GATE CITY — A Southwest Virginia teenager being tried as an adult for allegedly helping her mother kill her father entered a not guilty plea Tuesday during a brief appearance in Scott County Circuit Court.
Savannah Ellen Napier, 15, was arraigned on a single count of first-degree murder stemming from accusations she participated in the March 2012 shooting death of her 74-year-old father, Billy Ray Napier.
A status hearing for Napier — who is being represented by attorney Julie Hensley — was set for Oct. 7.
Napier is being tried as an adult after being indicted Aug. 5 on the first-degree murder charge. If convicted, she could face anywhere from 20 years to life in prison.
The Scott County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office declined to comment on the case following Tuesday’s hearing.
The girl’s appearance in court came less than two weeks after her mother — Melissa Justice Napier, 42, of Gate City — entered an Alford plea Aug. 9 to charges of first-degree murder and defiling a dead body in connection with her husband’s murder.
Melissa Napier’s sentencing is scheduled to begin Sept. 30 in circuit court. 30th Circuit Judge John Kilgore is presiding over both the mother’s and daughter’s cases.
According to court documents from Melissa Napier’s case, authorities allege the daughter was told by her mother 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, VSP agents testified, Melissa Napier came up behind him with a .22-caliber rifle and shot him in the back of the head.
Investigators went on to testify that Melissa Napier gave concerned family members differing accounts of how, where and when Billy Ray Napier died.
Her husband’s body was discovered on April 14, 2012, following a missing person complaint filed by his son.
During a search of the couple’s property, investigators reportedly found a rented backhoe and several holes that had been dug behind the house in which the body was found. Gasoline and hay bales were also reportedly found in the kitchen of the residence.
At the time, authorities said Billy Ray Napier’s partially decomposed body had been in the house for about three weeks before it was located.
Savannah Napier was indicted in August 2012 and has been in custody since her extradition from North Carolina a month later. During an April 2013 court appearance, she was ruled competent to stand trial.