Opening statements heard in Landrum trial

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 2, 2005

Jeffrey Napier knocked on Ida Little’s door and told her his car had broken down and he needed some help. Little told him to leave. At that point he pretended he was leaving and turned around and forced his way into the home. Little fell in the hall and covered her face in fear. At that point Napier raised the 9 mm pistol he was carrying and shot her above the right eye. Then Napier sought out three-year-old Mikayla Little to end her young life. Walking through the house he discovered her 9-year old brother and told him to take him to the young girl. The young boy did so out of fear. Napier picked up the young girl and took her into the room where her dead grandmother was lying. Soon the young boy approached Napier again. Napier put the girl down on a couch where she awoke and laid on top of her dead grandmother. After Napier finished talking to the boy he returned, found the girl lying on top of her grandmother and shot her above the left ear.

This was the scene in Aug. of 2003 at the Little home on County Road 44. Thanks to a confession by Napier the act itself seems cut and dry except for why the murders occurred.

Michael Landrum, the deceased girls father, came to court Monday facing charges stemming from the idea that he hired Napier to carry out the murders. Tuesday, the prosecution and defense began to give their opening statements in support of and against Landrum.

District Attorney Greg Griggers said by the time the trial was over the evidence against Landrum would be overwhelming.

“The evidence will show the defendant planned these murders,” Griggers said. “The evidence will prove he hired Napier to commit these murders. The evidence will prove that he paid him to commit these murders. The evidence will show that he conspired with Napier to conceal these murders.”

Griggers said it was not his intention to prove Landrum committed the act. His intention was simply to prove he had a very active role.

“The state does not contend that Michael Landrum pulled the trigger or that he ever set foot in the Little home that night,” Griggers said. “We will show clearly Michael Landrum planned these murders.”

Griggers said the problems began in 1998 when Wanda Little, the mother of Mikayla, began an adulterous affair with Landrum while both were working at Fort James that led to the girl’s birth. Griggers said Landrum immediately asked Little to get an abortion for fear his wife would discover the affair and divorce him. Little refused, had the baby and eventually came to Landrum to set up child support. After much resistance from Landrum and a paternity test the court finally ordered him to pay $484 a month in child support.

Griggers said Landrum continually asked for Little to dismiss the charges to no avail. Griggers said Landrum was afraid if he continued paying out the money there would be no way to conceal the child from his wife.

Little, who was soon deployed to Iraq, never dropped the case and her departure in Feb. of 1999 gave Landrum an open door to “eliminate the problem.”

Griggers said at this point Landrum began looking for a man to carry out his “dirty work.”

After allegedly approaching Fred Minor about the job, Griggers said Landrum finally struck a deal with Napier for $1,000.

When he concluded his opening arguments Griggers told the jury the coming days would present them with some difficult decisions to make.

“This is not going to be an easy case,” Griggers said. “This is not going to be a pretty case. It is graphic, but it is important you see these videos and pictures so you can see how senseless this is.”

Dennis Knizley, Landrums defense, told the jury he planned to shoot straight in his defense of Landrum.

“We are not going to serve you any distractions or smokescreens,” Knizley said. “We are going to give you the truth and take the blinds off the way this investigation has gone so far.”

Knizley said he intended to prove Napier was a liar and prove he gave the police Landrum’s name in order to help himself. Knizley said Napier gave the police three different stories and it was the third that connected Landrum to the killings.

“When story three comes around he admits to the killings and he knew the police had an interest in Landrum because he was the childs father,” Knizley said. “He decided to sacrifice Landrum to get out of it. Michael is not a perfect person. Michael has been unfaithful to his wife, but infidelity and murder are two different things.”