Phil January: I Lost Everything when Nikki Died
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There’s been a lot written about Nikki LaDue January’s death…mostly blogs, which is great, but almost nothing in any of the main stream media which is a shame because there are a lot of great crime reporters in Southern Mississippi. But I digress. In the blogs and comments that are out there, there’s an eye of suspicion cast at Nikki’s husband, Phil January. I talked to him over the weekend and like I did with Bonnie’s entry, I’m going to relay to you what Phil told me without any observations or opinions from me. The conversation lasted a bit over an hour and was emotional at times. He said he lost everything when Nikki died.
Phil January worked security at the Grand Casino in Gulfport, Miss. He was in his mid-40’s when he came across Nikki, who also worked at the Grand. She was about 27-28 at that time.
“The first time I’d seen Nikki she was coming in on a day off when I was still a security officer and I carded her…asked her for her ID. She took offense to that. But from then on, we’d say hi to each other. One day, after she had her breast enlargement, I happened to be standing at the security podium and Nikki was talking to the shift manager about it. And she looked over at me and said, ‘And there’s my body-guard,’ and I said, ‘yeah from what I understand, there’s more body to guard!’ From then we just got friendlier and friendlier. The custom in the south is to give people a hug. One day she gave me a hug and gave me a peck on the cheek. Then I had to deal with a situation on the floor with a player of hers and I asked her for his phone number and she gave me her phone number. I thought she was just joking. Nikki was gorgeous and friendly. About a week later, she said, ‘You never called me.’ I told her I thought she was kidding but she said she wasn’t. So we would talk on the phone or meet on breaks to talk. One thing led to another and a few months later, we moved in together and decided to get married. To be honest with you, I’d been divorced and single for 16 years before that and I had 2 or 3 serious girlfriends but when they started talking about marriage, I’d be out of there. But after 8 months with Nikki, it was the right thing. She was one of the most amazing people I’ve ever met in my life. We were married just under 2 years when she died. In fact we were talking about what we were going to do for our anniversary coming up in August.”
In April 2002, you may recall Nikki’s mother Bonnie said she received “the phone call from hell.” Phil explained. “That’s the day she came clean to me about her addiction. She stayed out all night and didn’t come home. And finally about 6:30 or 7 in the morning I went out and found her as she was coming out of a bar with a bunch of people. She said it was somebody’s birthday party. I told her to get in the car with me and Nancy drove Nikki’s mustang and followed us. I told Nikki that if this is what she wanted to do then fine, I will leave. So I packed up my clothes and left for a couple of hours. And when I came back, there was the note. I was floored. It was devastating because I didn’t know anything about it. I didn’t even know if that was my wife anymore because it was such a double life. She kept wanting to leave because she was upset that I was upset about it. I took her car keys because I didn’t want her driving in that state. And finally I just walked over to her and looked at her and said I love you and we’re going to get through this and we’ll do whatever to get through it.”
Did Phil ever see Nikki under the influence? “I never knew until that day. I had no idea. She told me she used to get out of work early and go to a friend’s house and sit around and get high and then she’d come home. She said she was just taking pain pills but the day she came clean, she told me she had done some cocaine that day. But it was more of a pain pill addiction. She started going to AA meetings the next day, we spent more time together. She quit skipping out on work. If she got out early, she came home. And she didn’t hang out with those people anymore. She tried to distance herself from them. She would call me during most of her breaks so she wouldn’t have to be around them. She was changing her life. She was trying to get herself clean.”
Here is that note which Pass Christian police investigators later called a suicide note. They didn’t look at when it was written.
One of the things Phil made Nikki do was call her parents and read them the note. Bonnie said she could hear Phil screaming at Nikki in the background…obscenities and terrible names. I asked if Phil had lost control. “No I don’t remember yelling anything at her. That was one of the things we talked about when we decided we were going to move forward. That she had to come clean with everybody. And that meant letting the people close to her know what was going on. I don’t remember screaming anything at her. I don’t know why I would. She was coming clean. I very seldom even raised my voice with Nikki. It’s just not my way. I don’t remember it that way at all. In fact Nikki told me that she called her mom later and said she needed her and Bonnie told her ‘you don’t need me. He’s who you need right now.'”
You make ask why AA instead of something like NA. Phil said Nikki talked to his father who was a recovering alcoholic and I think that’s where she got the idea to go to AA.
Through private investigations and Nikki’s mother Bonnie’s own investigations, people who worked with Nikki said she would come to work and often would be seen crying or upset. I asked Phil to explain.
“After she came clean, she went through hell at work. I remember a friend of mine at the casino told me the day after she told me about the drugs Nikki came to him and said that she was afraid I was going to leave her. And there were other things too. She had her tires slashed in the parking lot. She told me somebody, and she wouldn’t tell me who, somebody told her she better keep her mouth shut. And don’t rat the rest of us out. He was talking about the group at the casino who were involved with drugs. And then she got a very threatening note left in her locker. I didn’t see the note but she said it said something like keep your mouth shut or we will get you, or something like that. I asked her what she did with the note and she said she threw it away. After that I called the casino security manager and they gave her a special place to park that had more security camera coverage for her car. So she was catching hell at work because they were afraid she was going to bust the bubble on all of them. To be honest I would have liked to have known who these people were but it wasn’t my main concern. My main concern was to get Nikki well. She was going to AA meetings. I would go to some AA meetings with her. I remember the day after she came clean, I went to my office manager (Phil was now working at a local security firm) and told him I wasn’t going to be here as much. I need to spend more time with my wife. And I did. Nikki and I would meet for lunch after that. Often I would go home at lunch time to spend some time with her. We’d have date night when she, Zack and I would go out to eat or go to a movie. I made a point to make sure that I was going to be there for her to get her through this.”
“It was later when Nikki said she wanted to leave the area. I told her I would look for a job elsewhere. In May I flew to Phoenix for an interview. I ended up getting a job at Boom Town Casino in Boosier City, Louisiana. They were set to begin their move the day Nikki died.
“She wasn’t excited about the move at first. She was excited about getting out of Mississippi but she was reluctant because Shreveport had a bad reputation with crime. But after she gave her notice at the Grand, she talked to a co-worker who had worked in Shreveport and came home and said she was excited about going. The co-worker told her it was a great place…real artsy and that good stuff. And Nikki was really artsy. She liked to do calligraphy and things like that so she got really excited about the move.”
It was mid-July. Phil was going to start work in Louisiana while Nikki took care of packing up the condo in Mississippi. They would be separated for about 2 weeks. Before Phil left Nikki had her eye on a mustang convertible she really loved. “She was driving my Crown Vic and I said go ahead and trade it in and get yourself a car. It was the first car she bought on her own.”
Phil’s brother in Dallas had an extra car so together, they drove there to pick it up before heading to Boosier City.
“The next day we drove to Boom Town where they put us up in a hotel. She stayed until Sunday and came back on Wednesday. I remember her pulling up in the driveway and her jumping out of the car and jumping into my arms. Zack was in the car hollering, ‘What about me?!’ She was supposed to go back to work on Friday. I went to work for a couple of hours and when I came back to the hotel, she said she wasn’t going back to Mississippi that day. She said she wanted to stay with me. I told her I was great with that and she stayed an extra day. She left Saturday and that was the last time I saw her alive. We talked on the phone while she drove back and I told her this will never happen again. I never wanted to be separated like that again. She said she agreed. The next Wednesday she was really upset because she had slept really long and she was going to come up again. But it was a 6 hour drive and it was too late in the day to head out. On Thursday she called again because she was upset that the condo’s owner Paul Morreale and his mother showed up wanting to show the condo to new tenants. I told her to tell them to wait a couple of days and they could show it all they want but they don’t need to be putting this stress on you.”
Nikki and Zack would stay overnight at her friend and Grand Casino co-worker Nancy Burge’s house in the days leading up to her death. Nancy and Nikki became friends earlier that year. “She told me once I should be lucky she had Nancy as a friend because she’s grounded, she’s a mother and she’s not into all this stuff. They got to be close friends.”
Why did Nikki choose not to stay overnight in their condo? Was she afraid? “I don’t know. The weird thing is while I was packing to come to Boosier, I was packing my gun. I was actually putting the weapon in my suitcase. And she asked if I would leave it here. I asked her why and she said, just in case. I asked her just in case of what? And she repeated, just in case. So I left it.”
On Saturday, July 27, Nikki was at Nancy’s when Phil called. “We made the plans that I was going to work Sunday and she was going to call me in my hotel room at 6 p.m.”
Sunday came and Nikki didn’t call Phil at 6 p.m. “I assumed she was at the condo but when I called I wasn’t getting any answers. So I called Nancy’s and talked to her husband Scott and he said he hadn’t seen her. Finally I called the casino and left a message for Nancy to call me. She did but said she didn’t know where Nikki was. Finally about 11 p.m. Nikki called me. She said she’d been out with her friend from her AA meeting. But during that phone call, I could tell she was under the influence.”
More from Phil later. Up next, Angelia Hursell…one of the last people who saw Nikki alive.
Posted on November 21, 2011, in Cold Cases, Crime, Murder, Nikki LaDue January and tagged Bonnie LaDue, Cold Cases, Grand Casino, ladue, Mississippi, Murder, Nikki LaDue January, Pass Christian, Phil January, Suicide. Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.