An Alabama man accused of murdering his wife has an unlikely champion for his defense: the victim’s mother, who insists the suspect was a good man and a loving husband.
A 19-year-old neighbor on her way to work found Kathleen “Kat” West’s body face-down in the street across from the couple’s Calera, Alabama, home at about 5 a.m. on Jan. 13.
Kat, 42, was naked except for a sports bra, bleeding from the head, and had her cell phone nearby under a green liquor bottle that appeared to be intentionally placed there, according to witness descriptions of the scene reported by AL.com.
Charging documents say she died Jan. 12 after being hit in the head with a Lucid Absinthe bottle. The bottle had Kat’s blood and a single set of fingerprints that authorities allege belonged to 44-year-old Jeff West, Kat’s husband and the father of the couple’s then 12-year-old daughter, said Shelby County Chief Assistant District Attorney Roger Hepburn, according to AL.com.
PEOPLE’s calls to Hepburn were not immediately returned.
In March, a Shelby County grand jury indicted West, an Army veteran and security officer at Birmingham Southern College, and alleged he murdered Kat “by striking her with a glass bottle.”
He has pleaded not guilty and remains in the Shelby County jail on a $500,000 bond, records show.
West’s defense attorney tells PEOPLE that Kat’s death was an accident, saying, “Was she killed or did she fall and hit her head? I don’t know.”
“We understand how she was found, and we understand the allegation that the state is making, but [West is] saying ‘I didn’t do that,’” Robbins says. “We don’t know if she was actually hit in the head with the bottle. … Their case is based on circumstantial evidence, and Jeff is not in a position where he can tell his side of the story yet.”
“He looks forward to his trial where he can clear his name,” adds Robbins.
Kat’s mother believes her son-in-law’s claim of innocence.
“He didn’t do this,” her mother, Nancy Martin, said Monday after a court hearing where Martin took the stand — along with West’s father, William Gerald West — to unsuccessfully lobby for a reduction in West’s jail bond, according to AL.com.
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“He’s a good man,” Martin said. “He loved her with all his heart.”
Martin could not be independently reached by PEOLE for comment.
Victim Was Professional Online Exhibitionist
Drawing further attention to the case is the revelation that Kat was an online exhibitionist, with a Twitter account where she posed provocatively in scanty undergarments and directed people to her adult website where she charged $15.99 per subscription.
Martin said she knew noting of her daughter’s online identity until after Kat died, but that Kat “wanted everyone to think she was beautiful.”
She said Kat suffered from bipolar disorder, would drink and jump on a trampoline or remove her clothes, and was an alcoholic who “fell all the time,” leading Martin to believe that her daughter’s death resulted from an accidental stumble, she said.
After Kat’s death, West stayed with his daughter in Martin’s home until he was arrested, Martin said. “I trust him with my whole heart,” she said.
“She has expressed since day one that she does not believe that Jeff killed his wife, her daughter.” Robbins, West’s attorney says of Kat’s mother.
“He loved his wife, he certainly was not a jealous husband, he does not know what happened to her,” Robbins adds.
He says the $500,000 bond amount is being used as “punishment” to keep West in jail as the investigation continues and the case proceeds toward trial.
“Jeff is holding up,” he says. “We appreciate Miss Martin’s position. We appreciate her statements. we certainly did not influence those statements in any way. We don’t talk to her about it.”
“Either they try to pin it on Mr. West, or this case goes unsolved,” Robbins says. “It’s a circumstantial evidence case.”