Court records: Suspect tells police McNaughton died at his home

Andy Jackson: Freedom Newspapers

Accused killer James Smith told police Laura McNaughton “died very quickly” at his home after they engaged in a “very physical embrace,” according to court documents unsealed Friday.

In an interview with law-enforcement authorities, Smith said he placed McNaughton’s body on his back porch after she died, then went to sleep, according to a district court document used to secure a search warrant for Smith’s home east of Clovis. The next morning, on Dec. 10, court records show, he left her body in a ditch north of town, then went to play golf.

Smith is charged with first-degree murder, kidnapping, criminal sexual penetration and three counts of tampering with evidence in connection with McNaughton’s death.

Smith’s attorney, Stephen Doerr of Portales, entered a plea of not guilty and waived Smith’s arraignment scheduled Friday morning in 9th Judicial District Court.

Doerr did not return phone calls seeking comment on Thursday or Friday.

According to the court records unsealed Friday, Smith showed investigators how his hands were positioned on McNaughton’s body when the “physical embrace” occurred.
Smith’s hands were positioned on McNaughton in a way to “choke around the throat from the front,” the court record shows.

McNaughton, 30, a waitress, student and mother of two, was strangled to death, 9th Judicial District Attorney Matt Chandler has said.

According to court records:
n Smith said he waited for McNaughton to get off work and then followed her home Dec. 9. Smith said he knocked on McNaughton’s door and then they went on a drive around the outskirts of Clovis where they drank beer.

n Smith, 36, a local dentist, told police he brought McNaughton to his home where the embrace occurred in his living room. Smith said after McNaughton died he placed her body on his porch, drank beer and went to sleep until early the next morning. After waking, Smith said he brought McNaughton’s body back into his home, undressed her, and wiped her body down with paper towels.

n Smith told authorities he dumped McNaughton’s body and tossed her clothing into a dumpster, “just prior to him playing golf at Chaparral Country Club…”

DNA from blood found inside Smith’s truck was consistent with McNaughton’s DNA profile, records show.

Smith attempted suicide Dec. 13, the day after police questioned him about McNaughton’s slaying.

Smith said he did not kill McNaughton in a letter addressed to his wife, according to court records previously released.

Ken Templeton, Smith’s second cousin and friend who is an oral surgeon in Yukon, Okla., said the charges against Smith “are very inconsistent with the character I’ve observed since being reacquainted with Dr. Smith in 1992.

“Overall, he is one of the nicest people I know and has always been an excellent representative of our shared profession,” Templeton said in an e-mail to the Clovis News Journal.

Chandler said Thursday he will decide in 90 days if he will pursue the death penalty in the case.

Smith is being held at the Curry County Adult Detention Center without bond.