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Crime News Dateline

Kentucky Triple Murder Leads to Shocking New Allegations Against Army Major

“It’s a deeply human tale about people full of love and sometimes hate,” Dateline: Unforgettable Correspondent Keith Morrison said.

By Jill Sederstrom
A police hand out of Christian R Martin

Cal Phillips' only responsibility on Wednesday Nov. 18, 2015, was to let the appliance delivery man inside his Pembroke, Kentucky home.

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When Cal missed the delivery his wife was furious, but after he didn’t answer her numerous phone calls her anger quickly turned to worry, according to Dateline: Unforgettable. Pamela left her job as a vice president at a local bank early to go check on her husband — but just minutes after getting home she herself disappeared in the middle of a phone call with a family friend. 

The next day Pam’s car was found burning on a remote road near the outside of town. Her body and the charred remains of the couple’s neighbor, Edward Dansereau, were found inside. 

Deputies scouring the Phillips’ home found Cal’s body at the bottom of the stairs of the cellar. He had been beaten and shot five times. 

Who could have wanted three people from the small rural town dead? The surprising answer would reveal a chilling motive that rocked the small community of 700 people. 

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“It’s a deeply human tale about people full of love and sometimes hate,” Correspondent Keith Morrison said of the memorable case. “It’s about wide open lives and secrets that eat away like rust, the kind you don’t see until it’s too late.” 

Cal Phillips' Disappearance

After retiring from the Army years earlier, Cal spent most days fixing up his dream home, a large Victorian in need of repair, while Pamela headed off to work. 

“He loved the history, the history of this thing was I think, what drew him,” his sister Diana Phillips said of the labor of love. 

Cal planned to work on the old home the day he missed that delivery. Family friend Marlene LaRock had called him earlier in the day and left a message on the family’s answering machine. When he never called back, she stopped by and noticed the front door of the house was open but there was no sign of Cal.

“They never leave their doors open. Never,” LaRock said.

Despite her concern, LaRock thought Cal must just be outside in the backyard tinkering on something and decided she’d catch up with him at another time.

Meanwhile, Pamela was also trying to reach Cal. When he didn’t answer all day, she left her job early to check on him. At home, she heard the message on the answering machine from LaRock and called her back around 5:30 p.m.

“She said, ‘Have you seen Cal today?’ and I said ‘No, in fact, I went by there earlier and the house was wide open.’” LaRock recalled. “ She said, ‘wide open?’ She says, ‘hold on a minute, don’t hang up, I hear something’ and then I heard, like, a squeal and she never came back on the phone.”

Worried, LaRock and her daughter stopped by the home a few minutes later and LaRock opened the door and started to walk inside, but then stopped and decided not to go any further.

“I had a chill going up my backbone,” she said. “Something in my gut told me I did not want to go in there.”

LaRock and her daughter quickly fled, but she never thought to call the police.

The next day, someone called 911 to report Pamela’s car on fire on a remote road. Two burned bodies were inside.The vehicle was charred beyond recognition but the license plate had melted off in the blaze and investigators could still make out the license plate number. 

They linked the car to Pamela and deputies headed to the family’s home. In the grass, they noticed what looked like blood spots. They found Cal’s crumpled body at the foot of the basement stairs and then took a closer look outside, where they discovered a cell phone and handgun laying in the grass. 

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Who was Edward Dansereau?

Deputies also noticed the back door to neighbor Edward Dansereau’s home was wide open. 

“The television was on, a light was on in the kitchen, there had been a meal that had been prepared, there was a, was a beer that was freshly opened,” Sheriff Brent White, then a commander with state police, told Morrison.

They also saw an empty gun holster on a nearby chair.

“It looked like someone had left in a hurry,” White said. 

Investigators believed Dansereau, a professional pianist and amateur chef, had likely rushed from the home after hearing some kind of commotion at the Phillips’ house, but what happened next remained a mystery.

Christian Martin Arrested in Pembroke Murders

While cleaning out the house, the couple’s grown son Matt Phillips and his aunt Diana discovered a dog tag on a bookshelf belonging to the neighbor across the street, Christian “Kit” Martin, a U.S. Army major stationed out of the nearby Fort Campbell.

“It wigged me out and I was very upset,” Diana said of the strange finding.

Investigators learned Martin had lived at the home across the street with his stunning wife Joan Harmon and her three children.

“I got along with everybody,” Martin told Morrison of life in the neighborhood.

But by the time of the murder, Martin’s relationship with Harmon had fallen apart. Harmon accused Martin of “domestic abuse” in a 911 call and although a judge would later rule there wasn’t enough evidence to pursue charges against him, the judge did grant both parties a restraining order against each other.

During the heated breakup, Harmon and her three children had temporarily moved in with the Phillips.

“They were beautiful people,” Harmon told a local news outlet after the murders.

They eventually moved her into a rental property they owned and loaned her a car. When Cal was helping Harmon move her things from her former home, they found a box with a laptop and some computer disks labeled “secret” that belonged to the Army.

As a former linguistics officer, Cal knew they were items that shouldn’t be kept at a private residence and took the items to the FBI, who passed the case to military investigators. He also told Army investigators about a photograph he’d seen of Harmon’s son with bruises and welts on his back, allegedly from a beating he received from Martin.

Cal had been expected to testify in Martin’s upcoming court martial trial at the time of his death. If convicted, Martin stood to lose his military career.

“That court martial was days in the future from the time he was murdered,” White said.

There were also rumors that Cal and Harmon may have had an affair, an allegation Harmon denied.

A witness also reported seeing Martin near the abandoned road just days before the car had been found burning and a ballistics expert linked a bullet cartridge to Martin’s pistol.

Authorities believe he likely targeted Cal and then killed Pamela and Dansereau as collateral damage when they encountered him at the scene.

Martin insisted he never harmed Cal, Pamela or Dansereau and insisted Harmon must have framed him.

“I’m innocent,” he told Morrison.

But investigators didn’t see it that way. Martin — who was then working as a commercial airline pilot — was arrested before boarding a plane in May of 2019 and charged with murder, arson, burglary and tampering with evidence.

He was found guilty in June 2021.