BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — A husband who was charged in the death of his wife and ultimately found guilty of manslaughter has been sentenced to 16 in prison.
Jeff West, 47, was found guilty of reckless manslaughter on Nov. 20 in the death of Kathleen “Kat” Dawn West, who was found dead outside the couple’s home in Calera on January 11, 2018.
West will serve 16 years in prison, minus the three years he already served waiting on his trial.
“He knew what he had to do to cover up this crime and make it go away,” Shelby County assistant district attorney Daniel McBrayer said prior to sentencing. “In evaluating the crime and its consequences, [this] calls for a sentence of 20 years imprisonment.”
In a trial that lasted for nearly a week, prosecutors sought murder charges against Jeff West, arguing that the military veteran had struck his wife with a liquor bottle hours before she was found outside. However, West’s attorneys countered with evidence that with her blood alcohol level at three times the legal limit, Kathleen West had fallen and hit her head, adding that Jeff West was not near her at the time of her death.
Forensic experts brought into the case maintained that the severity of her head injury was not in line with that from a fall.
During his sentencing Monday morning, prosecutors asked the judge to consider a 10-20 year range on West’s sentence, adding that a “deadly weapon” was used in Kathleen West’s death. However, West’s attorneys asked that the bottle be considered a “dangerous weapon” instead.
Prior to sentencing, Kathleen West’s mother, Nancy Martin, took the stand to plead for mercy on behalf of Jeff. Prior to the trial, Nancy had stated her belief that her son-in-law was innocent.
During her testimony, Nancy said that Jeff was a good man and that his conviction was a shock to the family.
“We’ve lost a daughter, (Kathleen’s daughter) Logan West lost her mother and she does not need to lose her father,” she said. “We are hoping for leniency in the sentencing.”
Jeff’s mother, Sue, also took the stand, saying that her son was a kind man and that the case had taken a toll on the family.
“I need my child, Logan needs her father,” Sue said. “We need this to stop, this has been three years of terror and horror.”
In closing statements, the prosecutor, assistant DA Daniel McBrayer said this comes down to “the defendant’s complete inability to accept the consequences of his actions. He’s continued to deny responsibly for his actions.”
McBrayer read a portion of an interview Jeff West gave at the Shelby County Jail as a part of the pre-sentencing report. “He said ‘I did not do it, I don’t know what happened.'”
The prosecution said the defense’s argument from the trial did not hold true, pointing to the blood trail and how Kat’s body must have been moved. West’s attorney argued Kat West was drunk and fell. McBrayer said, at no previous point did Jeff West say he did not know what happened.
“He bears responsibility from start to finish here and he just patently refuses to accept that responsibility,” said Ben Fuller, assistant DA. Even in the face of the jury imposing that responsibility on him.”
Evidence was introduced showing personnel documents from Jeff West’s time as a security officer at BSU. McBrayer said those documents, alongside Jeff West’s military investigator training show he knew what to do to clear his name.
When it came time for the defense to make its closing statements, Robbins asked the judge to look at his background, with no record prior to Kat West’s death.
“There would be blood on his clothes,” said Robbins. “It would have been physically impossible to not have blood on his clothing. It was the same clothing he had on when the police arrived, that he had on the night before. It would have been physically impossible, with that much blood, not to get some blood on you [if he had moved the body]”
Robbins asked the judge sentence Jeff West to time served.
Before Judge Bill Bostick gave his sentencing, Jeff West read a statement he prepared.
“The last three years, I have missed every event in my kids life,” he said. He had to pause, getting choked up. He continued to say he and Kat’s family have stood together during this hardship. He did not mention his wife by name, but said, “I lost my best friend.”
Judge Bostick said his sentencing and the laws, “are designed to punish people, not for who they are, but for what they did.”
Bostick said he did not believe Jeff West woke up and decided to kill his wife, but agrees with the jury in that Kat West’s death could have been avoided. He then gave his sentencing of 16 years, plus time served.
Jeff West was taken to the Kilby Correctional Facility for initial processing. His attorney said he does not know which prison Jeff West will be transferred to serve the remainder of his sentence.
West’s attorney plans to appeal the jury’s verdict. If he files an appeal, it will go to the state attorney general’s office.
“A motion for a new trial, and the appeal filed in due course,” said Robbins “We have a few weeks to deal with that, but we’ve been working on a few things already.”
The case originally brought international attention due to the fact that Kathleen, better known as “Kat,” had an online presence as a webcam model who sold explicit photos of herself online.
“Well first off, we’re pleased to have brought justice in this case,” assistant district attorney Daniel McBrayer said following the jury verdict. “But beyond that, while we continue to believe that this was an intentional murder, we are pleased that he has been brought to justice.”
West was originally set to be sentenced back in January, but his hearing was delayed for unknown reasons.