Family speaks on Jeff West’s behalf as judge denies bond reduction request
COLUMBIANA – Shelby County Judge William Bostick denied a bond reduction request for 44-year-old accused murderer William Jeffrey West at a hearing at 1:30 p.m. on Monday, April 9.
During the hearing West was also arraigned and entered a plea of not guilty in response to his indictment.
West, who is accused of murdering his wife Kathleen “Kat” West by hitting her in the head with a liquor bottle, sat in the courtroom shackled by his wrists and ankles as family members testified on his behalf.
The denial of the request came after West’s father, William Gerald West, and his mother-in-law Nancy Martin spoke as witnesses on his behalf. Jeff West’s mother, Carolyn West, was also at the hearing. Martin said her husband, who did not attend the hearing, also supports Jeff West and doesn’t believe he killed Kathleen.
West has been in jail on $500,000 bond since being arrested on Thursday, Feb. 22. On March 20, West’s attorney, John Robbins, electronically filed a motion for a bond reduction. The motion claimed that the bond amount is excessive and West has “no possible way” of paying it.
The state’s bond schedule recommends a bond of $15,000 to $150,000 for murder.
During the hearing Robbins argued that his client’s honorable discharge from the military after roughly 21 years of service speaks to his character and that he is not a flight risk because he has familial connections in Shelby County. Robbins also pointed out that before Feb. 22, Jeff West had never been arrested and did not have a criminal record.
William Gerald West testified that the daughter Jeff West has with Kathleen lives in Calera with her maternal grandparents and that he also has a 15-year-old son who lives in Chelsea. William Gerald West also stated that he and Jeff West’s mother also live in Calera.
He said he would be willing to post bail for his son if it were lowered to a reasonable amount and that Jeff could live with him and his wife while awaiting trial.
William Gerald West, who is a hunter, said he would be willing to remove all of his guns from his home and turn them over to the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office or to someone else if Jeff was released into his care. He said he would be willing to adhere to any conditions of his son’s release, even if that meant house arrest or a curfew.
Kathleen’s mother Nancy Martin, who has temporary custody of the couple’s daughter, testified saying that she and her husband have supported Jeff from day one. She said she would also be willing to help secure bond for Jeff in any way that she could.
“He has kids, family, owns property and has ties to this community,” Robbins argued. “He has the support of his family and a suitable place for living.”
He asked the judge to take all of those factors into consideration while making his decision.
The prosecution did not call any witnesses to the stand but argued that West is a flight risk. The prosecution said West has had conversations about sending his daughter to live in Alaska where his sister lives.
After the hearing, Carolyn West said she believes the police are listening in on her family’s phone conversations.
“I’m pretty sure they’ve been tapping phones,” Carolyn West said.
Carolyn West said the conversation about sending Jeff and Kat’s daughter to live in Alaska took place on the phone and the only way the prosecution could possibly know about it is if they were listening in on the family’s phone calls.
The prosecution also said that Jeff West is considering selling his house, which also raises concerns about him being a flight risk. Robbins said there was some discussion about selling Jeff West’s home, but that no decision was ever made. No one has lived in the home since West’s arrest in February.
The prosecution revealed that Jeff West’s fingerprints were found on the liquor bottle that is believed to be the murder weapon and that Kathleen’s blood was found on the bottle. He said that West’s timeline of events on the night Kathleen died “doesn’t add up” and that the case has a “strong probability” for conviction. However, Robbins said the state’s case against his client is far from being strong.
“It’s all based on circumstantial evidence,” Robbins said. “The autopsy says that the manner of death is undetermined.”
Robbins said there’s no evidence to support the claim that the liquor bottle was the blunt force trauma that resulted in Kathleen’s death.
After considering the arguments made by the prosecution and the defense carefully, Bostick said the $500,000 bond set for West is sufficient and necessary. He said releasing West would pose a threat to the community and that he believes West is a flight risk.
Members of West’s family could be heard crying in the audience as Bostick announced his decision.
After the hearing, Carolyn West and Martin spoke out against the judge’s decision. Carolyn West called it “an injustice.” Martin and Carolyn West said they believe Kathleen’s death was an accident.
Martin said her daughter was a binge drinker and it is possible that she could’ve wondered outside, fell, hit her head and died. Carolyn West and Martin agreed that it wasn’t far-fetched to believe that Kat took off her own clothes.
“She didn’t drink a lot, but when she did she didn’t know how to stop,” Martin said.
Martin said her daughter also went to Alcoholics Anonymous for a while to deal with her drinking, but at the time Martin said she wasn’t aware of it because that’s not the type of thing Kat talked to her about.
Martin also confirmed that her daughter dealt with mental illness and was possibly taking medications for bipolar disorder and depression.
“Maybe she fell. I think it was an accident,” she said. “Jeff didn’t do this. He’s a good man and he loved her with all of his heart.”
Martin said Jeff lived with her for a few weeks after Kat’s death and the emotion he showed during that time and at her funeral can’t be faked.
“You can’t fake what he went through,” she said. “They both got tattoos of the infinity sign on their wrists. They loved each other so much.”
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