Melissa Justice Napier, 43
GATE CITY — Melissa Napier went to her daughter, Savannah, and told her to go hug her dad. A few minutes before, the three had done some target shooting behind their home on Possum Creek Road in Yuma.
Melissa and her husband, Billy Ray Napier, had been arguing about finances. Savannah found her father in his bedroom and embraced him while her mother collected a .22-caliber rifle and began making her way down the small, narrow hallway.
Billy Napier had his back to the hallway. Once, he tried pulling away from the warm embrace, only to have Savannah grip tighter. When she spotted her mother, entering the small space between the bed and dresser, she leaned her head on his shoulder — allegedly bracing for what would happen next — and whispered, "Daddy, I love you. I love you."
Then, from about 3 feet away, Melissa Napier pulled the trigger.
This account was presented by Virginia State Police Special Agent Jason Jenkins Tuesday in Scott County.
The sentencing hearing for Melissa Justice Napier, 43, 4812 Possum Creek Road, is being heard by 30th Circuit Court Judge John C. Kilgore.
Melissa Napier previously pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and defiling of a dead body in August 2013.
The murder occurred on March 20, 2012, and for the next three weeks Billy Napier would remain in the spot where he died, a white towel covering his head.
While flies filled the house, Melissa Napier stayed in a mobile home located on their property.
She rented a small trackhoe and began digging holes. At some point, she took a bale of hay and a gas can into the house. When family members would call looking for Billy Napier, she either did not answer or made excuses for why he wasn't there: He was ginseng hunting. He was in Michigan. He went to Kentucky.
When Billy Napier's son went to check on his dad, Melissa Napier said he was having an affair with his first cousin and she was leaving. Then a few days later, Melissa Napier told family members that her husband had been killed in a car crash in Michigan, somewhere along the state line. This sent up red flags with Billy Napier's son, and he drove from his North Carolina home to Southwest Virginia.
After finding the house locked and with Melissa Napier nowhere to be found, he contacted police. Authorities checked with Michigan authorities and found no one named Billy Napier had been in a car wreck in that state. A missing persons report was filed and a search warrant was obtained for the home.
When officers approached the yellow house, Jenkins said, "an odor of death" filled the air.
Inside, they found Billy Napier's body and soon after arrested Melissa and Savannah, charging them both with murder.
Melissa Napier faces a maximum sentence of life in prison, plus five years. Scott County District Attorney Marcus McClung told the Times-News last August he is seeking the maximum sentence.
Savannah Napier is being tried as an adult and has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder.
A number of witnesses for the prosecution were brought before the court, including Billy Napier's son, Billy Jack Napier.
Billy Jack Napier gave the court his account of what happened in the months leading up to the murder and the events after it happened. He said he was very close to his father and they talked frequently. As often as he could, he would make the hour and a half trip from North Carolina to Virginia to visit with his dad.
"He was my best friend," he told the court. "He was my hero."
When they didn't speak for a month, he was worried. Then, when Melissa Napier contacted his wife and told her Billy Napier had died in a car wreck, he knew something was wrong. After authorities found his father, the house was turned over to the family for cleanup.
He described to the court the state of the house when they started, and he said the horrific conditions still give him nightmares.
The court then heard from Jenkins, who described his investigation and the details of the case to Judge Kilgore. Testimony was also heard from a Billy Jack Napier's wife, a 911 operator, Billy Napier's niece, sister and one of his daughters.
Scott County woman sentenced to 45 years in husband's murder