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Did Kat West’s online life play a role in her mysterious death?

▶ Watch Video: Sneak peek: The Mysterious Death of Kat West

Kat West’s lifeless body was found outside of her Calera, Alabama, home by a neighbor who noticed her lying partially dressed in the street. Police soon learned the 42-year-old stay-at-home mom had an active social media life, including an active OnlyFans account. Authorities initially considered whether an overzealous fan caused her death.

“A beautiful woman, nude in a street, in a nice subdivision,” says reporter Carol Robinson, a CBS News consultant. “That is what doesn’t happen every day around here. And that is what drove this story.”

Kat West had hundreds of fans on OnlyFans, a subscription-only website popular with celebrities and social media influencers alike, where content providers and consumers can communicate. Just last week, 18-year-old rapper “Bhad Bhabie” made more than $1 million dollars posting lifestyle content on OnlyFans in only six hours.

Kat West’s half-naked body was found outside her suburban Alabama home in January 2018. She was lying in a pool of blood with a roughly two-inch gash on the left side of her head.

Kat West/Facebook

Like many, Kat West had used the site to post adult content.

For three years, correspondent Maureen Maher and “48 Hours” have been investigating Kat’s death. It’s a case about an unconventional marriage, a mom with a fixation on Marilyn Monroe and the question of whether her online life could have led to her death.

Lauren Kwei knows some of the risks of OnlyFans all too well. When she couldn’t live on a paramedic’s modest salary in New York City, Kwei says she turned to the popular platform as a way to make ends meet, posting nudes under an alias. She says her world exploded last December when a tabloid newspaper went public with her full name, the name of her employer, and even where she lived.

“I definitely wish things had gone differently in my experience, however … I’m pretty proud of who I am today,” Kwei says in her first television interview.

Generating money from subscribers was a way to survive in New York City, she says, adding that she worried about the risks of being so exposed on the internet. And while she lost her anonymity, Kwei says she knows that, by being outed online, she could have lost a lot more.

“Sometimes I think about Kat West and I think about where she would be today and how much more of her life she could have fulfilled,” Kwei says.

But how did Kat West die? Was it murder and if so by whom? Could it have been an accident?

There were many things about her death that struck police as odd. At the death scene, Kat’s husband Jeff was oddly reserved, police say. She was found with a fatal head wound and a bottle of absinthe lying on top of her phone nearby.

“It just did not seem right that it … would have landed in such a way … other than being staged,” says Calera Police Sgt. Mike Mehlhoff.

LIFE OF THE PARTY

One look at her online presence made it clear: Kathleen West put the “social” in “social media.”  

Brittany Driesler: It was out there … for the whole world to see.

And friends like Brittany Driesler say, “Kat was very extroverted.” In the real world, she was always the life of the party, as well.

Brittany Driesler: Kat would get on stages and sing. She couldn’t sing for the life of her, but she would sing!  

Carol Robinson: Kat was proud of who she was. 

So, on January 13, 2018, when the 42-year-old wife and mother, widely known as Kat, was found dead in the street near her Alabama home, veteran reporter and CBS consultant Carol Robinson smelled a story. In the tight-knit Birmingham suburbs, she’s known as “The Coco Chanel of Crime.”

Carol Robinson:  I don’t let what I cover dictate what I wear.

She later arrived at the scene and started hunting to see if Kat’s past could help explain her death. 

Nancy Martin:  She loved to be outside. 

John Martin: Yes.

Nancy Martin: That was her big deal.  She had a swing set.

Kat’s parents Nancy and John Martin say as a kid in Florida, she doted on her dolls.

Maureen Maher: And did she want to be a mom someday? 

Nancy Martin: Absolutely. Yes.

John Martin: When she got a little bit older … she wanted to do modeling.

Maureen Maher: What was the obsession with Marilyn Monroe? 

“She was obsessed with Marilyn Monroe and … was trying to emulate her in every way,” reporter and CBS News consultant Carol Robinson says of Kat West.

Alamy/Kat West, Facebook

Brittany Driesler [laughs]: She kinda looked like her, she says … She tried to recreate some of her photos, her hairdos. She loved her.

Carol Robinson: She was obsessed with Marilyn Monroe and … was trying to emulate her in every way.

As Carol Robinson retraced the lines of Kat’s life, she realized her resemblance to the troubled movie star was more than skin deep.     

Carol Robinson: There were always self-esteem issues there. … She craved adulation … from some people whether she knew them or not.

John Martin: You’d tell her she’s beautiful. She says, “You’re just my mom and dad.” 

As time went on, Kat’s parents say her feelings of isolation, self-doubt, and depression spiraled out of control.  

Nancy Martin: I don’t know how many different places we took her to. 

John Martin: She went to a lot of counseling.

It was a tough few years. Her parents say she was battling bipolar disorder and drinking too much. But by 2004, the broken pieces of Kat’s life finally began to fall into place. It happened at a Super Bowl party.

Nancy Martin: And that’s where she met Jeff.

Kat struck up a conversation with a local Army recruiter named Jeff West.

Nancy Martin: They fell in love on their first date. 

Maureen Maher: It was really love at first sight? 

John and Nancy Martin: Yes. Yes, it was.

Carol Robinson: Within the year … They were married in Las Vegas.

Jeff and Kat West

Kat West/Facebook

They moved around the country for Jeff’s job and in 2005 they had a daughter, Lola.   

Brittany Driesler: Lola was her light. Lola was her gift, and she adored her daughter.

In 2011, the West family moved to Southern California where Army veteran Brittany Driesler’s husband was thinking of enlisting. At the recruiting station, Brittany says Jeff West basically had her husband at hello. 

Maureen Maher: What was your impression of him? 

Brittany Driesler: He was just super reassuring and nice. He was just nice.

So nice, she says, that he even invited the Drieslers to his home. His wife Kat answered the door.  

Brittany Driesler: She was just in her tank top and shorts and … really happy, bubbly and, “Hey girl!” … Right off the bat, she was like, “You want a drink?”

Brittany says as far as she could tell, Kat and Jeff West were a happy — if somewhat unlikely — couple.  

Brittany Driesler: Seeing how Kat carried herself and what she looked like and then seeing Jeff … I know opposites attract. But I was like, “That guy pulled that girl? Uh …” You know, it never really made sense to me until I started getting to know them more. 

Maureen Maher: You would not describe this as a conventional marriage. 

Brittany Driesler: Definitely not. [laughs]

When it came to the unspoken rules of entertaining, she admits Kat was so colorful that she sometimes colored outside the lines.

Brittany Driesler: She would … jump from the kitchen counter to the sofa and shirtless, braless.

Maureen Maher: Wait! In front of you and your husband?  

Brittany Driesler: Yes! My husband would go, “Oh my gosh!” [Laughs]

The couples hung out at home, but also started going to bars and clubs.  

Brittany Driesler: She’d be lively, animated. … He would just be sitting on the couch, relaxing, having his drink.

Maureen Maher: Did you ever see the two of them fight? 

Brittany Driesler: Kat would fight. Jeff would not. Kat would get emotional. When she was drunk, she would get loud. She would get, umm, feisty. But … he would sit there … and just say “OK, Boo Boo. OK. I love you. All right, baby girl.”

Maureen Maher: You never saw an ounce of jealousy from him?   

Brittany Driesler: Never [laughs] never.

Carol Robinson: That surprised me because … I don’t think many men would feel that way.

Carol says Jeff was proud of having an attractive wife. In 2014, the Wests had moved to Alabama, where he had a job as a campus police officer. The couple always made time to be together with a regular date night, including on the night of January 12, 2018. Jeff’s parents had then-12-year-old Lola for the evening.

Carol Robinson: They go out to a restaurant. … You know, they have some drinks and dinner.

After dinner, they stopped at a liquor store. Security cameras show the couple shopping – apparently without a care in the world. 

The couple had a standing date night, and on the night of Jan 12, 2018, while Jeff’s parents watched then-12-year-old Lola, Jeff and Kat went out for dinner and drinks.  After dinner, a liquor store security camera captured them buying alcohol on the way home.It was the last time Kat West was seen alive. 

Inside Edition

Carol Robinson: Everything seemed fine. At one point, he even patted her on the butt.

But it would be the last time Kat West would be seen alive.

WHAT HAPPENED TO KAT?

When Brittany Driesler learned of Kat’s death, she immediately contacted Jeff West.

Brittany Driesler: I just was shocked, baffled … I don’t believe it. … “What happened? How did this happen?” And his answer was just, “I don’t know.” 

Neither did Macorsha Purifoy. 

Macorsha Purifoy: It was dark. It was cold. 

Macorsha Purifoy: I wasn’t sure, like, what I was seeing… 

Macorsha had been driving to work before dawn that day, when she spotted something. 

Macorsha Purifoy: I think I see … a person laying in the road well, halfway.

Macorsha went home to get her parents. They returned to the scene.

Macorsha Purifoy: Her body was frozen, like frozen. … I was traumatized. I was just in the car crying.  

Macorsha’s mother called 911.

Macorsha Purifoy: They asked to see if she was breathing or not. She wasn’t. And we just waited for the police to get there.

Calera police Sergeant Mike Mehlhoff, a veteran criminal investigator, arrived about 30 minutes later.

Sgt. Mike Mehlhoff: Looking at the scene … Kathleen’s head is laying in the road. Her body is actually laying in the grass. 

And there was something else he noticed right away. 

Sgt. Mike Mehlhoff: It did appear that the body had been moved … more than once.  

Kat West was found lying in a pool of blood across the street from her house. Mehlhoff noticed there was another blood pool nearby. Next to Kat’s body: her cell phone and an open bottle of absinthe liquor – the kind she and her husband had been seen purchasing the night before. 

“The absinthe bottle … it was just propped up on the phone just like that,” Sgt. Mike Mehlhoff demonstrates. “It just did not seem right that it … would have landed in such a way if it — other than being staged.”

CBS News

Sgt. Mike Mehlhoff: The absinthe bottle … it was just propped up on the phone just like that. It just did not seem right that it … would have landed in such a way if it —  other than being staged.

Carol Robinson, who saw the crime scene photos, also thought it looked staged. 

Carol Robinson: That bottle was placed on the phone. 

Maureen Maher: By somebody. 

Carol Robinson: By somebody.  

She says there was somebody at the scene whose behavior caught authorities’ attention. 

Carol Robinson: Jeff West standing in the doorway. … At one point, he was on the porch smoking a cigarette … and watching. 

And when Mehlhoff spoke to Jeff inside …

Sgt. Mike Mehlhoff: His behavior was not what I expected it to be knowing that his wife was outside.  

Maureen Maher: What was your reaction to it? 

Sgt. Mike Mehlhoff: It wasEverybody grieves in a different way. And that was something I kept telling myself…

Kat had a roughly two-inch gash on the left side of her head.  The cause of death was blunt force trauma. 

Sgt. Mike Mehlhoff: The injury that she suffered was enough to actually fracture the skull.

The autopsy showed signs of sex, but there was no indication of sexual assault. Also, her blood alcohol level was nearly three times the legal limit. Still, the medical examiner could not say exactly how Kat sustained the injury.

Carol Robinson: The manner of death was undetermined.   

Was it an accident? Was Kat so intoxicated that she fell and cracked her head? Or was it murder? And if so, who killed Kat West? While authorities searched the neighborhood for clues and witnesses, Jeff went to headquarters.  Police say he stayed for about six hours.  

Maureen Maher: Was Jeff cooperative? 

Carol Robinson: Absolutely. 

Jeff was adamant with police – he had no idea what had happened to Kat. He speculated she may have died by accident. He also said their marriage was in a good place. Police later discovered what the couple’s friends already knew.

Sgt. Mike Mehlhoff: I think it would be fair to characterize her as an exhibitionist. She enjoyed the attention.

Jeff revealed he would actually photograph Kat and help her post suggestive photos online, where hundreds of paying subscribers knew her as “Kitty Kat West.” 

Brittany Driesler: She was very out loud about it. … She was making money.

But Brittany says, for Kat, it was about a lot more than money… 

Brittany Driesler: Kat, when not behind the website, was not always confident … Yes, you have your husband, but you always want to be pretty to others. 

… and remarkably, Jeff seemed to love it.

Brittany Driesler: Jeff got the best of both worlds … He was able to be with his wife. … She got what she wanted, which was I get to make my money … I get to show off what I have … and he’s not going to leave me.

Brittany says by 2018 Kat’s online activity had really ramped up. She’d been using that subscription-only website, OnlyFans to share adult photos and videos.

Brittany Driesler: She was starting to get knee-deep in that type of industry.

And with OnlyFans came a new feature for Kat: providers and subscribers could communicate. Subscribers could also make requests.  

Maureen Maher: Had you heard of OnlyFans?

Sgt. Mike Mehlhoff: No, ma’am.

Mehlhoff was interested to learn that Jeff had photographed Kat for her site the night she died, and her page contained subscriber requests for personalized content. Could one of her OnlyFans subscribers have stalked and murdered her? 

Sgt. Mike Mehlhoff: Do we have somebody else out there that’s actually killing people?

He says they knew they had to cast a wider net – so they sent Jeff home. Mehlhoff says they spent about three weeks looking for other suspects. 

Sgt. Mike Mehlhoff: There were thousands of names that had to be culled through … in order to properly investigate this.

As police continued gathering evidence, Carol Robinson says they had more public involvement than they wanted. Kat’s death had set the internet on fire. 

Carol Robinson: You had this huge online presence. … These murder discussion Facebook groups. … While they may have started in Calera … there were people from all over and they aren’t quiet about their opinions.

It seemed everyone had an opinion on the way Kat died.

CAROL ROBINSON [reading posts]: “… it’s the husband,” “I vote stalker,” “… it might have been a freak accident.”   

And the way she lived.

CAROL ROBINSON [reading posts]: “I don’t agree with her lifestyle,” “… she brought this on herself …”  “She was proud to have such an amazing figure … Good for her!”  

Carol Robinson: She was a sympathetic victim to many. She was an unsympathetic victim to many.

On Facebook, Jeff later made it clear that all the online chatter had taken a toll on the family.  “To the public, our tragedy is juicy gossip…” he wrote.

Carol Robinson: The Facebook thing was really intruding on their lives, in his opinion.

Investigators had formed their own opinion: Kat’s death had been no accident. And on February 22, 2018, they made their move. 

PRESS CONFERENCE: William Jeffrey West, the victim’s husband, has been arrested and charged with the murder.

On February 22, 2018, police arrested Jeff West and charged him with his wife’s murder. His bail was set at $500,000.

Stephen Quinn – ABC 33/40

Bail was set at half-a-million dollars. Brittany Driesler says Jeff should never have been arrested – firmly believing that police failed to fully investigate the hundreds of OnlyFans subscribers who had paid to see the racy content Kat posted. 

Brittany Driesler: Did someone else kill her? 

WELCOME TO ONLYFANS

Some see it as unseemly; others call it harmless fun.  Either way, the online venue where Kat West posted her racy photos, known as OnlyFans, is a lot more than only a website, says Carol Robinson.

Carol Robinson: It’s sort of the happy median between … porn … and “The Brady Bunch.” 

ONLYFANS PROMOTIONAL VIDEO: “Whether you’re a blogger …. celebrity, model, whatever, you can reward your loyal fans with even more of the great content you already produce but get paid for it!”

Since COVID-19 caused widespread lockdowns, OnlyFans has become a provocative and profitable platform for celebrities.  Last summer, former Disney star Bella Thorne reportedly made a $1 million in one day, posting lifestyle content.  And the site has become an exotic destination for more salacious “staycationers” as well:  A place to dream of living large and potentially to make a good living in the process. 

A former teacher in one YouTube video told a reporter she quadrupled her income posting nudes on OnlyFans: “I wear things that allow me to feel sexy, because when I feel sexy, I feel powerful.”

Another woman says she is paying her way through a neuroscience Master’s program. 

And a Minnesota pastor made headlines when she left the pulpit: Not for a higher calling, but she did eventually make a higher paycheck posting on OnlyFans and now reportedly earns tens of thousands of dollars a month. 

By the end of 2020, the London-based site had grown to more than a million content providers and more than 90 million subscribers.

Maureen Maher: Does it surprise you at all to hear that as soon as the pandemic hit, OnlyFans, the popularity and the usage of it, jumped by 75%? 

Lauren Kwei: Not at all. 

In 2015, Lauren Kwei moved to New York from her home in West Virginia with dreams of making it big on Broadway

Lauren Kwei: I really wanted to make something of myself.   

Soon frustrated with the rat race, the 23-year-old daughter of a doctor and nurse began studying emergency medicine and became a paramedic around the time the pandemic began.

Lauren Kwei: I knew there was a job that needed to be done.

Almost immediately, she found herself treating and transporting critically ill COVID patients — working at the intersection of life and death.

Lauren Kwei: I still remember taking patients away whose family members couldn’t come with us. … They didn’t know if it was going to be the last time they saw each other. That was really rough for me. 

Rougher still, she says, because even though she was saving lives, it was impossible to save any money. She was making only about $40,000 a year – less than other first responders like many New York police and firefighters.

Maureen Maher: Is what you were getting paid … enough to cover your monthly nut? 

Lauren Kwei: No, not at all … it wasn’t feasible to live off of that salary.


Paramedic joined OnlyFans to make ends meet

01:40

As her bills piled up and employment options dwindled, Lauren turned to OnlyFans.

Lauren Kwei: I don’t have to go outside of my house, you know … this could be an easy business.

Using an alias, she started by posting lingerie pics, cropping out her face. But she says she soon stopped cropping. And before long, the paramedic who by day was covering every inch of her body in protective clothing, started taking it all off online.

Maureen Maher: Did you post full nude shots? 

Lauren Kwei: Yes, I did.

And she says if Kat West was proud to be on OnlyFans, she would have had reason to be.

Lauren Kwei: The human body, I believe it should be celebrated. 

Maureen Maher: And how did it make you feel when you were posting?  

Lauren Kwei: I felt empowered. I did not feel like I was degrading myself.

Maureen Maher: And just to be clear … This was money you were using to put food on your table? 

Lauren Kwei: A hundred percent.

But Lauren admits she was worried about the exposure.

Lauren Kwei: It was scary to think that, you know, I’d be taking pictures of myself that would be on the Internet.

Especially as her pool of OnlyFans subscribers started to grow. She says some of the requests for personalized content were disrespectful.

Lauren Kwei: There’s some really weird people on the Internet. 

Maureen Maher wondered if West’s attorney was thinking the same thing.

Maureen Maher: Did you ever consider that maybe someone from her online life could have played a role in what happened to her that night? 

John Robbins: We looked into that … and … there just wasn’t that evidence out there.  

No evidence that an OnlyFans online user was involved in Kat West’s death. What the evidence does show, says Jeff’s attorney John Robbins, is that Kat wasn’t murdered.

John Robbins: She fell and hit her head.

Jeff’s parents, Jerry and Suzi, agree. They aren’t sure exactly how Kat hit her head and they don’t think authorities can prove it either.  

William “Jerry” West:  They set out to get Jeff. There was no investigation. 

Carolyn “Suzi” West: I know he’s innocent.

William “Jerry” West: I don’t care what anybody says. He did not do this.

Jeff’s parents say he was incapable of harming his family. Now that is exactly what you would expect to hear from the parents of an accused killer. But you would probably not expect to hear the same thing from the parents of the alleged victim.

John Martin: He’s honorable, and he loved my daughter. … I know he didn’t do it. 

Nancy Martin: He didn’t do this.  

Kat’s parents, John and Nancy, say their daughter was conspicuously clumsy — and the drinking did not help. Brittany Driesler concedes anything is possible.  

Brittany Driesler: She could have ran outside in the street, right? … Because she was so intoxicated.

Authorities insist Jeff West is a murderer. But their tactics suggest otherwise.

A few months before histrial,  Jeff West turned down a plea deal.

Shelby County Sheriff’s Office

John Robbins says just a few months before trial, the prosecution offered Jeff West a deal. It’s called an Alford Plea. Jeff would not have to admit that he had committed a crime, but he would have to acknowledge that the State had enough evidence to likely convict. Now if the judge accepted that deal, it means that Jeff would be let off with time served and only two years’ probation. He could walk out of jail almost immediately.

Maureen Maher: What does it tell you, as a defense attorney, when the prosecution is offering a deal? 

John Robbins: That tells you, as a defense lawyer … the prosecution … has … some problems with their case, and they recognize that.

According to Shelby County prosecutors, plea deals are standard in every case and Robbins says he told Jeff it was a reasonable offer.  

John Robbins: He … rejected it immediately. 

Maureen Maher: Why did he reject the offer? 

John Robbins: Because he says … “I cannot say that I’m guilty of something that I didn’t do.”

Jeff West decides to roll the dice and take his chances in court. 

John Robbins: He understands … the risk of going to trial.  

JEFF WEST GOES TO TRIAL

For more than two years, Jeff West has awaited trial in custody.

Carol Robinson: We weren’t getting a lot of information at the time. … The police were holding things close to their vest.

Defense attorney John Robbins believes prosecutors have problems with their case. He says, the Friday before trial, they called him with more talk of a plea deal.  

John Robbins: We discussed what would it take to settle the case.

But they could not come to terms. The prosecution has also notified the court it will make a new filing of evidence: text messages between Jeff and Kat. 

Sgt. Mike Mehlhoff: It was very apparent that it was a very volatile relationship.

Jeff and Kat West

Kat West/Facebook

Prosecutors will tell the jury that the Wests did not have a harmonious marriage. “You’re throwing almost 14 yrs [sic] of a relationship away…” she’d written a week before she died. “You don’t want me , fine. Someone will.”  “I always want you,” he’d replied.  The texts went from erratic to erotic so fast that Robbins actually wants to use them to defend Jeff. 

John Robbins: Any time Kat said something that, quote, “can be considered an argument.” His response is, “I love you. … I want you. You’re sexy.”

Carol Robinson [at court]: Today is the first day of the murder trial against Jeff West in the murder of Kat West. 

The judge banned news cameras from the courtroom, but”48 Hours” was at the courthouse taking notes. And it soon became clear there were at least two things the defense and prosecution agreed on: the cause of death – blunt force trauma – and how the night began. Jeff and Kat had started drinking at dinner and bought more booze on the way home.  

When the Wests returned to their home, they continued drinking.  On Instagram that night, Jeff posted this picture of the liquor bottle they had bought.

Jeff West/Instagram

It was later that Kat apparently had changed into lingerie and asked Jeff to photograph her for her online fans. On Instagram, that night, he posted a picture of the absinthe liquor bottle. Authorities contend he would bludgeon her to death with the very same bottle. But why would Jeff West want to kill his wife?   

Sgt. Mike Mehlhoff: I wouldn’t want to speculate as to, you know, what drove him to that point. But I can certainly say, that I feel that yes he’s- he’s the one responsible for his wife’s death.

At the scene, Mehlhoff says he found it odd that Jeff did not ask for details about his wife’s condition.

Sgt. Mike Mehlhoff: I would have thought that he would have at least asked, you know, “Can I see her?”

Carol believes what Jeff did say made authorities suspicious too.

Carol Robinson: According to Jeff, he went to bed about 10:30 … Kat stayed up.

Sgt. Mike Mehlhoff: Now, that’s Jeff’s version of what happened.

But before long, Mehlhoff unearthed a different story on a health tracker app on Jeff’s cell phone.

Sgt. Mike Mehlhoff: Well, the health app actually shows Jeff’s phone moving … as late as 10 minutes after 11 o’clock.

And Mehlhoff says he believes Jeff also lied about when he woke up that morning. Jeff told authorities his dogs got him up by barking at the police cruisers out front. But a neighbor reported seeing Jeff before police arrived. 

Carol Robinson: She could see a man in the house pacing back and forth. 

Having laid out what they believed were Jeff’s movements that night, police looked at Kat’s phone, which also had a health tracker app. It showed her phone had stopped moving 16 minutes before Jeff’s. But what had actually caused Kat’s fatal wound? About a month after her death, police got test results from that absinthe bottle. It had a sliver of glass chipped off. And there were two spots of Kat’s blood on the bottom.

Sgt. Mike Mehlhoff: We had Jeff’s fingerprints on it.

Maureen Maher: Wouldn’t you expect that given that they bought it together and they said they’d been drinking, that his prints would be on it? 

Sgt. Mike Mehlhoff: Oh, absolutely. 

But Mehlhoff says there was something specific about the prints that helped point the finger of blame at Jeff.

Sgt. Mike Mehlhoff: Basically, the bottle was held inverted … much like he’d be holding it like a club. 

Carol Robinson [demonstrates]: Jeff’s thumb print was found in a downward position on the bottle and his ring fingerprint was found over here.

John Robbins: She was not hit in the head with that bottle.

Robbins says that’s clear, because Jeff is a righty and the prints on the bottle were from his left hand. And there’s a good reason they’re upside down.

John Robbins: The bottle was in a bag. You would pull it out of the bag in the same way, where your thumbprint would be going down.

But to win this case, the defense will tell the jury that Jeff West could not have murdered his wife… because Kat wasn’t murdered. 

John Robbins:  I’ve handled well over 100 murder cases … never … went forward on a murder case where the manner of death was classified as undetermined.

Maureen Maher: What … happened that night to Kat West? 

John Robbins: In a nutshell … she fell, she hit her head.

Robbins says police found Jeff dressed in the same clothes as seen in the security video the night before.

John Robbins: There was nothing on his clothes, no liquor, no blood, no bodily fluid, no tissue, no hair. And there was no hair on the bottle … There’s no glass in her wound.

And, despite what police told “48 Hours,” no real effort – Robbins maintains – to consider other suspects or theories about Kat’s death.

John Robbins: The only person they ever looked at was Jeff and they really never looked at it whether it was an accident. 

Maureen Maher: Was there ever a time when you or anyone in the police department … looked into the possibility of it being an accident?

Sgt. Mike Mehlhoff: Absolutely not. … I don’t want to sit here and say that I immediately ruled out an accident, but just the head trauma alone … knowing that the body had been moved … it was … very hard to try to look at this as an accident.

Not hard at all, insists Robbins. The two blood pools at the scene suggest that after Kat fell, she could have gotten up and fallen again. 

John Robbins: ‘Cause it’s clear that … she moved around after she had that head injury.

John Robbins has whittled his entire case down to only one witness – a witness guaranteed to get the jury’s attention: Kat’s mother Nancy Martin takes the stand to tell the jury about her daughter’s lifelong struggles.  

Maureen Maher: It’s a lot of pressure. 

Nancy Martin: Yeah, it was. It really was.

Carol Robinson: Martin testified that she, herself, had witnessed Kat West in an intoxicated state go outside barefoot, in any — whether it was hot or cold, she said. She would be in varying stages of dress. 

Maureen Maher: Were you surprised at how supportive Kat’s parents, particularly her mother, was of the man police say killed her daughter?

Carol Robinson: You know … I can’t really recall another case where the mother of the victim and the father of the victim were so attached to the suspect.

Kat’s parents are even giving Jeff legal advice. They help convince him not to testify. 

John Robbins [at court]:  Jeff’s in a good mood. He’s fired up.

In closing arguments, Assistant District Attorney Daniel McBrayer finally ties together the state’s theory of what happened that night and why:  He says Jeff had lost his temper with his wife.  

Daniel McBrayer: He had a problem with her drinking and her social media usage.

Prosecutors say the evidence from that night shows it: Jeff had thrown her phone into the street and clubbed her to death with the liquor bottle when she went after it. And McBrayer says the way the bottle and phone were positioned convinced authorities it could not have been an accident.     

Daniel McBrayer: There were those two items stacked perfectly together. … right there on the street next to her body.

John Robbins: Jeff loved his wife.

Maureen Maher: Did you ever consider the possibility that … this guy just snapped one night? 

John Robbins: But there’s no evidence to that. He has – does not have a history of violence.

The trial is ending when prosecutors make a last-minute move. They convince the judge to let the jury consider a lesser charge than murder: reckless manslaughter.  

Carol Robinson [at court]: I think that we could see a verdict tonight. 

John Robbins: This is this is the hard part, just — just waiting.    

A STUNNING VERDICT

John Robbins: They were afraid that they were going to lose the case. 

John Robbins says he wasn’t happy about the last-minute lesser charge that prosecutors introduced, and it’s easy to see why. It takes the jury less than five hours to convict Jeff West of reckless manslaughter.

John Robbins: Jeff is … is stunned.

Both sets of parents are also stunned by the verdict. 

WILLIAM “JERRY” WEST [to reporters]: That was [expletive] and you know it …

John Martin: I couldn’t believe it. I really couldn’t.

Almost three months later, Judge Bill Bostick sentenced Jeff West to 16 years. 

Maureen Maher: How did you react when you heard 16 years? 

Nancy Martin:  I just wanted to cry.

With credit for time served, Jeff will be behind bars for 13 more years. For the prosecutors, it’s a kind of split decision… but they declare victory anyway.

ADA DANIEL MCBRAYER [to reporters]: Obviously, we would have preferred a … murder verdict. … We’re glad to get a sentence as we did.

For the defense, it is a stinging defeat. Jeff knows if he had accepted that plea deal from the prosecutors, he’d probably already be home. 

John Robbins: In retrospect, that probably — he should have taken the deal.

Both sets of parents stand behind Jeff’s decision.

Maureen Maher: By a show of hands: Who thinks Jeff is not guilty? [They all raise their hands.]

Carolyn “Suzi” West: We all think he’s not guilty     

William “Jerry” West: We all think he’s not guilty.

Jeff and Kat West’s parents. Clockwise from top  William “Jerry” West, Carolyn “Suzi” West, Nancy Martin and Jim Martin.

CBS News

They sat down with “48 Hours” as a group three days after sentencing. 

Maureen Maher:  Who thinks that he got a fair trial? 

William “Jerry” West: Nobody.  

Maureen Maher: No hands.

They believe the judge threw the book at Jeff West in sentencing for refusing to settle the case, and that from the moment Kat’s death made news, she was harshly judged in the court of public opinion. 

Nancy Martin: It was the fact that she was … doing these things that small towns don’t understand. 

New York City paramedic Lauren Kwei says, for her, the harsh judgements did not start until last November.

Lauren Kwei: I think society is always going to be hard on women for anything that we do.

“I definitely wish things had gone differently in my experience, however … I’m pretty proud of who I am today,” Lauren Kwei tells “48 Hours” in her first television interview.

Lauren Kwei

She says a newspaper reporter contacted her out of the blue.

He told her he was investigating whether her OnlyFans page violated her employer’s code of conduct.

Lauren Kwei: And in that moment I — I wanted to just, like, crawl in a hole and die.

Lauren says she canceled her OnlyFans account immediately.  The exposé — including her real name, and where she lived and worked — began circulating a few weeks later.  

Lauren Kwei: I opened my Instagram and saw, you know, 600 follow requests.

Maureen Maher: Were you afraid for your safety? 

Lauren Kwei: Absolutely.

Maureen Maher: What do you think would have happened … if you had kept your OnlyFans website going after the article dropped? 

Lauren Kwei: Well, I – I think it definitely would have made a lot of money.

As it happens, she did anyway. Worried that Lauren might lose her job, a friend set up a GoFundMe page for her. Supporters contributed more than $100,000. But in the end, the private ambulance company she works for kept her on the clock. We caught up with her at work.

Lauren Kwei: It’s always really hard to watch people … pass away. … Sometimes I think about Kat West and I think about where she would be today.

Kat West

Kat West/Facebook

Brittany Driesler [Crying]: It sucks that she was taken so early. 

Kat’s friend Brittany Driesler is living with loss, too.

Brittany Driesler [Crying]: She’s gone. That — that — that’s heart wrenching. … They have a daughter that’s in the mix of everything. 

Maureen Maher: I think people forget that a child is involved.  

Nancy Martin: Right. 

Every week, Lola, now 16-years-old, goes with all her grandparents to see Jeff. 

Maureen Maher:  Are the four of you sticking together just for the sake of Lola? 

Nancy Martin: No [laughs].  

Suzi West: No.    

Nancy Martin: They’re family!

But even when Jeff West does get out of prison, this will always be a family with someone missing.

Maureen Maher: In an honest light, how would you like her to be remembered? 

William “Jerry” West: Kind, caring mother.

Nancy Martin: Kind, caring person who loved her husband and loved her daughter very much.

Lola is being raised by both sets of grandparents. 

Jeff West has filed an appeal.


Produced by Josh Yager and Lauren A. White. Ryan N. Smith is the development producer. Elizabeth Caholo is the field producer. George Baluzy, Greg Kaplan, Joan Adelman, Diana Modica, and Grayce Arlotta-Berner are the editors. Peter Schweitzer is the senior producer. Nancy Kramer is the executive story editor. Judy Tygard is the executive producer.



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