Oops. The killer left this key at the crime scene
Oops. The killer left this key at the crime scene

Key Fact May Doom Eric Naposki in Newport Beach Murder Trial

In Day 3 of Eric Naposki's murder trial, jurors learned several damning, pro-prosecution facts, but the ex-NFL player still managed to deliver a big, confident wink at his girlfriend who was in the public seating section of Judge William Froeberg's Santa Ana courtroom.

That attractive woman, who has the attention of the network television producers for prime time news shows, looked back lovingly at Naposki.

She must not be paying close attention to the slow drip of circumstantial evidence that prosecutor Matt Murphy hopes will formally brand her boyfriend a ruthless killer and send him away to a California prison for the rest of his life. 

Today,  an ex-hardware store owner from Tustin testified that he recalls making keys for Naposki prior the the Dec. 15, 1994, murder of Newport Beach millionaire William McLaughlin. At the time of killing, Naposki was secretly dating McLaughlin's live-in girlfriend, who was then going by the name Nanette Johnston. Johnston, whose last name changed to Packard and then McNeal, will be tried separately for McLaughlin's death. The second McLaughlin died she became a millionaire because of the 55-year-old businessman's will. Though she was half his age, he had no idea she was cheating on him.

Nanette Johnston and Naposki together before the murder of her wealthy boyfriend
Nanette Johnston and Naposki together before the murder of her wealthy boyfriend
OC Register pool photo of DA evidence

Anyhow, after someone--Johnston, according to the cops--gave the killer access to McLaughlin's house key, the killer screwed up on the night of the murder by leaving a recently made key in the front door.

Another solid witness, Suzanne Cogar, testified that Naposki, who was her neighbor in a Tustin apartment complex, told her before the murder that he wanted McLaughlin dead and was thinking about blowing up the millionaire in his private plane. Then, after the murder, he bragged to her, "Maybe I did it; maybe I didn't."

Glen Garrity is now a PI, but on the night of McLaughlin's murder he was a bicycle patrol cop in Newport Beach. Garrity was one of the first to arrive at the crime scene after Kevin, the victim's disabled adult son, phoned 911. From the prosecution's standpoint, Garrity basically closed the window on defense hopes of trying to convince jurors that perhaps Kevin killed his father by firing six shots into his torso. The son had suffered severe injuries when a drunk driver struck him a few years before his dad's murder. Garrity testified that he put bags on Kevin's hands so that forensic analysis could determine if he'd recently fired a gun. (Result: He hadn't.) The cop also said that Kevin, who is no longer alive, had pronounced difficulty talking and walking.

Defense lawyer Angelo MacDonald tried to use Garrity to raise doubt about Naposki's guilt. Shortly after the murder, Garrity was traveling to the crime scene from the precise direction Naposki would have been going to his job that night as a nearby night club bouncer. The implication: the cop would have come face to face with a fleeing Naposki. MacDonald asked Garrity if he'd seen Naposki that night. No, he replied.

Today's saddest moment happened when Murphy played Kevin's 911 call. The son had heard the shots, traveled downstairs--a trip that took about 52 seconds because of his disabilities--and found his father lying on his side on the kitchen floor. Seven bullet wounds, mostly to the torso, had killed him. It must have been incredibly difficult for Kevin to see that scene and then try to relay that information to the dispatcher. On the recording, you can hear him struggle unsuccessfully to answer most of the a dispatcher's questions. His injuries made him sound heavily intoxicated to the point of incoherence.

Tomorrow, the prosecution is scheduled to play police recordings of interviews with Naposki. According to legal briefs in the case, detectives first encountered a sweet talking suspect but in a second meeting he'd turned cocky and hostile. Murphy predicted that he may finish his primary case by Monday or Tuesday. Then, it's the defense turn to present evidence.

--R. Scott Moxley / OC Weekly


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