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Teenage daughter ruled competent for trial in father's murder

Wes Bunch • Apr 17, 2013 at 10:18 AM

GATE CITY — A teenage girl who allegedly helped her mother murder her father last year at their Scott County home was ruled competent to stand trial during a brief appearance in court Wednesday.

Savannah Napier is charged with one count of first-degree murder for her alleged role in the March 2012 shooting of her father, Billy Ray Napier, 74.

She is currently being held at the Highlands Juvenile Detention Facility in Bristol, Va.

A preliminary hearing for Savannah Napier, who is being tried as an adult despite being 14 when she allegedly took part in the murder, was set for June 10 in Scott County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court.

She could face 20 years to life in prison if convicted.

The girl’s mother — Melissa Justice Napier, 42, 4812 Possum Creek Road, Gate City — is also charged with first-degree murder and one count of defiling a dead body in her husband’s death.

According to court documents from Melissa Napier’s case, authorities allege the mother told her daughter on the day of the murder to enter the couple’s bedroom and give her father a hug.

While the girl was hugging her father, Melissa Napier allegedly came up behind him with a .22-caliber rifle and shot him in the back of the head, VSP agents testified.

Prosecutor also alleged that Melissa Napier told family members concerned about her husband’s welfare that he had gone to Kentucky to visit a friend, and later that he had died in an automobile accident in Michigan.

She also reportedly told a neighbor that Billy Ray Napier had died at a hospital in Avery County, N.C., court transcripts showed.

Melissa Napier has been in custody since turning herself in to authorities on April 13.

Her husband’s body was discovered the previous day after a missing person complaint was filed by his son.

Savannah Napier was indicted in August 2012. She was arraigned in juvenile court in Sept. 2012 following her extradition from North Carolina.

The girl’s preliminary hearing had originally been scheduled for November 2012, but it was delayed so she could have her competency to stand trial restored and undergo psychological evaluations.

Scott County Commonwealth’s Attorney Marcus McClung said Wednesday’s competency ruling means the girl is now able to assist with her defense.

“Competency in this regard means her ability to understand the process (of her trial) enough to help her attorney,” McClung said.

McClung declined to comment further on the case.

Now that Savannah Napier has been ruled competent, Juvenile and Domestic Relations Judge Jeffery Hamilton must decide whether to certify the charge against her.

If Lewis certifies the charge, it would be taken before a Scott County grand jury for a possible indictment.

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