By Tonya Garner
Local law enforcement members were recognized Monday by the family of Laura McNaughton, the 30-year-old Clovis woman found slain in a ditch last December.
The somber-faced group gathered in a conference room on the third floor of the Curry County Courthouse as U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Jeff Scofield presented the members of the Major Crime Unit with an American flag. Scofield said the flag held special significance because it had been flown over Iraq.
Scofield, commanding officer of the Marine recruiting station in Albuquerque, made the presentation on behalf of McNaughton’s parents, Marine Capt. David and Maria Beardmore.
The MCU is comprised of 10 officers who were appointed by Clovis Police Chief Bill Carey, Curry County Sheriff Roger Hatcher and 9th Judicial District Attorney Matthew Chandler. The law enforcement group was implented in June of 2005 to tackle major crimes like the McNaughton case.
McNaughton’s body was found by hunters Dec. 10 in a ditch near Pleasant Hill. Strangulation was eventually determined to be the cause of death.
Clovis dentist James Smith, 37, has been indicted for murder, rape and kidnapping in connection with McNaughton’s death. He is being held without bond in the Curry County Detention Center.
Scofield said McNaughton’s family wanted to honor the MCU for its “outstanding service.” Scofield said although it has been a traumatic time for the slain woman’s family, they believe the officers who participated in the investigation of their daughter’s death “went above and beyond the call of duty.”
In a previous statement to the Clovis News Journal, Maria Beardmore said her daughter was a beautiful person and a loving mother of two.
“I hope that the Beardmore family and the McNaughton family find justice in this case,” Beardmore said. “I felt like it was my time to say something … for Laura’s character.”
Beardmore tearfully thanked the officers via teleconference from California.
Chandler, MCU chairman of the board, addressed Beardmore at the conclusion of the brief ceremony. “What an honor,” Chandler said, “It (the flag) means so much to our officers.”
Clovis Police Department Lt. Roger Grah, MCU commander, said more than 1,000 hours were spent investigating McNaughton’s slaying.
“I thought the investigation went well,” Grah said. “Everybody worked well together because we left our egos at home.”
Hatcher was also on hand to witness the flag presentation. Although not directly involved in the murder investigation, he said his department was honored the Beardmore family took the time to show their appreciation.
“These officers have a calling to their profession,” he said. “We have the best investigators in the state.”
Chandler said the triangular-folded, mahogany-framed flag will hold a place of honor on the wall of the prosecutor’s office.