GATE CITY — A Southwest Virginia woman accused of shooting her husband and leaving his dead body in their home for nearly a month waived her right to a speedy trial Friday in Scott County Circuit Court.
Melissa Justice Napier, 41, 4812 Possum Creek Road, Yuma — who is facing charges of first-degree murder, concealment of a dead body, use of a firearm in the commission of a felony, and attempting to defile a dead body, all stemming from the March 2012 death of her husband, Billy Ray Napier, 74 — had been scheduled to appear in circuit court for a plea hearing but instead had a motion for continuance granted.
As a result, Napier’s plea hearing was moved to April 5, 2013. Her trial date was set for May 24, 2013.
Napier’s attorney, Lisa McConnell of Gate City, agreed to waive her client’s right to a speedy trial in return for being granted more time to build a defense.
“Her request was reasonable, so I didn’t object,” Scott County Commonwealth’s Attorney Marcus McClung said. “But, for the commonwealth, I couldn’t be put in a position that could harm our case. If we didn’t get it done within the speedy trial guidelines, the case could be dismissed. So, our request was if they wanted a continuance — and I understand why — that they waive speedy trial, and I think they understood that too.”
Under Virginia law, prosecutors have five months from the date a preliminary hearing is held to bring a case to trial if the defendant is in state custody.
Napier’s daughter — who was identified in court transcripts as 14-year-old Savannah Napier — also faces charges of first-degree murder in connection with her father’s death. She is being tried as an adult, McClung said.
Savannah Napier is scheduled to appear in Scott County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court Monday for a review hearing after she was determined incompetent to stand trial in October.
“She was originally set for a preliminary hearing, but now she’s been found not competent to stand trial due to her lack of knowledge of the court system,” McClung said.
Melissa Napier is being held without bond in the Southwest Virginia Regional Jail in Duffield, while Savannah Napier is currently in custody at the Highlands Juvenile Correctional Facility in Bristol, Va.
During Melissa Napier’s preliminary hearing in August, prosecutors presented evidence that Billy Ray Napier was shot in the head on March 20 in the bedroom of the couple’s Possum Creek Road home. His remains were discovered by authorities nearly three weeks later.
According to testimony by Virginia State Police Special Agent Jason Jenkins, Melissa Napier allegedly 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 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.
Authorities executed a search warrant on the couple’s home and reportedly found Billy Ray Napier’s decomposing body lying on a bed in the residence with his face covered by a towel.
Agents testified that they could smell the decaying remains from outside the residence.
Court documents showed that while carrying out their search authorities found hay bales, lighter fluid and gasoline inside the home. Investigators also reportedly discovered a large hole that had been dug between buildings on the couple’s property with a rented backhoe.
Napier allegedly told authorities after her arrest that the couple had been in an argument over financial difficulties the day of the shooting.
The criminal complaint also contained allegations from Billy Ray Napier’s son that his father and stepmother had been in several physical altercations in the year leading up to the murder.