A Catch-Up Post For the Nikki LaDue January Case
A couple of readers who have joined recently are looking for a way to catch up on Nikki LaDue January’s story so when new posts come up, they understand a bit more about the case. So here, in one post is a “primer” if you will on Nikki’s case including links to some of the posts.
Nikki LaDue January died on July 29, 2002 in Pass Christian, Mississippi. She was just 30 years old. Her husband Phil January said he wasn’t home that night and had tried calling her several times. A friend of Nikki’s went to check on her. Nikki’s five-year old son Zachary answered the door and said his mommy was sleeping in the bedroom. The friend checked. Nikki wasn’t there. Minutes later Phil arrived home and found Nikki on their balcony with a single gunshot wound to the head. Investigators say she had been dead several hours and quickly determined it was a suicide. But was it? In the coming days you’ll read more about this case and how potentially sloppy investigative work may have let a murder remain free.
When Nikki LaDue January was murdered in 2002 the three men who could have put her killer away plain and simply didn’t do their job. Pathetically incompetent is probably a better way to put it. Her story is coming up but for now meet chief investigator Thomas Pustay. He was charged with investigating her death and quickly wrote it off to suicide. As you will see for yourself, not only was he wrong, he didn’t care. If you’d like to write him and ask him why, you can write him at the South Mississippi Correctional Institution (Inmate # 129388) where he will be spending the rest of his life
I think it’s very important, especially for those who did not know her personally, to have a complete picture of who exactly Nikki LaDue January was. There’s been a lot written about her focusing on her death and what can only be described as a Keystone Kop investigation. We will get to that. I believe Nikki was a victim. But I’d like you to meet Nikki as a person.
I’m sickened by what I’ve reviewed in this case — it sure looks like a sham (staged event). I truly believe that Nikki was murdered, and it makes me mad as hell that law enforcement is not treating this case as an unsolved murder. I have a daughter, and if someone took her life, I’d hunt the SOB down till I found him — irrespective of law enforcement’s willingness to pursue it.
Near the end of 1999, Nikki LaDue found her knight in shining armor. Working on the floor of the Grand Casino in Gulfport, Mississippi, she would occasionally have to deal with an unruly gambler. When that happened, she’d call security. That’s how she met security manager Phil January. But at the same time, she also fighting demons no one could fight. Nikki was addicted to pain pills. She hid this well from her friends and family. Drugs were easy to come by at the Grand. In fact more than once, there were internal investigations that tried to break up an Oxy-ring. People lost their jobs but the drugs continued to flow.
Pass Christian, Mississippi is a tiny town on the Gulf coast with a population of just over 6,500 in 2002. On average, the police department has had to deal with about 5 violent crimes a year with 4 of those being assaults. So, with so few major crime scenes, why is it so difficult to get straight and consistent answers on what happened July 29 when a 30-year-old vibrant mother was found dead from a gunshot wound to the head? Nikki LaDue January, the county coroner said, committed suicide. Yet no one who knew her well believes that–not her mother, not her husband, not her friends. The past decade has proved nearly fruitless for Nikki’s mother Bonnie LaDue who has done everything from hiring private investigators to exhuming her daughter’s body for the autopsy Coroner Gary Hargrove deemed unnecessary.
“There are so many twists and turns to this story. There are so many players, so many side stories going on that the farther you get into it, the more confusing it is.” That’s the frustration Bonnie LaDue has lived with since July 29, 2002 when she learned her 30-year-old daughter Nikki LaDue January was dead.
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.
In reading the police reports and even some of the private investigator notes there were references to Angelia Hursell. Angelia babysat for Nikki LaDue January and was a friend of hers. She babysat Nikki’s son Zack Saturday, July 28 and saw Nikki just a few hours before her death. A couple of things to point out right off the bat. The police report said Angelia said Nikki appeared “energetic” when she picked up Zack. That word…energetic was later used by police investigators and the coroner to imply she was on something. In fact, Angelia said Nikki was “apologetic” because she was a little late picking Zack up. One other thing and it’s a big one. What time did Nikki actually leave Angelia’s after picking up Zack? Angelia had said it was about 11:20-11:30 p.m. That raised eyebrows because phone records from Nikki and her husband Phil’s condo indicated someone was using the phone shortly after 11 p.m. Could there have been someone in the condo? Well, we can’t rule that out entirely however when I asked Angelia about the time again, she corrected it. She said Nikki and Zack left shortly before 11 p.m. and could have conceivably been home in time to use the condo phone at 11:07 p.m. It takes about 10 minutes to get there from Angelia’s.
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 retrospect, I wish I had been more diligent at looking at the crime scene.” After walking onto the couple’s balcony, Phil January found his wife Nikki LaDue January slumped in a chair with a gunshot wound to her right temple. He said the shock of the scene prevented him from taking in everything. However there were some things he did remember. “I do remember there were two different kinds of cigarettes on the table. I do remember seeing the holster on the table. But one thing I do not remember is the gun being in the position of the crime scene photos. I remember the gun being on the side of her trapped against the right side of the stool she was sitting on. That’s what I remember. I’m not saying I’m right but that’s what I remember. Her knee was still up (being held up by the table) and you have to know that Nikki sat with her feet up in the chair all the time so both knees would have been up. When I questioned Coroner Gary Hargrove about how her body ended up in that position, he said that maybe she had both her knees up and as things transpired, the one leg fell and the other was trapped by the table.”
Nancy Burge, Nikki LaDue January’s best friend, wanted nothing to do with anything to do with her death. This was a woman who Nikki stayed with overnight in the days leading up to her death. This was a woman who Nikki shared everything with. This was a woman who was about to make a trip to Florida with Nikki and Zack to meet Nikki’s parents. According to many, she distanced herself from what happened on July 29, 2002 and didn’t even go to Nikki’s funeral. According to Angelia Hursell, one of the last people to see Nikki alive, Nancy divorced her husband after Nikki’s death and now has exclusively female relationships. Angelia said Nancy also changed her appearance to look more like Nikki.
On a regular basis now, I “promote” a comment to an actual post. Below is a comment that came from Nikki LaDue January’s friend Amy. It’s very emotional and asks pointed questions of Nikki’s husband Phil January. None of what Amy describes came up during my interview with Phil. In fact the remainder of that interview will be posted in the next couple of days. In it, he describes a very loving relationship between the two of them. That is in stark contrast to what you are about to read. As always, this blog is meant to be interactive with your thoughts…to spark discussion.
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.
We return now to my interview with Phil January, Nikki LaDue January’s husband. Throughout this blog you may have read some allegations and accusations against Phil. Some questioned his relationship with Nikki while other’s believe he knows more than he’s saying about her death. In his own words, the remaining part of our interview.
There’s so much about the case of Nikki LaDue January’s death that just doesn’t add up. After the county coroner declared her death a suicide, the family went so far as to have her body exhumed and for the first time, an autopsy was done by a private medical examiner. His findings showed her death was not suicide but rather, undetermined. Yes she died of a gunshot wound. There’s no argument there. But whether it was Nikki who pulled the trigger or someone else, this autopsy could not say. Bonnie LaDue, Nikki’s mom hired a private investigator. After conducting several interviews and telling her he would prove who did this to Nikki, he suddenly up and quit the investigation. Was he scared off?
That statement is likely the last you’ll see from Phil January on this blog anyway. Let me explain. When I first heard of Nikki LaDue January’s case I was in the process of creating this little blog. I wanted to focus on cold cases with the hopes that bringing back discussion would help spark someone’s memory or in some way, provide a tid-bit of information to law enforcement investigators to breathe some life into a case. Technically, Nikki’s case is not a cold case. It was closed within a couple of hours and ruled a suicide. But the more I read about her and the more I read and saw about her death on July 29, 2002, the more I thought she would be a perfect case to spotlight. Why? Because everything about it was so wrong.
Bonnie LaDue wasn’t satisfied with the failure of law enforcement to investigate her daughter’s murder. She hired a private investigator to look into things. Below is part one of several parts of his interview with Phil January, Nikki’s husband. Which took place less than a year after Nikki’s death. The interviews were recorded and then transcribed. Today’s installment, SWAT and investigation flaws.
Continuing now with the interview Nikki LaDue January’s husband Phil gave to a private investigator back in April 2003.
When we left off, Nikki LaDue January’s husband Phil explained to a Private Investigator the drug addiction he said Nikki had. In this installment, he goes further into the night of April 28, 2002 and the incident that made her come clean to him about her addiction. These are actual transcriptions of the taped interview.
Posted on December 11, 2011, in Cold Cases, Crime, Nikki LaDue January and tagged Angelia Hursell, angelica new york, Bonnie LaDue, Cold Cases, Gary Hargrove, Grand Casino, Mississippi, Murder, Nikki LaDue January, Pass Christian, Phil January, Suicide, Thomas Pustay, town of angelica. Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.