Year in review: Ex-dentist pleads guilty

Christian Madden of Clovis tries to clear a path to his front door Nov. 14 at his house on Sheridan St. The tumbleweed invasion was fueled by 52 mph winds which thrashed through Clovis. (CNJ staff photo: Andy DeLisle)

CNJ staff

A day after a judge ruled the state could pursue the death penalty against him, former Clovis dentist James Smith pleaded guilty in December to kidnapping and killing a 30-year-old Clovis mother of two.

Smith, 37, was sentenced to at least 57 years in prison after entering an Alford plea in which a defendant does not admit guilt but acknowledges sufficient evidence exists to convince a judge or jury of guilt.

McNaughton’s body was found battered and naked in a rural Curry County ditch in December 2005. The medical examiner ruled she died of strangulation and blunt force trauma.

“I would love to have seen him get up and admit to what he did. … I would have loved to have seen him get the death penalty. … But this was maybe the best route to go,” said McNaughton’s aunt, Lucille Rosser after the sentencing

In statement to police after his arrest in December 2005, Smith admitted McNaughton died in his living room, according to lead investigator Sandy Loomis of the Curry County Sheriff’s office. He told police he placed her on the back porch until morning, when he placed her body in the back of his pickup truck and drove into the country where he placed her in a ditch.

Airmen killed: Two U.S. Air Force Airmen with ties to the Clovis area were killed in November and December.

Capt. Kermit O. Evans, 31, a U.S. Air Force Civil Engineer Explosive Ordnance flight commander assigned to Cannon Air Force Base, was killed Dec. 3 when the U.S. Marine Corps CH-46 helicopter in which he was riding made an emergency water landing near the shore of Lake Qadisiyah in western Al Anbar Province, Iraq.

Troy Gilbert, 34, died Nov. 27 when the Cannon F-16 he was piloting crashed in Iraq. Gilbert’s wife, Ginger, is a Clovis native.

Gilbert was stationed at Luke Air Force Base in the western Phoenix suburb of Glendale, Ariz.

Ethanol oppositon: A small band of Clovis citizens voiced their opposition to the construction of a 110-million-gallon-a-year ethanol plant off U.S. 60/84 just west of Clovis during a series of public meetings. The plant’s proximity to residents and air pollution were the main issues. Clovis Ethanol officials say the plant would create 50 new jobs, indirect jobs for truckers and farmers, and millions of dollars in benefits for Clovis, Curry County and New Mexico.

Sci-fi legend dies: The man considered by many as the “Dean of Science Fiction” — Jack Williamson — died in early November at his home in Portales. He was 98. Williamson authored more than 50 novels and numerous short stories, including eight novels completed after he turned 90. His first story, “The Metal Man,” was published in 1928, and he
continued to work until close to the time of his death.

Escape: A jail inmate who slipped out a kitchen door after stuffing blankets in his bed to fool guards doing a head count in December was captured six days later in a Dimmitt, Texas hotel. Guadalupe Rodriguez, 29, escaped sometime Dec. 23, Warden Leslie Johnson said. His absence went unreported for a day and a half, she said. The incident is under investigation by the county sheriff and jail administrator.

Copter crash: A helicopter carrying two people crashed in a field about 11 miles north of Melrose in November. Neither the pilot or the passenger were seriously injured. The Bell UH-1 helicopter, also known as a Huey, was headed for California, according to officials.

Sheriff resigns: Facing seven counts of cruelty to animals, Melrose’s police chief Mike Trammell resigned in October. Mike Trammell, 36, had been on administrative leave. He is accused of shooting and killing seven dogs between May 2005 and August.

They said it

“This is the cutting edge of technology. We can send this vehicle up and collect data and we don’t have to put a pilot or a crew in risk.”

— Boeing’s Bob Futoran on the company’s unmanned aerial vehicle, called ScanEagle, which is being tested at the Melrose Bombing Range

“I can’t compete with big corporate America. And I don’t want to.”

— Guadalajara Restaurant owner Mike Mendoza on closing the family business started by his grandfather in the late 1930s