Landrum testifies in court

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 7, 2005

Friday was a day in court that could not have been if the defense had their way.

Dennis Knizley, the defense attorney, opened court by asking for an acquittal on the grounds that Napier’s testimony was unreliable and no other testimony linked Michael Landrum to the murders. Judge Eddie Hardaway Jr. denied the request and court continued.

Early in the proceedings the question many had asked was answered as Landrum took the stand to give his testimony to his defense team.

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Landrum and his team then walked through the week of the murders. Monday Aug. 18 Landrum said he worked a 16-hour shift at Georgia Pacific and returned home Tuesday at 3 p.m. He then went to sleep and went back to work at about 10 p.m. Again, he worked a 16 hour shift and returned home at about 2 p.m. Wednesday Aug. 20.

When he returned home he called Lee’s Body Shop about buying a transmission and decided to ride to Meridian to pick it up.

Landrum said he left the body shop at around 7 p.m. and headed home stopping in Lisman to see Jeffrey Napier on his way home. He said he just wanted to see if Napier would be available to install the transmission the next day. Landrum said he and Napier were good friends and that Napier knew about his extramarital affair with Glenda Bettis and Wanda Little and the children, but he had never met them.

Landrum said when he arrived at Napier’s house he told him he needed a mode of transportation to get to a possible job.

“He told me he wasn’t working at the time and didn’t have a way to look for a job,” Landrum said. “That’s when he asked me about using my truck to go look for a job.”

Landrum said he started to tell Napier no at first because he had to take the truck back to Meridian to get some work done, but finally decided to let him use it. Landrum said the two left Napier’s house and it was then he stopped at the Butler Piggly Wiggly to get a cake for his daughter and some gloves to paint a mailbox. There was no cake so Landrum says he purchased only the gloves. He claims Napier was in the truck the entire time.

Landrum said he then returned to the house and got ready for Napier to take the truck. Landrum says he gave Napier money and said he would follow him in case he ran out of gas because the needle was not working properly. He said his wife drove by them, but they did not stop to talk, contrary to Napier’s earlier statement.

“I gave him $20 and told him to be sure there was enough gas in there to get to Meridian,” Landrum said. “We met my wife on the way out, but I did not talk to her.”

Landrum followed Napier down the road and after he was out of sight met with his girlfriend at the time, Glendora Bettis. Landrum said the two only talked for a while at a spot on the road they usually met and he finally headed home at around 9 or 9:30 p.m. When he got home Landrum says he painted the mailbox on the back porch and went to bed.

On Thursday the 21, the next day and morning after the murders, Landrum planned to meet Glendora and her friend Evelyn Powell in Meridian to look for a car. He met the two women at a club west of his house on Highway 10 and went to Meridian.

Landrum said he again dropped by Lee’s Body Shop and took the women to the mall. Later that day he received a phone call from Candace Little, Ida’s sister.

“She told me about the shooting deaths,” Landrum said. “She told me Mikayla and Ida had been killed. The first thing I thought was a car accident.”

Landrum soon learned the two were murdered, but that the young boy in the house had seen the man who did it. Landrum said the fact that the boy had seen someone was good news.

Landrum said he was relieved to know the boy had seen someone because he would no longer be a suspect. After learning of the murders Landrum said he went to Wendy’s for lunch, picked up the women from the mall and drove them to their car with no mention of the killings.

The next day Landrum again headed to Meridian, but first stopped by Napier’s house to have him bring the truck to Lee’s Body Shop. Landrum said he also asked Napier to help him keep a secret.

“I told him that I had already told my wife that he had taken the truck out to Meridian,” Landrum said. “I told him to cover for me because I didn’t want her to find out I had been with Glendora that night.”

When Napier arrived at the body shop with the truck Landrum was to have the tires changed and said that contrary to what people have said, he was asking them to use water to get mud off the lug nuts on the truck to make them easier to remove rather than put mud on the replacement tires.

Landrum said he returned home at about 1 p.m. and that is when the Marengo County Sheriff’s Department brought him in for questioning. Landrum said he cooperated and gave a statement, but it was not completely truthful.

“It was false,” Landrum said. “It was the same statement I had given to my wife about it. They were questioning me so I figured they were going to question her.”

Landrum said his wife about the affair later confronted him.

The next day Landrum learned the police had taken the truck and stopped by Napier’s to see where the truck had been on the night of Aug. 20.

“I told him they had taken the truck,” Landrum said. “I said all I know is that you had the truck and I was going to have to tell the truth.”

Napier denied any wrongdoing and Landrum knew at that time he would likely need a lawyer.

Landrum set up a meeting with an attorney when the Sheriff’s Department asked him to come in for a polygraph test, a test Landrum said he would gladly take. There would be no testing as Landrum was arrested and taken to the Sheriff’s Office for questioning.

Landrum was questioned about his support of Mikayla and said he had given her gifts and supported her after testing determined he was the father. He also said he had set up payments outside of court so that his wife would never find out about his child.

“We agreed that we would not go through the court system,” Landrum said. “I said I would pay it straight to her (Wanda Little).”

Landrum said he never tried to get the amount reduced and never disputed the payments.

The defense again argued Landrum had significant funds in the bank, $115,000 according to the defendant, and $484 was not a huge strain.

Landrum ended his questioning by stating his innocence.

“I did not have anything to do with the death of Ida Little,” Landrum said. “I did not have anything to do with the death of Ida Little or my child Mikayla Little.

District Attorney Greg Griggers was not convinced by Landrum’s statement. Griggers pointed out many flaws and false statements Landrum provided.

Griggers asked Landrum if his intention was to deceive his wife by setting up child support payments outside court. Landrum acknowledged this.

“That way I could pay my child support without my wife knowing,” Landrum said. “I would not have to get it out of my check stub.”

Landrum had denied ever having the money come out of his check or it even being a possibility. However, Griggers showed him a withholding order, which would have done just that if he had fallen behind. This would have made the child support traceable and almost certainly have blown the lid off the affair.

Landrum said he tried to establish a relationship with Mikayla, but Wanda Little made efforts to get her out of the house so the two could be alone. He said once she was deployed to Iraq he continued to try to spark a relationship with his daughter. Griggers questioned his true motives.

“Are you sure you were trying to form a relationship?” Griggers asked. “Or were you trying to find out what was going on with her. Who was keeping her? What time they left?”

Griggers then hammered away at Landrum pointing out a series of lies he had told in his first statement.

Under Griggers questioning Landrum acknowledged deceiving his wife, lying about the affair to her, lying about the child support and setting up a P.O. Box in Pennington.

When asked who benefited most from his lies Landrum denied he was lying to help his cause.

“My wife has by not getting hurt by knowing these things,” Landrum said. “I didn’t want to hurt my wife more than she had already been hurt.”

Griggers then got Landrum to acknowledge he had lied about where he had been on Aug. 20, who was at his house on Aug. 20 and who drove the truck to Meridian. Griggers told Landrum he had created a very elaborate lie.

Griggers later pointed out Landrum had a garage and several pairs or work gloves. Griggers questioned why he would need rubber gloves to paint with so many other pairs of gloves around. Landrum replied the thick work gloves made it difficult to paint.

Griggers later questioned Landrum’s lack of reaction when he heard his daughter had been murdered. He asked why Landrum said it was a relief when the boy said he saw someone to which Landrum replied, “because that was my child and I figured I would be the first one investigated.”

Landrum also said he never called Candace Little back that day to find out further details. He claimed it was because he did not have her phone number though he had earlier stated he was going through Candace to try to build a relationship with his daughter.

Once Landrum left the stand his defense team paraded character witnesses through who all said they knew Landrum very well in one capacity or the other and knew him to be a good man. They all said they would believe his testimony under oath.

The defense then went on the offensive seemingly trying o link a name that had been mentioned all week to the Aug. 20 slayings. Throughout the week the defense had asked the question as to whether or not Claude Lloyd’s blue Ford Explorer may have been at the scene that night and if Lloyd himself had been there.

Lloyd’s wife Shirley Little, Ida’s sister, denied he had every set foot in the house. Candace Little did the same when she took the stand.

When Lloyd was called to the stand he said he had been in Ida’s house on several occasions because of a close relationship with her husband before they separated. Lloyd said once they divorced his visits were not very frequent. When asked why the women would have said he had never been there Lloyd said they would not have been aware of when he visited.

“They probably wouldn’t know,” Lloyd said. “I just went over there once every blue moon.”

Lloyd operated a pool hall that the defense claims had some neighbors wary. Lloyd said the hall was never opened later than 1 a.m and usually closed around 10 p.m.

The defense then called two sisters who lived near the home of Ida who had seen someone loitering around the house on the night of the murders. Lisa Owens said she heard a thumping noise at about 4:30 and thought nothing of it. She said she got up the next morning and saw something suspicious.

“I saw a man that looked like he was coming out of the trailer,” Owens said. “He was coming from that direction. He was a heavy set black guy in a white shirt and got into an old car. ”

Owens said there was apparently someone else in the car because the man got into the passenger side.

Her sister Andrea saw a similar scene.

“I looked out and saw a man walking back and forth from the mailboxes,” Andrea said. “He was walking in front of her (Ida’s) house and he was heavyset and had a white shirt on.”

Neither girl said they could positively identify the man.

Once the Owens sisters has left the stand the defense rested its case setting up a suspenseful setting for Saturday’s proceedings. At 9 a.m. the jury, defense and prosecution teams will gather again for closing arguments and deliberation.