The Death of Nikki LaDue January: Part VI

Last week, I wrote about a blood-covered phone found near Ms. LaDue January, and this time, I'll continue discussing the scene...
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Case Summary

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. 

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B) Feet

Each of us has likes and dislikes.

Characteristics about us that may be odd, but denote our uniqueness.

As such, at a death and/or crime scene, it is important for investigators to be cognizant of a victim's preferences.

For instance, if I was found dead at my dinner table and a plate with a medium-rare steak was in front of me, the specific meal would not mean much to someone who does not know me.

But, detectives speaking to family members would quickly ascertain that the Mrs. and I prefer steaks as close to well-done as possible (yes, our motto is "burn it")--indicating that the food found in front of me was likely not mine.

I am also very routine-oriented.  If I were to go missing, the Mrs. could match the time and date that I was last seen to wherever/whatever was on my schedule, and provide authorities with specifics about what I was doing just prior to disappearing.

Ok, enough about me.

The same approach would also apply to the death of Nikki LaDue January.

In correspondence written by Nikki's husband (Phil January) to authorities in which he is dissatisfied with the investigation and asks questions about the scene and circumstances surrounding his wife's death, he makes the following statement:

"...Also out of character was the the fact that the new shoes that she had purchased that day were in our living room and she was barefoot.  She never went barefoot for any reason."

Never?

What if other family members verified this observation? 

One relative agreed and described Nikki's preference for shoes as an "idiosyncrasy" that she had developed later in life.  The relative added that Nikki would only go barefoot when she had to--bedtime, shower, at the pool, etc. 

Phil stated Nikki's new tennis shoes, that he referred to previously, were located in the living room.

None of the crime scene photos show shoes on the balcony, but the entire balcony was not included in the shots--nor was the area near the balcony door.

Yet, she was found dead wearing no shoes or socks on her balcony.


Death Scene of Nikki LaDue January

Near a phone that was almost certainly moved more than once prior to police arriving.

With a handgun that was recovered in a highly unlikely place--under her leg. 

Now, we can't eliminate every scenario that would send Nikki out on her balcony without shoes; or every situation in which that medium-rare steak would be in front of me.

But...

If an investigator is looking for only one reason to be suspicious of an apparent suicide, learning that a victim never went without shoes yet was found dead in his/her bare feet is certainly enough to question the stated premise.

In this case, the bare feet are just one of a litany of characteristics that scream: "Let's slow down, process this scene, and see what direction the evidence leads."

Unfortunately, the "scream" went unheard.

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Oh, and last week I mentioned a strange object located on a table that was photographed at the scene by the investigator, but not listed in any of the police reports.

About that unidentified object?

It was later determined to be the detective's camera case that was placed on a table and inadvertently included in the series of scene photographs.

I'll cover another aspect of the case next week.
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All posts on this topic can be viewed by clicking here: Nikki LaDue January.

23 comments:

Miss Caitlin S. said...

That is horrific... but not as much as you not liking medium-rare steak!

I kid...

That is very interesting~it reminds me of the lady missing in Aruba right now who was scuba-diving before her disappearance according to her traveling partner/suspect. Her family and friends have gone crazy saying there is NO way she would ever do that: she's a girly-girl to a T and would never mess up her hair like that. Sounds so insignificant but like you said, there really is a lot to what you know about someone.

I fear foul-play.

And PS, just the format of your blog has me not surprised at all that you are a man who lives by his schedule! :)

ladyfi said...

Oh gosh - this is horrific. That photo sending my imagination into a whirl.

Miranda Hardy said...

Very interesting case. I agree, that photo is chilling. I've known cases first hand that were not investigated properly, evidenced excused for certain reasons.

Clarissa Draper said...

Were the police sleeping!? They have made so many mistakes. It wouldn't surprise me if the police put the gun between her legs because they picked it up off the ground before they realized they didn't have an evidence bag to put it in.

The shoe thing is unusual. It's almost like she was forced to the balcony (maybe at gunpoint) and didn't have time to put on her shoes. That being said, a person committing suicide doesn't always follow their routine either. However, neither do they go shopping and buy shoes that very day.

It is possible the ex forced his wife out on the balcony so as to not wake the child.

Audrey Allure said...

This is the only part I've read so far about the case, and you have me intrigued! Going to read more about it now.

Adie said...

It makes me sick to think of that poor 5 year old being left alone inside with his mother dead outside. Poor baby. :(

Brian Miller said...

so much unexplained about this case...and way too many abnormalities...def a mystery worth examining...

yeah i saw theismann break his leg too..ack...

Ms. Treyce Montoya said...

As I keep saying, as a forensic handwriting expert, she was NOT suicidal - at all! She did NOT commit suicide.

Samantha VĂ©rant said...

Whoa! You should be a CSI investigator, especially the way you present the facts. Chills.

S. DeGon LLI/CP said...

It totally sounds like to me that this department has nothing less than a bunch of misguided idiots. When securing a crime scene, yes, “a crime scene "every scene is a crime scene, until otherwise determined". They didn't even protect the scene. If the photographer set his case down, on the table and took photos, and his case was in the photo, this could have totally thrown off the investigation, or at least for a short time, trying to figure out what that was, or whom it belonged to, time is of essence in an investigation of this nature. What I have seen so far, is the worse police investigation in years. Who did the department have running this case, Mr. Magoo?

This whole things stinks to high heaven, and now more than likely, with the time frame, lots of evidence is either gone or missing or wiped clean in the apartment.

Lydia K said...

You should do this professionally. Great post, can't wait to read the next one!

Jenny said...

I think you need to get a job at CSI!

BobKat said...

Although your steak analogy is perhaps a bit over-done, you admit you like it that way! Still, you create a valid foundation for Nikki's lifestyle, one I not only hadn't considered, but also have never heard discussed in processing a "crime-scene". Well, done, once again.

What I find questionable is not that Nikki was barefoot, but that the husband insisted she should have been wearing her new shoes that night. That she bought that day??? There are receipts? He went shopping with her that day and knows when, and where she bought them? I didn't think he was with her that day?

And btw, I believe her legs were arranged in that way, as seen in the photo. Was she bracing herself before she allegedly shot herself in her head? How convenient her legs were spread like that so the gun go fall and nestle between them; barrel pointing out.

The phone with blood on it, when I assume nothing else on the table was covered in blood? And neatly placed on the table. The last phone call, at I assume was roughly her time of death? The detective's camera case recklessly left on the table, which not only taints what should have been a crime-scene, but shows how careless and inept the detective was.

Good job Slam!

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I share your steak motto. :D

This is a great lesson for writers--and would be murders.

Jennifer Hillier said...

Great point about not knowing the significance of something that is seemingly insignificant to someone who doesn't know you.

This case really bothers me.

Maxi said...

Seems investigators were in a hurry to say "case closed."

Momma Fargo said...

Can't wait for further posts. Keeping your readers glued...

Nikole Hahn said...

That's disappointing. Sounds too easy for suicide.

Anonymous said...

Great post and good insight.

What is the small white triangular object in photo? A possible piece of the non-working, blood spattered phone? I am curious why just spatter on phone? I didn't see any smudges. Was it thrown or fell? Why did it not work?

How would ex know it was broken and instantly yell to friend Nancy to call 911? Why wouldn't he try phone 1st?

So many questions.

Was Nikki asleep on the couch inside and taken outside so the shot wouldn't wake her sleeping son?

Most people don't wear shoes when sleeping.

Bobkat great questions about the ex and the shoes. Is it a tell??

I am glued to this series!!

Anonymous said...

True Crime Diva write's about Nikki January case: Click here to read

Included photo's and comments about the bullets and the position of Nikki's head.

BobKat said...

I want to add, knowing someone as your wife knows you Slam, habits, behavior, intimate details can be very important when police investigate a crime. But the reverse can also occur, as in it makes it easy for the "intimate" partner who may not be up to good intentions, of fabricating the (near) perfect alibi's and explanations, such as, "Nikki also always wore shoes, why was she not wearing her new tennis shoes?

Anonymous, I'm sure it is a "tell", one of many, but as someone with "frontline" experience as an advocate for a victim of another couple of unsolved cases, I can tell you, it's very difficult for family, friends, advocates or private investigators to have much influence if the police won't cooperate, or won't listen.

Our criminal justice system has advanced a great deal in the way of technology over the past couple decades, but has not moved much in the way of investigative technique, priority, or public involvement (that's my opinion). Ironically, there seems to be a stand-off, in as much as in my case I am unhappy law enforcement didn't take an interest in the two cases I helped with, I'm relieved I wasn't shown the spotlight. It's scary being a "victim's advocate"!!!

See, the major problem is there is not presently a medium in law enforcement to include citizen or family advocates. Despite the surge in social media tools, research opportunities, online discoveries, law enforcement still has no new methodology in place that would not intimidate those citizens who are interested in helping, and who might help solve a crime, or bring a crime in focus.

If the Nikki LaDue January case does anything, it highlights the failure of administrative law enforcement to develop the medium whereby cases such as this can get the attention they merit. In a way that those in the know don't need to feel the need to post as Anonymous, or those like me, BobKat, don't have to feel both ignored and relieved at the same time.

BobKat said...

Time for a more intriguing background to your blog. Bland Tan is not you. Basic white isn't either.

In the world of Blog, you are one of the elitist.

BTW, Miss Caitlin's comment made me cognizant of your format; made me aware. Up to you, but I think a more unique design is warranted. Just my opinion. :>

BobKat said...

oops... I was referring to the comment page... as i was on your comment page :' - not your Blog site/page. Guess, then, could you make your comment page maybe more psychedelic, or unique, ala Slam Dunk style?

I know, no psychedelics... but what I meant was - when you go to the Slam Dunks comment page how about a World of immersion...