The Murderous ‘Sugar Baby’
An attractive sugar baby, an NFL player, and a multimillionaire, here’s the story of Orange County’s deadly love triangle.
It was November 15th, 1994, when the Newport Beach Sheriff’s department received a call from a distraught man, screaming about someone getting shot. Soon after, a medical emergency team was dispatched to the location of the call. It was in an upscale gated community, often labeled as one of California’s richest neighborhoods. Upon arrival, the police were met by a distressed 24-year-old Kevin Mclaughlin and his father’s body, the O.C multimillionaire, Bill Mclaughlin, shot six times, lying in a pool of his blood.
Bill Mclaughlin lived in a Newport Beach mansion along with his three children from his first marriage to Susan Gruenholz that ended in divorce. It was a messy divorce, with Susan receiving a good amount of Bill’s fortune in the settlement.
“I Will Take Care of You”
Soon after his divorce, Bill decided to test his luck in the dating pool. Bill, who was 54 at the time, met the attractive 25-year-old, Nanette Johnston, through an online dating platform, where Nanette had posted an ad that read:
“Wealthy Men Only, Classy, well-educated woman … knows how to take care of her man … you take care of me, and I’ll take care of you.”
Nanette, who had a history of dating successful, older men, got Bill’s attention in no time with her youthful charm and seductive ways. Bill’s daughters from his first marriage strictly disapproved of their father’s young love interest, but Bill got engaged to Nanette despite their protests. Soon, Nanette and her two children from a previous marriage moved in with Bill and his family. Nanette was much more than just a pretty face, as Bill would later discover.
The Femme Fatale
Nanette Johnston reached the scene of the crime a few hours later and, according to reports, looked devastated on receiving the harrowing news of her husband’s murder. Nanette stated that she was at her son’s soccer game and later went shopping, which could be proved by the shopping bags and sales receipts with timestamps present in her car. Since there was no murder weapon, fingerprints, DNA, or any traces of the killer at the crime scene, the investigating authorities ruled out suspects one by one on mere speculation.
Meanwhile, it was found that Nanette wrote a fraudulent check of $250,000 on Bill’s behalf and cashed it on the night of the murder. Nanette had previously also embezzled a hefty amount of money from Bill, which, it was suspected, she was using to build a future with another lover. Nanette was also entitled to a whopping one million dollars of Bill’s life insurance policy.
Did the NFL Player Kill for Love?
Nanette’s secret life started coming to light when her relationship with Eric Naposki became public. Soon after the funeral, Bill’s brother reported to the police that Nanette’s son, as an innocent way of boasting, had told him that his mom was dating an NFL player and that he suspected the involvement of Nanette in this case, more than she had led on. Constant surveillance of Nanette’s life led to the discovery that she was staying at another one of Bill’s beach houses. According to neighbors, a tall man often came and went by the house. This man was later on found to be former NFL linebacker Eric Naposki.
According to Eric Naposki, they had been dating for some time now, and that he had no prior knowledge of Nanette’s involvement with a Bill Mclaughlin. Naposki was under the impression that Bill was Nanette’s business partner and that their relationship was strictly platonic.
Police started investigating Naposki when a note containing Bill’s license plate number was found in his car, making him the investigation’s prime suspect. A confident Eric claimed proudly:
“I don’t have a problem with you interrogating the s — out of me.”
Eric owned two pieces of a firearm, one of which, a 9 mm, was missing. Coincidentally, the murder weapon was also suspected to be a 9 mm. Other than this, Eric’s house search yielded no solid proof of his involvement, and he also had an alibi for the night of the murder. Eventually, the police moved on and focused on other potential suspects, including a business rival and an estranged business partner, all of whom were ultimately cleared.
Due to lack of sufficient incriminating evidence, Bill Mclaughlin’s murder investigation eventually fell through, and the case went cold.
On to the Next One
Nanette was charged with grand theft and forgery for the embezzlement of money from Bill and served a jail time of 180 days. After her release, she bounced back quickly into the world of dating. She was soon married to the wealthy John Packard and later, another businessman, Bill McNeal.
15-Year-Old Murder Case Reopened
Fifteen years later, the case was reopened by District Attorney Larry Montgomery when a woman named Suzanne Cogar, who lived in the same apartment complex as that of Eric Naposki, claimed that Eric had told her once that he wanted to kill Bill Mclaughlin. He said that Bill, Nanette’s business partner, had been sexually assaulting her in their Newport beach home.
Larry Montgomery and his assistant Matt Murphy pieced together evidence from the fifteen-year-old case and almost had a “Eureka!” moment, which led to the murder charges filed against Nanette and Eric in 2008, long after the two had broken up. Arrest warrants were issued in May 2009, and the former couple was brought to court.
Trial of the Lovers
“No one should be interrupted while having dinner in the safety of their own home by a person pointing a gun at him, I feel very grateful to have such a wonderful father in my life for as long as I did. I wish he could have stayed with us longer and that God could have chosen his time to leave rather than a person with a gun and a greedy heart.”
From his first marriage, Jenny Mclaughlin, Bill Mclaughlin’s daughter, delivered her victim-impact statement to the court, where Nanette Johnston, now 46, was present.
Eric Naposki refused to enter the courtroom at the time of victim-impact statements, to which Deputy DA Matt Murphy responded by:
Deputy District Attorney Matt Murphy claimed that Nanette conspired with Eric Naposki to murder her ex-fiance Bill. He stated that she provided Eric with a duplicate key, which he used to enter the Mclaughlin residence. Murphy claimed that Eric did so in cahoots with Nanette to keep their relationship secret. He also contended that Johnston had to get rid of Bill to hide the thousands of dollars she had stolen and the million-dollar life insurance she was entitled to after Bill’s death.
Nanette’s defense attorney argued that Eric Naposki acted alone, out of jealousy.
“Hate her as much as you want for being a cheater, a liar and a thief,” Deputy Public Defender Mick Hill said. “But you can’t vote her guilty of murder.”
But this is exactly what the Judge did. Nanette Johnson was sentenced to life in prison, with no chance of parole on May 18th, 2012.
Eric Naposki was convicted for a special circumstances murder at a separate trial last year, but his sentencing was postponed till August 10th. He was also sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole.
Eric Naposki Swears of Innocence
Naposki tried to reach out to media outlets with the “truth” about who killed Bill Mclaughlin, but to no avail.
“Look me in the eye,’’ Naposki told the Boston Globe in 2011. “I swear on my children’s lives that I didn’t shoot anyone. Absolutely, positively, not.’’
Years later, Naposki still claims to be innocent.
“I’m never gonna stop,” Naposki says, “because I have nothing else to do.”