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Pilot accused of 3 murders had criminal record prior to being hired to fly

Pilot arrested before takeoff
Details emerge about murders that led to pilot's arrest before takeoff 02:32

The airline pilot accused in three Kentucky murders served in the U.S. Army and Army Reserve for 20 years and had been found guilty of assault on a child under the age of 16 in 2016, CBS News has confirmed. On Saturday, Christian Richard Martin, a pilot for PSA Airlines, was arrested in Louisville, Kentucky and charged with the 2015 shooting murders of three people. 

CBS News national security correspondent David Martin reports that Christian Martin served in the Army and Army Reserve from 1986 until 2016. According to the U.S. Army, in August 2016 he was punitively dismissed from service. 

Kentucky Slayings-Pilot Charged
This undated photo provided by the Christian County Detention Center shows Christian R. Martin. Martin, a pilot for an American Airlines subsidiary was arrested Saturday, May 11, 2019, in the 2015 shooting deaths of three people in Kentucky, the state attorney general announced.  Christian County, Kentucky, Detention Center via AP

In May 2016, a court-martial found him guilty of two counts of mishandling classified information and of assault on a child under the age of 16. He was sentenced to be reprimanded, be confined for 90 days and be dismissed from the service. 

A dismissal notice for an officer is equivalent to a dishonorable discharge, which multiple states regard as a felony conviction. This dismissal raises the question of how Martin passed the airline's criminal background check and the TSA background check to get the Secure Identification Display Area (SIDA) badge, allowing him access to the secured part of the airport. 

The TSA said it checks FAA certificate holders like pilots aginst the Terrorist Screening Database. The airport that issues the SIDA badge would be the responsible for the criminal background check—in the case of Martin, it is Norfolk Airport in Virginia. 

American Airlines told CBS News that Martin's assault on a child under the age of 16 showed up on criminal background check as a "simple assault," which is not an offense that disqualifies someone from employment as an airline pilot, nor is mishandling classified information, as neither were reported as felonies. 

Martin was hired by PSA Airlines in January 2018. He did not fly for mainline American Airlines. 

Martin was arrested on Saturday at the airport in Louisville about an hour before Flight 5523 was set to depart for Charlotte with him at the controls. The arrest came one day after he was indicted by a Christian County grand jury and accused of killing Calvin and Pamela Phillips of Pembroke and their neighbor, Edward Dansereau, in November 2015, according to charges brought by Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear. 

Martin has been indicted on three counts of murder and one count of arson. He also faces charges of attempted arson, burglary and evidence tampering.

Calvin Phillips, 59, was found shot to death in the cellar of his home. The bodies of Pamela Phillips, 58, and Dansereau, 63, were found a few miles away in a cornfield inside her burned car.

Authorities have not given a motive for the slayings or said what led them to believe Martin was responsible. CBS News TV reports cite an CNN interview done by Calvin and Pamela Phillips' son, Matt Phillips, where he claimed the motive was tied to his father's plans to testify against Martin at his court martial. 

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