. There was no conspiracy by the Stokes brothers, no police conspiracy, no prosecutorial conspiracy, no conspiracy by the Phillips family against Martin.
The crime was all about Martin killing Calvin