Dentist arrested in Clovis homicide investigation

Forensic evidence led to the arrest this morning of local dentist James Smith in the slaying of Laura McNaughton, according to 9th Judicial District Attorney Matt Chandler.

Smith, who practiced dentistry in Clovis and Portales, is being held at Curry County Adult Detention Center on an open count of murder, Chandler said. Police issued a warrant for his arrest at 11 a.m. Tuesday after receiving forensic results from a lab in Santa Fe, Chandler said.

“We had circumstantial evidence in this case,” Chandler said at a Tuesday afternoon press conference. “The forensic result was the piece investigators needed to go forward with the arrest.”

Chandler said he does not believe anyone else was involved in McNaughton’s death.

McNaughton, 30, was fatally strangled and found in a ditch Saturday afternoon two miles south of the Pleasant Hill Fire Department by pheasant hunters, officials said.

Police would not provide details about how McNaughton died.

Chandler said Smith was a regular patron of the Rib Crib Restaurant where McNaughton worked. He would not comment on the relationship of the victim to the suspect, other than to say police believed it was a “patron relationship.”

Officials said they first talked with Smith about McNaughton’s slaying on Dec. 12. He attempted suicide on Dec. 13, Chandler said, and was hospitalized until Sunday.

Chandler said Smith was arrested without incident on Tuesday at a residence where he was staying.

Chandler said he does not know if Smith has an attorney. Calls to Smith family members were not immediately returned today.