By Andy Jackson: CNJ staff writer
Clovis dentist James Smith was indicted by a grand jury Thursday for the murder, rape and kidnapping of Laura McNaughton and for three counts of tampering with evidence, according to a release from 9th Judicial District Attorney Matt Chandler.
Chandler said he will make a decision in 90 days on whether he will pursue the death penalty.
“The decision (whether to pursue the death penalty) will be made after review of all evidence, discussion with the victim’s family and much thought and prayer,” Chandler said.
Two of five circumstances that would allow the death penalty to be instituted in New Mexico are allegedly met in the case: killing in the act of kidnapping and killing in the act of rape, Chandler said.
McNaughton’s naked body was found Dec. 10 by hunters in a ditch in the Pleasant Hill community north of Clovis. Officials have said she was strangled.
Smith is being held without bond at the Curry County Adult Detention Center.
His attorney, Steve Doerr of Portales, did not return a phone call seeking comment.
Smith frequented the Clovis restaurant where McNaughton, 30, worked as a waitress, and he’d leave her large tips, police allege.
McNaughton was last seen at the restaurant and the next day her body was found.
DNA consistent with McNaughton’s was found in blood inside Smith’s truck by police, records show.
Forensic evidence has not all returned from the New Mexico Crime Lab, but the majority of evidence has been sent, Chandler said.
Some evidence that the state lab doesn’t have the capacity to test will be sent to independent labs, Chandler said.
Smith attempted suicide Dec. 13, after officials questioned him on McNaughton’s death the day before.
In a note to his wife, Smith denied killing McNaughton, court records show.