The Death of Nikki LaDue January: Part XI

As the series continues, I transition from discussing the case's evidence to examining the related statements.
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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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The following are selected statements recorded in the report by Sergeant W. Davis who was a first-responder with the Pass Christian Police Department.

It is one of the two known police reports that describe the death scene of Nikki LaDue January.

Sgt. Davis spoke with Nikki's husband Phil (found the body) and her friend Nancy Burge (entered the condo and then called 911).

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Note: The following statements appear in the order as recorded by Sgt. Davis.

STATEMENT #1

"Reporting officer asked if Nicole had any problems and Burge stated that Nicole had a cocaine problem."

One would expect this standard probing question asked at the scene of every potential suicide.  If the sergeant followed-up with Nancy on her statement about the drug problem and asked specifics about frequency of use, the deceased's mental state, money issues related to a supposed dependency, etc., it is not recorded.

STATEMENT #2

"As reporting officer talked to Phillip in conversation Phillip told reporting officer that he was a police officer in Texas for twenty years."

A private investigator hired by the family was unable to confirm this employment claim.  In general, law enforcement agencies limit information on workers to verification of employment dates, and something similar to "will the agency rehire the individual: yes or no."  Also, if the agency's employment files are subject to open records laws, a person could be granted permission to view the personnel file of a current or previous employee.

In essence, whether an individual was a police officer in Texas for two decades should be simple to confirm--but it was not. 

STATEMENT #3

"He stated that he had been gone for two weeks and he had just talked to his wife on the phone at approximately 0145 hours this morning."

If the death case was not closed so quickly, statements like this could be properly evaluated based on traditional investigative work. 

Review the police reports.  Collect phone records.  Digest what makes sense.

Unfortunately, Ms. LaDue January's death was classified a suicide, so no follow-up work was deemed necessary.

STATEMENT #4

"Phillip stated that his wife Nichole had a cocaine problem and was addicted to pain pills, but he was trying to help her with her drug problem."

Since the deceased's death certificate lists cocaine and other substances in her body at time of death--though the amounts were not noted--gathering information on this topic is relevant.

How might have her judgment been impacted that night/morning?

Related to Mr. January's statement--Sgt. Davis recorded that Mr. January's help included moving Nikki to Louisiana away from drug suppliers in Mississippi. 

But with the revelation that Nikki evidently did not plan to move to Louisiana, and had planned to (again evidently) end the marriage, one wonders how the conversation went between them at 0145 that morning.

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I'll have more on the recorded statements next time, including the explanation as to why the gun used was in the condo the morning Ms. LaDue January passed away. 
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All posts on this topic can be viewed by clicking here: Nikki LaDue January.

22 comments:

Little Ms. Fun said...

I'm still not buying any of this. The police did a horrible job at provoking relevant information. How do you not record follow up questions regarding the victims drug use? Also, the police just took the husbands word for it that he was also a cop? If they looked into that a little further I'm sure the husband's statements would have lost some credibility...

Pat Hatt said...

Yeah just seems so fishy. Sometimes people do look for things that aren't there, but in this case nothing much really seems to be there at all. Like they blinked a few times at the scene and then just closed the case.

Bob G. said...

SLamdunk:
I concur...too much here is just WRONG...out of place...stinks on ice.
The more you find out, the more convoluted this whole investigation becomes.

Good follow ups on the case.

Stay safe.

Larry said...

What really attracted my attention in Slam Dunks article was the statement about the drugs.

Concerning the amount of cocaine in Nikki's system. There would be no way for the Medical Examiner to determine if there were drugs in her system unless he had tested her for drugs. If he had,he would be obligated to note the exact amounts of different drugs found in her system. And if this was done, as is required, this information would be available. If it is not available then no testing took place, and the drug reference was established by anecdotal evidence. The investigation of this crime was way more than sloppy. It was incompetent to the point of being criminal itself.

The Blonde Duck said...

You should write mysteries! :)

Michael Offutt said...

I've never heard of this person but the case is fascinating.

JJ.in.Phila said...

Good work, Slam Dunk.

I do not recall seeing the statements taken by Sergent Davis on-line in the past.

Lisa @ Two Bears Farm said...

You always post such complex scenarios!

Stephen Tremp said...

I still find this case fascinating. Remember seeing it on TV. Definitely not an open and closed case. This can be used to frame a pretty darn good cozy mystery. Add a wormhole or two and it could be made into a movie!

Tracker said...

Larry you are exactly right. If the M.E. tested Nikki than part of the analysis report would determine the amount in her system at the time of death. Here I believe that Phil and Nancy told the police she was a cake head and they concluded without examination this fact.

BobKat said...

"Reporting officer asked if Nicole had any problems and Burge stated that Nicole had a cocaine problem."

The use of illegal drugs carries with it a element of "shame". The two persons interviewed by police at the scene were not only in shock, or trying to contain composure, but knowing Nikki used cocaine was an obvious first confession by those who knew her. Slam is correct, that the question is valid, and should have been followed up. What I wonder is, how much importance was placed on that revelation?

My hope is not much, not much more than the facts and a followup.

As humans we have a knack for the secret life, whether it's Elliot Spitzer (dethroned gov'r of NY) and his prostitutes, or Pres. Richard (I am not a crook) Nixon, we all (well most of us) have our secrets.

We may drink, and hide it; smoke and hide it (I've gone as long as over 6 months deceiving someone I didn't smoke - tobacco). Maybe we gamble, see prostitutes, spend money we don't have; forego our diet.

All, are secrets, and friends who are in on them would let go of that information first.

Truthfully, it's simply a fact, among many I'd seek. Cocaine users are not prone to killing themselves, for example, so let's move on.

What were her plans? What did she do that day? Who knew she'd be there?When did witnesses arrive, and what were there activities preceding Nikki's death.

Let's say she loved the place, went there to kill herself... got her husbands gun (how?), snorted cocaine, drank alcohol, and pulled the trigger. So WHY was her son there? To find her dead body when he awoke? Absurd!

Two people showed up after (or during her death)... why? What was their reason for being there? Invited? Or Not?

Which leaves the remaining question I can't ask yet? Not enough information. Why were the police so quite to determine it was a suicide?

joanny said...

Agree with everyone's comments, very disturbing -- can the CSI- Crime Scene Investigation be that incompetent? It reminds me sadly I might add of Inspector Jacques Clouseau- The Pink Panther movie series of a bumbling simpleton of a policeman and detective. there wasn't even a clean sweep of the area, -- the maintenance man found the shell casing in the pool area... Red flags all over the place, perhaps someone is covering up a situation that would unravel a much bigger - crime?

just musing,
joanny

JJ.in.Phila said...

The autopsy report showed as contributing factors, cocaine, amphetamines, and alcohol as contributing factors. I would surmise that the coroner did do a toxicology on Ms. January.

While I find the claim of Mr. January to being in LE suspicious, to say the least, it would only be relevant if there was a possibility the evidence was planted. If he was not being truthful, it would make that possibility less likely.

Miss Caitlin S. said...

Is it too much to ask that I can go back in time and be a fly on the wall to see what really happened? Well, I guess if I'm wishing for that I should rather wish to go back in time as a Cop on the wall who can stop whatever happened from taking place. Either way, this never sounds like suicide!

Maxi said...

Good work Slam; they need you on the case.

The report by Sgt. Davis makes a good argument for murder, not suicide.

I continue to have a problem with the gun under the victim's thigh.

Rachna Chhabria said...

It looks like someone had arranged the scene of the crime; makes me think something is fishy.

ZaSu Says said...

JJ.in.Phila

There was no official autopsy report done by the Pass Christian
ME.

The autopsy report 10/6/2001 paid for by the family shows no reference to drugs or alcohol in the system.

Anonymous said...

The Police report or death certificate does not say it did any blood testing it only says it felt it was a contributing factor. It doesn't say what lead them to this conclusion.
I don't see any proof positive at all that leads one to the conclusion she had any drugs in her system. In fact the only people who said this were people who supposedly didn't see her before she died. The babysitter, last person known to see her said Nikki was fine, Nikki stayed and spoke to her for 20 mins so her opinion is based on a length of time where I would feel she could tell and she took it upon herslef to seek out the police and tell them she was "Fine when she saw Nikki between 11-11:20pm.

Anonymous said...

It should be added the only people who state she had a substance abuse problem are the one's who found her dead body.
One with a history of alcohol abuse and the other her then husband, which Nikki was planning on fleeing the morning she was found shot dead....by him.

JJ.in.Phila said...

@ZaSu

My error. It was the medical examiner's report.

Elsewhere Ms. LaDue indicated that they had an alcohol level (which I believe was below the legal limit in Mississippi). They would need a blood sample to determine that.

ZaSu Says said...

Writer, journalist, TV producer blogger Zerogossip wants to talk about Nikki's case:

"Was Nikki LaDue January Murdered? Mississippi Police Don't Seem to Care."

Click link to read, share and comment:Cold No More

He is looking for those who knew Nikki or were involved in her investigation ...to talk to!

ZaSu Says said...

@JJ.in.Phila

I don't your faith that a proper investigation was done in Nikki's case.

Here's why Three Men Who Let A Murderer Get Away