July 29: Nikki LaDue January is Found


Not much is known about the Nikki LaDue January’s final day. But Nikki’s mom Bonnie LaDue went to Mississippi to try to talk to her friends. So based on her own investigation, and interviews from others, here is what we know.

Despite telling Angelia Hursell, the woman who was babysitting Nikki’s son Zack on July 28 that she was going to be busy packing, she was actually with some friends. Among those friends was Eric Hunsicker, a man she knew for just about a week. Eric said Nikki picked him up around noon that day and they drove around listening to CD’s. After a while she told him “I gotta get back to the house.” They both went to Nikki and her husband Phil January’s condos where Eric said he saw boxes all over the place. Nikki told him they were moving to Shreveport and that Phil just got a good paying job there. Eric said he heard Phil was mean and that he was abusive. But, he told Nikki she should try out Shreveport even if just for the sake of her son. After spending a short time in the condo, Nikki and Eric headed out again to a local bar called the Sugar Mill. According to Eric, they hung out for a couple of hours talking. Nikki just had a beer and a mixed drink. After that they made a quick stop at Eric’s apartment to meet some of his friends and then went to a sports bar for a couple of hours. Around 7 p.m., Nikki said she had to make a phone call. She used a pay phone to call Phil. When she returned, Eric said she was very nervous and that Phil was mad at her. She told him she had to leave. If you recall, Phil said he had been trying to get ahold of her all day and didn’t talk to her until 11:07 p.m. that night.  She also told Eric she would be back in town the following Monday and that perhaps they could hang out again.  Nikki left but where she went is unknown. She did go to Angelia’s at 10:30 p.m. to pick up Zack and was likely home by 11 p.m. Between 11:07 p.m. and 1:40 a.m. she and Phil exchanged at least 27 phone calls. There was an argument about where Nikki had been during the day.  Phil said she seemed under the influence. Angelia, who saw her last at about 10:50 p.m. disagreed. “She and I spoke for a good 20 minutes before she left. She didn’t seem drugged up or intoxicated. I wouldn’t let her drive away if that were the case.” During the phone calls between Nikki and Phil, “there was a lot of stuff,” he said. But in the final call he said Nikki told him she loved him and he told her, “we’ll get through this.” Nikki also made a call to Eric shortly after 1 a.m. “She called me and was trying to talk to me basically saying, ‘if my husband ever finds out about you and me hanging out, you deny you knew anything about me,'” Eric said.  “She sounded very nervous but I was watching a movie and I asked if I could call her tomorrow. I feel terrible about it. I just cut her short.”

In the week leading up to this, Nikki was staying at her friend Nancy Burge’s house overnight. Every night that week. On Saturday night when Nancy came home from work, Nikki and Zack weren’t there. She said she was worried because she received a call from Phil earlier that night looking for Nikki so she started to drive to the condo. But for some reason, 10 or 15 minutes into the drive, she turned around and came home.

Nancy Burge with Nikki

At this point I need to take you on a little diversion and it has to do with Nancy. Nancy Burge was married and had children. At the same time, she was involved with a woman named Catherine Pierocich. Catherine was very jealous of Nikki and Nancy’s friendship. In fact, she felt like a jilted lover and sent Nikki a letter saying as much. Keep that in the back of your mind. And then there’s this. Diane Morgan, a friend and co-worker of Nikki’s told a private investigator that Nikki was crying one day and told her that “Phil threatens me” and that “Phil leaves post-it notes in every cabinet in the condo saying I’m a piece of shit and a slut.” Justine Wheeler, another friend and co-worker of Nikki’s told the PI that Nikki had a fight with Phil by telephone the Saturday before her death. She added that Nikki was afraid of Phil and that he had a bad temper. Terri Warren, a friend and former supervisor of Nikki said Nikki was afraid of Phil and on several occasions sent her home because the couple had fought and Nikki was too distraught to work. Alan Prince, who was Phil’s former supervisor and his friend said Phil would call and check on who Nikki was hanging out with. Now back to Nancy. She had told people she was Nikki’s best friend. Bonnie, Nikki’s mom said Nikki told her Nancy was her best friend. Yet when asked by the PI how Nikki and Phil’s relationship was, she said it was “wonderful,” which is how Phil explained his marriage to me. Somebody in this group of people is not being truthful.

Sometime around 9:30 a.m. on the morning of July 29, Nancy Bruge went to Nikki’s condo. Nikki, Zack and Nancy were going to go to Florida for a few days to spend time with Nikki’s family. The plan was for them to go to Florida and Phil and his son Matt would drive the U-Haul with their belongings to Boosier City. After knocking on the door, Nancy was let into the condo by Zack. He told her his mommy was sleeping. Nancy searched the apartment but couldn’t find Nikki. The apartment is not that big and the sliding glass door to the balcony is easily visible. Nancy knew based on her several visits to Nikki that she liked to spend time on the balcony. Yet Nancy did not look there. Shortly after Phil arrived in the parking lot. Nancy came out and told him she couldn’t find Nikki. “I said she’s got to be there, her car is here,” Phil said. “So we went inside. Zack was in his room playing a video game and I started walking through the house. I walked into our bedroom and on the bed was all of our clothes all folded up and ready to be packed. After checking the bathroom I walked back and noticed the glass door to the patio was open about a foot. And so I opened the door and stepped out there and that’s when I saw her. The phone was laying on her stomach. I reached over and picked up the phone and clicked it on to call 911 but it was dead. My son was at the other end of the condo near the front door and I hollered at him to call 911. His phone was a Dallas phone and I think at that time when you call 911 from your cell phone it went to wherever you lived. Nancy had already taken Zack outside. This is a curious thing that Matt told me later. He said that when Nancy saw me starting to go toward the patio, she grabbed Zack and headed out the door. Maybe she had already seen Nikki. I don’t know. Matt went outside and told Nancy to call 911. They both knocked on doors trying to use someone’s phone to call 911.”

Nancy Burge 911 call

Phil continued, “Officer Willie Davis was the first on the scene. I really didn’t talk to him much to be honest. And if I did, I don’t remember much. I told him what was going on, where she was and he asked me to go downstairs and I did. There were others who came but I don’t remember how many or the time frame. It’s all kind of blurry after seeing that.”

Nikki’s death was quickly ruled a suicide by the police investigators and the coroner. “All I knew is my wife was gone,” Phil said.

Did Nikki kill herself? “Absolutely not,” Angelia said. “When she left to go home with Zack, she was fine.This is a woman who would never put her child in harm’s way. Why would she come and pick him up from me, where he was perfectly fine, and take him home and kill herself? Why wouldn’t she just go home and do it? Nikki adored that baby. And to see those two together, she almost turned into a kid when she was with Zack. She was a really great mother.”

Nikki’s story is far from over…coming up, the lack of investigation and Nikki’s parents are told the horrible news.

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Posted on November 22, 2011, in Cold Cases, Crime, Murder, Nikki LaDue January and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. logical minded engineer

    THE SWEATER

    In the crime scene photos, Nikki is shown wearing a long sleeved sweater (over a white top). Temperature data for Gulfport, MS on July 28-29, 2002 is provided below:

    July 28, 2002:
    Minimum Temperature: 77.0F
    Maximum Temperature: 91.0F
    Mean Wind Speed: 3.91 mph
    Maximum Sustained Wind Speed: 11.10 mph
    Maximum Wind Gust: No Data

    July 29, 2002:
    Minimum Temperature: 75.2F
    Maximum Temperature: 87.8F
    Mean Wind Speed: 6.10 mph
    Maximum Sustained Wind Speed: 13.00 mph
    Maximum Wind Gust: 23.02 mph

    Assuming the minimum temperature was achieved at 2-3 am (estimated time of death) on July 29, 2002, it still would have been 75.2F (albeit windy). Why would Nikki be wearing a long sleeved sweater on a warm summer night?

    TOXICOLOGY REPORT

    The toxicology report indicated Nikki’s alcohol concentration was 0.067%, with positive indications for amphetamine and cocaine (though no levels were reported). Investigators, apparently, never questioned Phil about possible medications Nikki might have been taking that could cause interference with her toxicology report. Common over-the-counter ingested or inhaled substances that can cause false positives in a drug test are provided in the link below:

    http://www.passyourdrugtest.com/false-positives.htm

    It’s interesting to note, for example, that common over-the-counter nasal decongestants and medications such as Vick’s Nyquil, Sudafed, Dimetapp, appetite suppressants (diet pills), etc all can cause false positives for amphetamine use. Did Nikki have allergies or a summer cold that might have resulted in her inhaling/ingesting a common over-the-counter medication for relief — which, in turn, produced a false positive in the toxicology report? A summer cold (which can be nasty and hard to shake) might explain her wearing a sweater on a warm July night?!

    Much has been made of Nikki’s drug use. However, measurable levels of amphetamine or cocaine were not reported (and positive indications could have been false positives). However, the toxicology report did indicate measurable levels of alcohol — again 0.067%. However, I’m not clear as to whether this was UAC (urine alcohol content) or BAC (blood alcohol content). From what I can glean from internet sources, it appears that a a toxicology test sample removed from a deceased victim normally is withdrawn from the bladder (indicating that the 0.067% was likely UAC). This is important, because there can be substantial differences between BAC and UAC. The UAC will be higher — normally by a factor of 1.3 to 1.7X (which makes sense,– as your body absorbs and processes the alcohol, you would expect the urine alcohol concentration to exceed that in the blood).

    What’s the significance of this alcohol concentration number? The formula to calculate BAC (blood alcohol concentration) for a caucasian woman is provided below:

    BAC = ((A x 5.14) / (W x 0.6)) – (0.015 x t), where:

    BAC – blood alcohol concentration (%)
    A = alcohol consumed (oz)
    W = weight (lbs)
    t = time since the drink was consumed (hrs) — accounts for metabolism of alcohol by the body

    In the United States, one standard drink of an alcoholic beverage is assumed to contain 0.6 ounces of alcohol. This equates to a 12 oz beer, a 5 oz glass of wine, or 1.5 oz shot of hard liquor. Guidelines are not provided for mixed drinks or cocktails, because alcohol content can vary widely, depending on the bar (for example, a single mixed drink could have the alcohol equivalent of 1-3 “standard drinks”). It was reported that Nikki was 110 pounds.

    If Nikki had no alcohol in her system and consumed 1 standard drink immediately (i.e. by this I mean within 30 minutes for max aborption) preceeding death, she’d register 0.047 BAC. Likewise, if Nikki had no alcohol in her system and consumed 2 standard drinks immediately preceeding death, she’d register 0.093 BAC. However, note that NO glasses, cups, wine bottles, or beer cans were reported at the crime scene. To put this in perspective, after a stressful day at work, I might uncork a bottle of Pinot Grigio and drink 2 glasses before bedtime. This hardly makes me a deviant alcohol abuser with psychotic suicidal tendencies.

    When Nikki died, she had a registered alcohol concentration of 0.067. Assuming this was 2:00 am and she had her last alcoholic drink immediately prior to picking up Zack at the babysitter (11:00 pm), her alcohol content would have varied as follows (using average metabolic rates for alcohol consumption of 0.015% BAC per hour):

    2:00 am – 0.067 BAC
    1:00 am – 0.082 BAC
    12:00 am – 0.097 BAC
    11:00 pm – 0.112 BAC

    If we assume that UAC was measured during the toxicology report, instead of BAC then the estimates would be as follows:

    0.067 UAC = 0.039 – 0.052 BAC [depending on whether a 1.3X (min) or 1.7X (max) multiplier is used].

    Using the maximum multiplier of 1.7X we get:

    2:00 am – 0.039 BAC
    1:00 am – 0.054 BAC
    12:00 am – 0.069 BAC
    11:00 pm – 0.084 BAC

    Using the minimum multiplier of 1.3X we get:

    2:00 am – 0.052 BAC
    1:00 am – 0.067 BAC
    12:00 am – 0.082 BAC
    11:00 pm – 0.097 BAC

    What physiological affects are associated with varying BACs? The answer below . . .

    0.04 – 0.06 BAC: Feeling of well-being, relaxation, lower inhibitions, sensation of warmth, Euphoria. Some minor impairment of reasoning and memory, lowering of caution. Your behavior may become exaggerated and emotions intensified.

    0.07 – 0.09 BAC: Slight impairment of balance, speech, vision, reaction time, and hearing. Euphoria. Judgement and self-control are reduced, and caution, reason and memory are impaired. You will probably believe that you are functioning better than you really are.

    0.10 – 0.125 BAC: Significant impairment of motor coordination and loss of good judgement. Speech may be slurred. Balance, vision, reaction time and hearing will be impaired. Euphoria.

    Given the physiological indicators above, the conclusions I draw are as follows:

    (1) If the alcohol in Nikki’s body was indeed reported as BAC in the toxicology report, she must have had 1 or 2 drinks after arriving home (no evidence of this). Otherwise, she would have registered above 0.10 BAC at the time she spoke with the babysitter, and the babysitter would have likely observed indications of intoxication during a 20 minute conversation.

    (2) If the alcohol in Nikki’s body was reported as UAC in the toxicology report, it’s probable she would have not raised suspicion in her conversation with the baby sitter (even if she had consumed all the alcohol in her system prior to picking up Zack).

    (3) Is Phil’s statement that he could tell she was “under the influence” during the phone calls the night of her death credible? Although I dismissed this possibility in an earlier post (based on drug use), after learning that Nikki had alcohol in her system and researching the above, I would argue that this it is now possible, provided the toxicology report expressed alcohol concentration as BAC If the toxicology report instead expressed alcohol concentration as UAC, I’d suggest it would have been very difficult for Phil to ascertain Nikki was under the influence from verbal phone conversations (even assuming all the alcohol was consumed prior to visiting the babysitter).

    (4) Irrespective of any of the above conjecture, I’m still left with the question . . . would a UAC or even BAC of 0.067% in the moments before death have caused Nikki to be in such a despondent or incoherent state that it would have contributed to a decision to end her own life — NO WAY. The reported physiological indicators (even at worst case 0.067 BAC) don’t support this. Do I think drugs had anything to do with Nikki’s death — NO!

    PHIL’S SCRATCH MARKS

    It was reported that following Nikki’s death, Phil was observed to have scratch marks and bloodied, swollen hands. He communicated that he suffered his injuries after punching a concrete wall in a state of despair upon finding Nikki dead. Given the observed scratch marks, why oh why didn’t the private autopsy include DNA testing of finger-nail residue! If skin is found under Nikki’s finger nails that coincides with Phil’s DNA he’s cooked. It places him at the crime scene — and would collaborate Nancy’s unintended “slip-up” with the 911 operator (stating Phil arrived the night of Nikki’s death versus in the morning after as Phil suggests). Given the current state of DNA testing, even minute traces of Phil’s skin under Nikki’s finger nails would be sufficient to place him at the scene at the time of death. The scenario here would be Phil arriving at the condo around 2:00 pm (as Nikki’s 911 call suggests), letting himself in with a key, and then murdering his wife in cold-blood at point blank range as she desperately tired to save herself by clawing at his hands to push the gun away. After 9 years — is there still a chance that Phil’s skin residue would have survived for DNA testing?

    THE DIARY

    I read in a post this evening that Nikki kept a diary in a locker at the casino where she worked, in which she recorded her feelings. After Nikki’s death, a casino employee informed investigators of this fact and they cut off the lock and removed the diary. What ever happened to the diary? We NEED to know! This is Nikki’s voice from beyond the grave, that would tell us the truth, the whole truth.

  2. This is for the logical minded engineer, After looking at the photos, there is one that shows Nikki holding something in her left hand. With your logical mind, I was wondering if you might venture a guess as to what it is. Thanks.Just love your comments! Keep them coming. We’re always looking for fresh insights as to what happened to our beautiful girl.

  1. Pingback: A Catch-Up Post For the Nikki LaDue January Case « Cold No More

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