The Death of Nikki LaDue January: Part II

Continuing with this strange case...

Case Summary

Photo Source: Facebook Group

In July of 2002, the body of Nikki LaDue January was found seated on the balcony of her condominium in Pass Christian, Mississippi.  Officers stated that she had a single gun shot wound to her right temple area.

A Sterling .380 caliber pistol was partially under her left thigh on a chair, her right leg was propped up against the table in front of her, and a cordless phone on the table was covered in blood.

There were two different brands of cigarettes and two different lighters on the table in front of her.

A bullet was located in a chair on the next balcony, and a shell casing was later found by a maintenance man in the condo's pool.

Ms. January had apparently been deceased for several hours, and her five-year old son was found in the residence unharmed.

Authorities at the scene quickly classified the death as a suicide--so most of the items present were not processed, no autopsy was conducted, no blood was collected, and so on.

Additional Case Details*

  • Less than a month before Ms. LaDue January's death, her husband Phil had secured a new job in Louisiana and was already there, while Nikki was organizing the move from Mississippi. 
  • The night prior to her death, she went out with a friend named Eric Hunsicker and they went to a club and a bar.  Her son was with a sitter (the sitter later told police that Nikki seemed fine when they spoke).  Reportedly, Nikki became visible upset after making a phone call at around 8 pm and left to retrieve her son.  Eric stated that he talked to Nikki by phone at about 12:30 am and she asked him to tell no one about their time together.
  • On the morning of the woman's death, Phil was to arrive with a U-Haul to load their possessions.  Nikki's friend Nancy Burge was also going to help that morning, and then Nikki, her young son Zack, and Nancy were going to Florida for a week to visit the Nikki's family.
  • Allegedly, Nikki told others that she did not plan to go to Louisiana to join her husband, but was going to stay in Florida with her son and start a new life.  
  • The gun found at the scene belonged to Phil.  It is unknown if the recovered gun was used in Nikki's death (not tested).  According to the family's site, 18 of the phone calls to Nikki's phone between 11 pm and 2 am on the morning of her death were described by Phil as part of their argument. He allegedly told police that he may have said some hurtful things that could have caused her to search the condo for his handgun.
  • A coroner's report lists alcohol, cocaine, and amphetamines in her system, but the levels are unknown. 

So, let me summarize:
  1. Unusual death scene involving a wife and mother
  2. No suicide note found
  3. Small child left alone in condo for hours
  4. Couple that was scheduled to move, and wife may have been having second thoughts
  5. Married woman who had gone out with another man prior to dying
  6. Husband and wife allegedly arguing over the phone prior to her death
  7. Woman's body was found to contain drugs and alcohol, but at unknown levels
  8. Authorities rule death a suicide onsite--little evidence collection and no autopsy 

I'll continue with the case next Monday and start with the lead investigator in the case, Tom Pustay, who is now as far removed from policing as a living individual can be.

 All posts on this topic can be viewed by clicking here: Nikki LaDue January.

*Note: This information was sourced from here.


shazammm said...

Slam Dunk,

It's strange enough that one person might kill themselves due to some small arguments. But to leave their child like that is just speechless.

Do you think it's a suicide?

Clarissa Draper said...

I had to go back and read part one to refresh it in my mind. If I came upon that exact scene, I wouldn't think suicide. First of all, I would never kill myself with my son in the house. Second, I would never kill myself with my leg on a table. Especially because she was moving that day and recently divorced or separating, all red flags would go up.

Clarissa Draper said...

After reading this second part, I still think murder is most likely. Sure, if she had alcohol, cocaine, and amphetamines in her system, she may not have been in her right mind but she had enough sense to phone her new boyfriend and to WARN him. She obviously was scared of something. Can't wait to see the next article.

kathyyard said...

I knew Nikki personally since 1993. She never ever ever ever would have killed herself. NEVER IN A MILLION YEARS. She was the most incredibly happy, funny, sweetest person I ever met. I actually knew both of her husbands as we all worked at the Grand Casino Gulfport. This was a murder and I hope the person who did this, (AND HE KNOWS WHO HE IS) will be brought to justice in my lifetime. I wish there was something I could do to help resolve this senseless murder of one of the most incredible people I've ever known. Kathy Yard

Lydia K said...

Seems like an obvious answer, the problem is finding him.

Stephanie Faris said...

Geez. Makes me wonder why the police would have just ruled it a suicide. Can't police ASSUME homicide and get all the evidence, THEN later if it's ruled suicide, so be it?

Anonymous said...

Slam Dunk Scores again!

What can you tell us about the .380 Sterling - I saw the photos on RealCrimes placed in a very phallic position wouldn't you say?

The bloody phone makes me wonder can you shoot your self in the head while talking on the phone? How'd it get so bloody (this is also in photos).

Can't wait until your next post on Lead Det Tom Pustay.

Don't forget the infamous coroner Hargrove who was a big part of CNN Anderson Cooper's 360 investigation of corruption and torture in the jails.

This is one doozie of a story!

ooglebloops said...

So many questions arise - and the authorities have not even tested the gun???

SuziCate said...

Why would they not test the gun? Hmmmmm. Does not sound like suicide, I can't imagine any mother leaving her young child alone for hours.

Amy Sullivan said...

Kathy Yard's comment just gave me chills. It must be so difficult to watch a case and know in your heart who did it and yet, be so helpless and unable to really do anything about it.

Treyce22 said...
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Ms. Treyce Montoya said...

As a 24+ year international forensic handwriting expert - I worked on this case when it first happened - I am not a betting woman but would bet my entire career that she did NOT commit suicide. Her handwriting did NOT have any indicators at all. I've published 15 books on the subject - one of the 4 released today is called "No Suicide Notes Necessary" and, if you see the written indicators of suicide in handwriting and compare it to Nikki's writing, you will see she was definitely NOT suicidal.

Additionally, her story and her handwriting samples (along with handwriting samples from those who could have killed her) are included in my "Case Files of a Forensic Handwriting Expert" book.

Thom Ready said...

"A Sterling .380 caliber pistol was partially under her left thigh on a chair" how can this be?, so you shot yourself in the head then tuck the pistol under your led?!! don't think so, this is murder.

Living LIfe said...

This is definitely murder. I've picked up many a person as a funeral director who has committed suicide and been murdered. This looks like coroner negligence as to the cause of death.

Rhiannon {Hey Gorg} said...

This is such a puzzling case; nothing quite adds up. My heart is with the child; how sad is it that he was left inside alone :( Can't wait to read the next instalment, Slam!

Miriam said...

Please think outside the box. It has been 9 years and NO ONE has investigated her death. If it was a crime of passion don't you think someone would have taken it to the next level? We are still at square one!!!!!

Nikole Hahn said...

That doesn't make any sense. Why would she kill herself and not make arrangements first for her son to be away from the apartment? I say somebody did her in since the shell casing was found by the pool. Sounds like murder to me.

jodeeluna said...

I found the comments to your post almost as intriguing as the post. People's personal experience made the case more mystifying to me. I'm glad you're bringing this case back into the awareness of the public.

Anonymous said...

The casing found supposedly in the pool the morning of Nikki's death, was never proven to be the casing matching the bullet, nor the .380 sterling. No testing done.

Reportedly the sterling belonged to husband Phil and only used lead bullets.

Do you think she may have been moved?

Yes her son is alive and w/o a Mom. Why not question him? What about 911 call?

Great post can't wait for next one!

Kristin said...

That is so heartbreaking that the child was there.

altheasarah said...

Wow! This is my first time to view a blog that courageously features crimes :) Awesome!

ladyfi said...

No mother would leave their child alone like that.

Anonymous said...

I knew Nicki also...she had so much love in her heart for her son..she would have NEVER done that to him...we all know that Phil murdered her..why is it taking so long to prove it? He is not a god and he is not that smart...please lets help catch him! If something is going to ever happen to me....

Anonymous said...

Phil..u selfish piece of shit..u knew she was going to leave you...Nancy knew it is too bad that yr ego could not just let her go! I hope u have to love with her shocked face for the rest of yr life! said...

There is not a lot of evidence for murder, though that could be explained by the lack of investigation.

The alcohol/drug use could point to being depressed, and it does look like something was bothering her.

Theresa Milstein said...

That' strange. Can the guy she went out with account for his time? Or did they not even bother, deciding so quickly it was a suicide?

I'm with Clarissa. The leg up sounds odd. What a relaxing way to prepare to shoot yourself. You're not at all freaking out, right? And why worry about your child?

Lisa said...

So many things here just don't make any sense. I hope the detectives pursue all the angles. Suicide doesn't add up in my mind.

Gifts By Katherine said...
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Miss Caitlin S. said...

hmmm, very bizarre- that sounds incredibly strange. I hate how there's so many cases where we just don't know what happened.

Kym said...

I have worked in missing persons and unsolved homicides for nearly 20 years and founder of the National Center for Missing Adults.

Though I learned very early on to never publicly speculate on a case or guilt of innocence of an individual . . . I will say based upon my expertise in these fields that it is 'highly' unusual for an mother to commit suicide with their child in the house. There are other significant concerns regarding the details of this case that make me question a suicide ruling. Regardless, you are to be commended for sharing Nikki's information. For all who love Nikki they need answers. You have my support!

Anonymous said...

JJinPhil - the LE supposedly only said there were d&a in her system. If they had done a test wouldn't it have shown levels?

Is there a reason the LE would not be specific? Saying manner of death is pistol and not indicating the weapon or even the caliber of the bullet and the casing found. Or how many rounds were left in gun found under her thigh.

What do you think about a lead Det now convicted child abuser who lies to the police or a Coroner who is one of the subjects of a federal investigation into suspicious deaths at the jail?