COLUMBIANA, Ala. (WIAT) — Almost three years ago, Kathleen Dawn West, a Calera mother who had an online following as a “camgirl” and posted adult-themed photos of herself on the internet, was found dead in her home. Her husband, Jeff West, was later charged with her murder.
On Tuesday, the trial against Jeff West began in Shelby County. During opening statements, prosecutor Daniel McBrayer maintained that Jeff West murdered his wife, also known as “Kat,” by hitting her on the head with a liquor bottle.
John Charles Robbins, West’s attorney, countered the prosecution by saying that Jeff West was innocent and that Kat West was drunk and fell, hitting her head the night she died. Two witnesses, including the responding police officer and a woman who drove by the scene, gave testimonies.
Day 2 of trial:
Josh Leonard is asked to the stand. Leonard is a Calera police officer and an evidence technician. Dozens of photographs taken by Leonard inside Jeff West’s home were submitted into evidence.
One photo depicts the inside of the washing machine. When asked why he took this photo, Leonard said he did so in case of an effort to cover anything up. Other photos were taken that show Kat West’s underwear and pants on the kitchen table and drinking glasses, one containing lipstick prints. A woman’s shirt with spots on it was photographed in a bathroom.
In the upstairs master bathroom, a towel hung from the shower rod with red-brown stains on it. Leonard said he took a photo of it because it appeared to be blood. Leonard said he collected DNA swabs of Jeff West’s fingertips.
During a recess, attorneys argued over the submission of text messages into evidence. The messages in question were from the day before and from a few weeks before Kat West’s death. Kat and Jeff West argued in the text messages. Kat West also sent nude photos of herself to her husband. Judge Bill Bostick decided to allow the messages to be submitted into evidence.
Judge Bostick read off a few of these messages, one stating, “Never doing this holiday again with you.” Another message read, “Baby, I love you and feel like my head is going to explode. I love you.”
Jeff West threw his arms up in the air when the judge announced the texts would be submitted. Jeff West’s attorney John Robbins told CBS 42 Wednesday these messages won’t make the case the prosecution is hoping for.
“To me, it’s a bunch of baloney,” said Robbins. “It’s supposed to show the volatile marriage they had. She’s mad at him one minute and sending naked pictures to him and saying she loves him the next.’
After the recess, the prosecution called Jay Cardwell to the stand. Cardwell is a Calera Police patrolman and an evidence technician. Cardwell said he seized several firearms from Jeff’s home, stating he did this because he was unsure what may have been used as a murder weapon.
Jeff’s truck was taken into police custody and processed as evidence. Cardwell said a matchbox that resembled the one found near Kat’s body was found in Jeff’s truck. Hunting gear was also found, including a .22 caliber rifle, a knife, and a bow and arrow.
When Cardwell later returned to the scene of the crime, he found a piece of wood with a nail in it in a nearby gutter. The piece of wood was taken into evidence. The wood was swabbed for DNA and sent off to forensics.
The next witness brought in to testify was Daniel Goodwin, an Alabaster police officer and forensic investigator who supervises special investigations, specializing in digital forensics. Goodwin downloaded messages from Kat’s phone. Jeff’s number was saved in Kat’s phone as “Big Papa.”
Steve Johnson, a Pelham police officer and evidence technician, is an expert in latent print developing. He processed the liquor bottle that was found near Kat West’s body. Johnson lifted nine fingerprints off of the liquor bottle. He also found red-brown dots on the bottom of the bottle, which he describes as looking like dried blood. A photograph was shown that showed a chip in the bottom of the bottle.
Wednesday’s trial was cut short due to sewage problems in the courthouse. The trial resumes Thursday at 9 a.m. The jury is expected to see text message evidence as well as the video statement Jeff West gave to police nearly three years ago. His lawyer said he hasn’t decided as to whether or not Jeff West will take the stand.