Melissa Justice Napier
GATE CITY — A Southwest Virginia woman pled guilty during an appearance Friday in Scott County Circuit Court to shooting her husband and leaving his dead body in their home for nearly a month.
Melissa Justice Napier, 42, 4812 Possum Creek Road, Yuma pled guilty to charges of first-degree murder and defiling of a dead body. Her remaining charges of using a firearm in the commission of a felony and unlawful concealment of a dead body were placed on advisement.
Those charges all stem from the March 2012 shooting death of her husband, Billy Ray Napier, 74. Prior to Friday's hearing, Napier had been scheduled to face a nine-day jury trial next month in circuit court.
Napier, who is being represented by Duffield attorney Lisa McConnell, will have a four day long sentencing hearing September 30. She faces a maximum sentence of life in prison, plus an additional five years of incarceration.
Scott County Commonwealth attorney Marcus McClung said his office would be seeking the maximum sentence for Napier.
"I have no comment to make at this time, other than to say I will be joining with the family in asking the judge to give her the toughest sentence possible," said McClung
Napier’s 15-year-old daughter — Savannah Ellen Napier — was indicted by a Scott County grand jury on Monday for first-degree murder in connection with her father’s death. She is being tried as an adult as a result and is scheduled to be arraigned Aug. 20 in Scott County Circuit Court.
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 told her daughter on the day of the murder to enter the couple’s bedroom and give her father a hug.
After the girl allegedly complied and began hugging her father, Melissa Napier reportedly came up behind him with a .22 rifle and shot him in the back of the head, VSP agents testified.
The special agent also testified 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 large holes that had been dug between buildings on the couple’s property with a rented backhoe.
Napier reportedly 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.
In a report contained in the court filings, Melissa Napier reportedly told a psychologist that her husband had been both physically and mentally abusive to her and her daughter. Authorities said Napier told them at various times that she was a "battered woman" and also that she shot her husband as a form of self defense.