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Did woman who made money posting adult photos online pay with her life?

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

The half-naked body in the frigid, pre-dawn wind struck investigators right away.  

First responders to a quiet suburb in Calera, Alabama, the morning of January 13, 2018 found Kathleen West, a 42-year-old wife and mother widely known as Kat, dead in the street from blunt force trauma. She was lying in a pool of blood with a roughly two-inch gash on the left side of her head. There was another blood pool nearby.

“It did appear that the body had been moved,” said Calera Police Sergeant Mike Mehlhoff, who arrived about half an hour later. Next to Kat’s body, Mehlhoff says he noticed another critical clue: Kat’s phone with a nearly half-full liquor bottle propped on top of it.

“It just did not seem right that it … would have landed in such a way … other than being staged.” Mehlhoff told correspondent Maureen Maher for “The Mysterious Death of Kat West,” an all-new “48 Hours” airing Saturday, April 10 at 10/9c on CBS.

Alabama reporter and CBS consultant Carol Robinson agrees.

“That bottle was placed on the phone,” she says.

Robinson’s flair for fashion and nose for news have earned her a reputation in Birmingham’s tight-knit suburbs as “The Coco Chanel of Crime.”

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


The mysterious death of Kat West

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To tell the story of Kat West’s death, Robinson knew she would have to begin by looking at her life.

In May 2018, “48 Hours” began investigating, too.

We learned Kat had grown up in Florida, loving the outdoors and doting on her dolls. She had set her heart on someday being a mother — and as she matured, tried her hand at modeling too.

Along the way, Kat’s friend Brittany Driesler says she developed a strange fixation with Marilyn Monroe.

“She tried to recreate some of her photos, her hairdos,” Brittany says.

“She was … trying to emulate her in every way,” agrees Robinson, who learned that Kat’s resemblance to the troubled movie star was more than skin deep.

“There were always self-esteem issues there,” Robinson says.

Brittany Driesler says from the moment she met them in Southern California, Kat and her husband Jeff West seemed like polar opposites.

“I was like, that guy pulled that girl?” she remembers.

She says the Wests had an unconventional marriage. Jeff — a former Army recruiter, working as a campus police officer — was buttoned-down. Kat was flamboyant and impulsive — especially after drinking. 

“She would … jump from the kitchen counter to the sofa and shirtless, braless,” Brittany says. “My husband would go, ‘Oh my gosh!'”

Brittany told “48 Hours” Kat revealed that she regularly posted racy photos to a pay-per-view website and that it bolstered Kat’s self-esteem. When the Wests moved to Alabama in 2014, she says Kat’s online activity spiked. By 2018, Kat had joined a popular subscription site called OnlyFans, in which providers can post adult photos and videos for paying subscribers. The site offers providers and subscribers a way to communicate and make arrangements for personalized content.

The requests are not always respectful, says New York City paramedic Lauren Kwei, who began posting nudes on OnlyFans under an alias in 2019 to help her make ends meet.

“There are some really weird people on the internet,” Kwei says.

OnlyFans users increased 75% when the pandemic stranded millions at home without jobs.

But long before COVID-19 caused nationwide lockdowns, Kat West had posted suggestive pictures of herself online. Jeff was making a decent living. It struck some as strange when Jeff revealed he supported Kat’s online life. He even told police he had helped her take and post racy photos for her site. For his own Instagram page, Jeff West had actually posted a picture the night Kat died of the liquor bottle found next to her body.

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

Jeff told police they’d been out on a date night, stopped and bought the liquor on the way home. He said that sometime later, he’d gone to sleep and been awakened by his dogs barking at the police cruisers out front the next morning.

But police noticed something about Jeff West almost right away. Sergeant Mike Mehlhoff says Jeff had been strangely unemotional at the scene. And while Jeff insisted he had no idea how Kat died, he speculated it could have been an accident. But authorities would learn that she’d had hundreds of paying fans on OnlyFans and that there were personal requests in her inbox the night she died. Had one of her followers become obsessed and killed her?

“We were concerned that, you know, do we have somebody else out there that’s actually killing people?” acknowledges Mehlhoff.

Mehlhoff says he spent about three weeks unable to find any viable suspects from Kat’s online life. And when forensics from the scene appeared to incriminate Jeff, authorities decided it was time to move.

On February 22, 2018, Calera police arrested Jeff West for the murder of his wife.  But exactly what was the evidence against him? For the next three years, Jeff West would sit behind bars with authorities saying very little about exactly why.

Had investigators done enough to rule out an online stalker as the killer? Brittany Driesler doesn’t think so.

“One of her subscribers… did they come through with rage or jealousy or wanting something that they couldn’t get or have?” she wondered.

“Did someone else kill her?”  



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