On Saturday, startled passengers watched as U.S. Marshals boarded their plane in Louisville and took their pilot in custody on murder charges

By KC Baker
May 13, 2019 12:24 PM

A pilot for an American Airlines subsidiary accused of murdering three of his neighbors in 2015 was arrested in Kentucky moments before takeoff Saturday on a plane filled with passengers.

U.S. Marshals and police boarded a plane at Louisville International Airport and arrested Christian Martin, 51, of Raleigh, North Carolina, a day after a grand jury indicted him on three counts of murder, arson and other charges in connection with the November 2015 slayings of Calvin and Pamela Phillips and their neighbor, Edward Dansereau, Attorney General Andy Beshear said in a videotaped statement Saturday.

On Nov. 18, 2015, Calvin Phillips, 59, was found shot to death inside his home in Pembroke, the attorney general said in a news release. At the time, the Phillipses and Martin lived across the street from each other.

The bodies of Pamela Phillips, 58, and their neighbor Dansereau, 63, were found a few miles away in a cornfield in her car, which had been burned, the news release says.

The attorney general has not discussed a possible motive for the killings, but in a 2016 interview with NBC affiliate WSMV-TV, Martin had accused Calvin Phillips of having an affair with his wife.

Asked in the interview if he thought he would be charged with the murders, he replied that he had “no worries.”

The slayings occurred just days before Martin, a former Army Ranger major, faced a military court-martial on charges of assault consummated by battery upon a child under the age of sixteen and conduct unbecoming an officer, military records state, ABC News reports.John Kelly, a representative for the Phillips family, told CNN that Calvin Phillips was scheduled to testify against Martin.

Martin was convicted of assaulting his stepson by “placing his arms around his stepson’s neck in a ‘rear naked choke,’ lifting him off the ground, and squeezing his neck until his body went limp and felt numb,” the records state, ABC News reports.

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He was dismissed from the military and placed under “confinement for 90 days,” according to the records.

A pilot for PSA Airlines, which is owned by American Airlines, Martin is on administrative suspension pending the outcome of the investigation and court proceedings, American Airlines said in a statement.

In a statement to The Washington Post, the airline said Martin went through a background check and vetting, but said there was no “criminal history that would disqualify him from being a commercial pilot.”

“All of us at American Airlines and PSA airlines are deeply saddened to have learned about these allegations from 2015,” the statement said. “We will provide any investigative assistance possible to law enforcement throughout their investigation.”

On Saturday, passengers on Martin’s plane said they were shocked when their pilot was taken into custody while they were waiting to take off.

“It was like something you would totally see in a movie,” passenger Ashley Martin told local station WRAL.

Martin is being held without bond in the Christian County Detention Center.

It is unclear whether he has retained an attorney who can speak on his behalf. He has not yet entered a plea.