Why Are There So Many Conflicting Police Reports in Nikki LaDue January Case?

They quickly deemed the death of Nikki LaDue January a suicide. They being the Pass Christian, Mississippi police and the Harrison County Coroner Gary Hargrove. But why? Yes she was found alone on her balcony with a gun shot wound to the head. Yes the gun was there as well. But depending on whom you talk to, none of the investigators seemed to have seen the same thing and the lead investigator went so far as to say Nikki’s autopsy showed it was suicide. The problem is, Nikki didn’t have an autopsy. Take a look at some of the statements made.

First responder (name withheld)

“Well, what I can remember was getting the call. I believe it was a welfare I’m not too sure. I remember the son was there still asleep. When I saw the body, she had her legs propped up, alcohol on the patio table. And it looked as if she had been crying. Investigator took over and we went door to door. From the people I spoke to stated that they heard no arguing but did hear the gun shot. But the people I spoke to said it sounded like a fire cracker. Which made sense because it was a small-caliber pistol. In my personal opinion I couldn’t see anything that resulted to foul play. I’m not gonna lie to you. I think there was a note but I didn’t see it. And the investigator that worked it was no spring chicken, and didn’t like to work. Again, from what I’ve seen it didn’t look to be foul play. I remember she was having trouble with the husband. But I don’t have any information about that situation.”

Police Officer Willie Davis (first on the scene) recounted what he remembered to Bonnie LaDue, Nikki’s mom.

“I told him who I was and asked if he remembered my daughter’s case, Bonnie said. “He definitely did, but that’s when things got a little odd…he recalled he’d responded to a missing person call…the husband and friend were frantic because they couldn’t find Nikki, and her little boy was alone in the condo.  When he arrived, he looked through the apartment, didn’t find her and then went outside and walked the perimeter of the complex with Nancy and Phil.  When they got to the courtyard (pool area) he looked up at the balcony and saw her body there….he was VERY clear that he was the one who found Nikki.  He then called in the lead investigator, Tom Pustay. When asked what his impressions were, he stated that he never had a doubt it was a suicide but had HE been in charge he would have handled things differently.  I asked him what he meant and he told me he would have called in the Gulfport homicide squad and made sure protocol was followed for determining the cause of death. (fingerprints, seizure of physical evidence at the scene, autopsy, etc.)  He also said he would have made sure the area was canvassed thoroughly for witness statements and that follow-up interviews were done.  He remembered Zack had not been questioned but if it had been his case to solve, he would have made sure to speak to the little boy. While the recounting of his memories was stunning enough, things got even weirder. When I informed him that I was having trouble equating his story with what the police report said, he asked if I had that report with me….I did and opened my file on the hood of the car and offered it to him.   For many minutes we stood there and waited for him to finish reading it.  It took him so long I began to wonder if he was literate, or if maybe he had checked out!  Finally, he looked up with pure puzzlement on his face and slowly said “that’s not what I remember happening”.  I reminded him that his signature was on this document so he surely must have written it.  He said yes, he had HAND written his report that day, but had then turned it over to someone else to type up.  I asked him if he had proof read it before he had signed the official document and he said apparently not.  I asked him if he had any explanation for the discrepancies…he had none.”

Lead investigator Thomas Pustay who later was convicted of sexual abuse of a child

Lead Detective Thomas Pustay wrote letters in response to Bonnie’s letters to him in prison. He’s serving a 40-year sentence for sexually abusing a child. This abuse, by the way, would have been going on around the time of Nikki’s death. Here are some excerpts from his letters.

“I have no further information concerning Nikki’s untimely death. I do, however, have some opinions about the case. They may help you. Since I am no longer a member of the Pass Christian Police Department, I am free to voice these opinions. First, I’ll address the fact that Phillip (January) showed up with a moving van. What struck me as odd was that the apartment was not packed for moving. This told me that he was expecting to be moving and she might have changed her mind and wasn’t going anywhere.”

If you recall, Eric Hunsicker, who spent the day with Nikki the day before she died went to her apartment. He said there were boxes everywhere.

Back to Pustay’s letters.

“This may have been the argument they were having on the phone. I also believe Phil threatened her in some way during that call. When I asked him about the call, he would only say, ‘I wish I would have handled that better.’ He would not elaborate on the content of the call.”

Phil denies ever speaking with Pustay. However, he did offer this explanation for the comment Pustay said he made. “As for the phone calls, they were not exactly heated, but they were intense at times, then light-hearted at others. What I meant by what I said at the time, is I probably shouldn’t have pushed so hard for certain answers when I realized Nikki was lying about some of the things that day.”

Once again, back to Pustay’s letters.

“About Nikki. She was what, 29 I think. She was a very pretty young woman. She was well liked by her friends and co-workers…From all I’ve heard, Nikki was also a good mother…I think Nikki had self-esteem or self-confidence issues. I say this because of her breast implants. I don’t say this to demean her in any way. It’s just my opinion that our culture makes women think they need larger breasts…Anyway, Nikki’s self-esteem issues played right into Phillip’s hands. Men like him look for women with those issues. Then they constantly treat them like dirt and make them believe they deserve it. Probably Nikki couldn’t do anything good enough for him…my guess is that he berated and dogged her constantly. At some point shortly after his last call, Nikki decided to take her life. When someone gets to that point, they become calm and nothing else is important.”

Quite a few things stand out here. First, there was no investigation therefore no one was interviewed. How does Pustay know Nikki was well liked or even a good mother for that matter. Would a good mother shoot herself with her child in the next room? Second, the breast implants and his take on what that means about her self-esteem. Really? While that certainly could be true, what evidence or on what basis is he making this assumption on?

Pustay asked Bonnie to send him copies of the police records she had so he could review them. He wrote back.

“There is no report from the pathologist on the autopsy,” he wrote. “I was there for the autopsy, that’s how I remember her implants. Unless I’m badly mistaken, but Nikki was the only autopsy I ever attended who had implants.”

Coroner Gary Hargrove

The problem here is that Nikki didn’t have an autopsy. Coroner Gary Hargrove deemed it unnecessary. So, while it is true that she had them, Pustay said he didn’t know until he saw them at an autopsy that never took place. Where then, does he base that information from considering it played a big part in his “Nikki has self-esteem issues” theory? Pustay said there were several supplemental forms to the investigation missing. He said that was because of Hurricane Katrina which devastated Pass Christian. There’s also this curious piece of information that Pustay wrote.

“In May 2002, I lost my mother to colon cancer. It hit me really hard. At about the same time of my mother’s death, my fourth grandchild was born. The two events were less than a mile apart so it was a very bittersweet day for me. I went into a deep depression.”

Could that depression have impaired his investigating abilities or for that matter did it put him into an I don’t care mentality and he prematurely closed the case?

Pustay also wrote that while he still thinks this was a case of a self-inflicted contact gunshot wound and there’s no proof at this point to say otherwise, “I am of course in no position to obtain any of that proof. But I will say, that I would not be opposed to take another look if I was in a position to do so. I didn’t know about Nikki spending the day before with Eric. He should have been grilled.”


Posted on November 28, 2011, in Cold Cases, Crime, Murder, Nikki LaDue January and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Pusty liked little girls age 9 – 11 yrs. He was abusing these girls before and after Nikki’s death. His mind was not on his work. It was on sex, Nikki’s breast implants. I question his memory and the polaroid crime scene photos and especially the one of Nikki’s genital area. There is one photo of the inside of the condo showing a white comforter on the floor, and what appears to be Nikki’s purse and keys.

    I would be interested if anyone knows if Nikki was in the habit of just laying her keys down? Also were the keys to Black Beauty on the ring.

    Phil had been unemployed for almost a year, he had been successfully sued by his ex girlfriend for several thousand dollars, due to him fraudulently using her credit cards. This was something that Phil was not happy about.

    How does one buy a mustang when he is unemployed and has a several thousand dollar judgement against him? Just curious what did Phil charge on those cards?

    It should also be noted that when Pustay was writing to Bonnie he was appealing his sentence and most definitely did not want to rock a boat who maybe setting him free. Thankfully they did not.

    The 911 call has Nancy telling the responder she was 1st on scene, then Phil who went directly to balcony and she could see him from where she stood. It was a shotgun apt and she could see him on the balcony from the front door. I wonder why could she see him and not her BFF Nikki?

    I also question if the son Zack was really there. Nancy said she headed over there the night before, how do we know she didn’t pick up Zack then? Nancy was late arriving to pick up Nikki for their trip. Why? She called the apt the night before at 3am and 3:30am but does not call to let her know she is going to be late picking her up.

    You can hear her on the 911 tape say “Son take him to the car” who is she speaking to? Her son Jason? Phil’s son Matt?

    Why would Phil and his son (a computer tech from TWU in Denton. TX) think wiping a hard drive clean right after Nikki being found shot?

    What about the Condo owner Karen and Paul Morreale’s maid who helped Nikki pack and reportedly heard fierce arguments between Nikki and Phil?

    How does the 1st responder explain the 911 call which states there is no police on scene just Phil on balcony and Nancy with her son and Zack.

  2. This email was sent directly to me but it’s a good one to put in the comments here:
    I’ve seen data on the case come across my Facebook many times, and never really looked into the case until I read your article today online..


    Now, the questions in my mind dealing with this case.

    What Caliber was the weapon

    Was the bullet found and determined it was fired from that weapon

    Who owned that weapon? And why would she have it so close to hand while talking on the phone to her ex.

    The description of her relationship with her ex, is that of an Abuser, may not have been physical but certainly was emotional and mental abuse going on.

    Women who want to have Breast implants on a general basis does not mean she has self esteem issues, it virtually means she wants to have larger breast, and that does promote more confidence.

    And point being if she were in an abusive relationship, she might well be co-dependent, yet I have not seen anything in what was reported that sounds like she would take her life, not with her child left to find her.

    The detective was making assumptions, based on his sketchy memory, yet he was already compromised with his own criminal behavior, so in my thoughts he was untrustworthy to even investigate this case, he might well have mental and emotional issues towards women.

    So, there was no autopsy, that is quite odd because most states require an autopsy on any and all unattended deaths.

    Next, was there gun powder residue on her hands? And exactly where was the shot fired into Nikki, these are elements that should have been reported in a file during an autopsy…

    Next the story her ex told about searching for her, and knowing their child was asleep alone in the condo, yet he never check the balcony area? This lousy investigation didn’t go as far as checking his hands for powder residue, nor requiring a warrant to go to the location he had been staying if not at the home and obtaining the clothing he wore the day prior to check for blood splatter. He should have been a prime suspect, and no one should have been classifying the case a suicide until an absolute confirmation from the coroner had he done his job.

    Last, it is not a common method for the anticipated Majority of women who kill themselves to use a weapon. I’ve seen women who have killed themselves with a weapon and with their children present, but it is not common. I would estimate that women who do use a weapon is a last resort, no pills available, why not the wrist which is more common.. hanging is as unlikely as shooting.

    Someone needs to find a good Private investigator, who is willing to go the full route and determine the evidence needed to prove this case out. I do not understand how that Police Department would allow any of that Detectives cases to stand and not be completely reviewed once they realized he was compromised with his own illegal activities. Bad choices.

    one other issue, just because the scene did not show any issues of foul play, doesn’t mean that someone wasn’t there, that someone didn’t shoot her and that someone didn’t clean the darn place up and leave only to return.. And it does seem to me that only one person at this point had motive to shoot Nikki, and that is her ex. Separation, divorce, Child, was there a boyfriend, or a girlfriend issue involved? These are motives, these cases occur daily all across the nation.. One of determined highest rates of death for a pregnant Women, is being murdered by the father of the child she is carrying.

    A higher branch of LE in any State is the State Investigators.. Letters to the Governor of the State, the Attorney General.. pleading for a new investigation into the death, based on the sloppy investigation which was done.. might well bring that in effect.. Remember a squeaky wheel always gets attention.

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

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