Calling the defendant a "manipulator of men,'' an Orange County prosecutor made his case Wednesday to a jury soon to consider whether a 46-year-old woman convinced her lover to shoot and kill her live-in boyfriend in his Newport Beach home to collect millions of dollars.
Nanette Ann Packard McNeal, who was known at the time as Nanette Johnson, is charged with murder in connection with the Dec. 15, 1994 fatal shooting of 55-year-old retiree Bill McLaughlin. The murder charge includes the special circumstance allegation of murder for financial gain. Her lover at the time, 45-year-old Eric Andrew Naposki -- who played five NFL games as a linebacker in 1988-89 -- was convicted of murder July 14 and is awaiting sentencing.
Naposki was the gunman and Packard McNeal is on trial under the legal theory of aiding and abetting the killer, Deputy District Attorney Matt Murphy explained to jurors Wednesday. McLaughlin's "murder is absolutely a premeditated murder -- our question is was she in on it,'' Murphy said. "This woman is a manipulator of men,'' the prosecutor said turning to Packard McNeal as she sat next to her attorney, Deputy Public Defender Mick Hill, during closing arguments. "That is her talent on this earth, that is her gift,'' Murphy said.
Murphy argued that Packard McNeal has a history of hooking men and leeching off them until they can no longer support her lifestyle. "She worked him over too,'' Murphy said of Packard McNeal's most recent former husband who testified in the trial. "Folks, I've never figured it out why she has this hold on these men, but she's got it.'' Murphy argued that Packard McNeal also used Naposki to kill McLaughlin so they could steal his $1.5 million in savings and cash in a $1 million life insurance policy. He also alleged that Packard McNeal stood to gain even more money as she was named trustee over the victim's estate.
"That million-dollar life insurance policy was chump change compared to what she was going to have control over,'' Murphy said. "Basically, after he dies she becomes Bill. This woman had her eyes on a much bigger prize.''
Hill said in his opening statement that he intended to prove that Naposki acted alone out of jealousy and that Packard McNeal wouldn't have wanted to kill her "golden goose.'' Hill will make his closing argument Thursday.
McLaughlin retired early on the profits he earned from a blood-plasma separator. However, he was having a "cash flow'' problem at the time of the murder because the profits were put in escrow during a legal battle with a man named Hal Fischel, who claimed to have come up with the concept and was owed more royalties. McLaughlin prevailed in the lawsuit just two weeks before his death and was due to receive $10 million royalty payments, Hill said. It would have been unrealistic for her to want McLaughlin dead, because she stood to gain more with him alive, Hill said. Besides, Naposki was broke, he added. "You will not kill the golden goose to be with the pauper,'' Hill said, adding that Packard McNeal told police in January 1995, "I stood to get a lot more if we got married ... $10 million.''
One of Naposki's former neighbors, Susan Cogar, testified during the trial that Naposki said he killed McLaughlin because he thought he was "raping'' Packard McNeal, Murphy said. Murphy also pointed out that Packard McNeal and Naposki were actively house hunting before McLaughlin's death and told real estate agents that they were due to come into enough money to afford the expensive homes in the spring of the following year. Murphy also noted how Packard McNeal accelerated her embezzling from McLaughlin in the months leading up to his murder because she felt she could avoid getting caught. "Now how is she going to get away with that if Bill McLaughlin lives,'' Murphy said.
Packard McNeal pleaded guilty and was sentenced to a year in jail in 1996 for stealing about $500,000 from McLaughlin. Although the two were key suspects in the mid-1990s, the case went cold until 2009 when the two were arrested on murder charges. Packard McNeal met McLaughlin through a personals ad in 1991 shortly after his divorce from his wife Sue in 1990, Murphy said. McLaughlin gave Packard McNeal a ring with a sizable diamond, but the two never set a wedding date. At some point, Packard McNeal started dating Naposki behind her boyfriend's back, Murphy said.
According to Murphy, Naposki and Packard McNeal went to her son's soccer game the night of the slaying and hurried back from Walnut to Orange County, skipping a trophy presentation following the championship game, which went into triple overtime. Packard McNeal went shopping that night, while the killer used two keys to get through a pedestrian access gate in the gated community and then through the front door, Murphy said. With the victim's son, Kevin, upstairs, the killer walked into the home and shot McLaughlin six times in the chest, Murphy said. The killer left behind an original key to the pedestrian access gate, and a copy of the house key was left stuck in the door, Murphy said, adding that Packard McNeal didn't have her pedestrian gate key after the murder, and Naposki had copies of keys made at an Ace Hardware near his apartment in Tustin.
Only Packard McNeal would have known McLaughlin would be home that night because he did not keep a set schedule of his comings and goings as he split time between homes in Newport Beach and Las Vegas, Murphy said. She would also know that Kevin normally would not be home at the time as it was his night to attend a 12-step meeting, but he stayed home that particular evening to have dinner with his father, Murphy said.
-City News Service