Motivated by the victim's hefty bank account and seven- figure life-insurance policy, a 46-year-old woman convinced her lover to gun down her live-in boyfriend inside his Newport Coast home in 1994, a prosecutor told jurors today.
A defense attorney insisted, however, that while Nanette Ann Packard McNeal may be a thief, she was not a killer and had no motivation to commit the crime, since the victim was her sole source of income and she stood to gain a lot more money if she had married him.
Nanette Ann Packard McNeal, who was known at the time as Nanette Johnston, is charged with murder in connection with the Dec. 15, 1994, shooting death of 55-year-old retiree Bill McLaughlin. The murder charge includes the special-circumstance allegation of murder for financial gain. Her lover, 45-year-old Eric Andrew Naposki -- who played a handful of NFL games as a linebacker in 1988-89 -- was convicted of murder July 14 and is awaiting sentencing.
Deputy District Attorney Matt Murphy told jurors Packard McNeal and Naposki plotted to kill McLaughlin to drain his $1.5 million in savings and capitalize on a $1 million life insurance policy. Packard McNeal met McLaughlin through a personals ad in 1991 shortly after his divorce from his wife Sue in 1990, Murphy said. McLaughlin "was wealthy but he was not Bill Gates wealthy,'' Murphy told jurors, saying the victim was able to retire early on profits from his invention of a device that separates blood from plasma.
McLaughlin gave the defendant a "big honking ring'' with a "diamond bigger than my head,'' Murphy said, but the two did not set a wedding date or have a party celebrating an engagement. At some point, Packard McNeal started dating Naposki, a "journeyman'' NFL linebacker, behind her boyfriend's back, Murphy said.
The prosecutor said that prior to the killing, Packard McNeal forged McLaughlin's signature on his checks to embezzle money from his account. He also said Packard McNeal and Naposki went house hunting in the weeks leading up the murder, telling real estate agents they planned to come into a windfall of
money after the first of the year.
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.
The defendant went shopping for motorcycles for Naposki and herself right after the funeral, though she later lied to investigators that she got them as a Christmas present for McLaughlin, Murphy said. The pair also went on several shopping sprees, although neither had any source of income and both were in debt, Murphy said.
"You're going to hear testimony there wasn't a dry eye at this funeral
... Everyone was crying, except one person -- Nanette Packard McNeal,'' Murphy
Deputy Public Defender Mick Hill told jurors, however, that Naposki carried out the murder on his own because he was "jealous'' and wanted Packard McNeal "all to himself.'' Hill conceded that his client has a pattern of infidelity and a"spending problem.'' But he said the woman's ex-husbands would testify during the trial that despite being a "money-grubbing'' person, Packard McNeal was still a good mother.
The defense attorney noted that McLaughlin was embroiled in 10 years of
"acrimonious'' litigation with a man named Hal Fischel, who claimed to have
come up with the concept for the blood-plasma separator and was owed more in
royalties, Hill said. Just two weeks before McLaughlin was killed, he won the
lawsuit and was due to receive $10 million in royalty payments that were placed
in escrow until the dispute was settled, Hill said.
Packard McNeal knew about the pending payments, making it unrealistic for her to want McLaughlin dead, Hill said. "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.''
Meanwhile, Naposki, who played just three games with the New England Patriots in 1988 and one each with the Patriots and Indianapolis Colts in 1989, was a "dead-beat dad'' who owed numerous friends money, Hill said. Hill also noted that Naposki "boasted'' to a neighbor, Susan Cogar, that he killed McLaughlin.
-City News Service