Rumors cloud recent slaying

David Stevens: Freedom Newspapers

Rumors about the region’s most recent homicide are frustrating law-enforcement officers as they attempt to verify or dispel them, Curry County Undersheriff Doug Bowman said on Wednesday.

“We’re just getting lots of phone calls … we’re having to make contacts to see who these people are spreading these rumors and it’s putting a bind on our guys to run all these leads down,” Bowman said.

“They’re sending our guys 5,000 different directions and it’s freaking going crazy.”

Officials said late Wednesday they still have not made any arrests in connection with the weekend slaying of Laura McNaughton, the 30-year-old Clovis woman whose body was found in a ditch in the Pleasant Hill community north of Clovis.

One report police have been asked about repeatedly is whether a suspected suicide attempt this week east of Clovis could be connected to McNaughton’s death.

Bowman and District Attorney Matt Chandler said the cases are being investigated independently. Bowman said he does not know if the man who is alleged to have attempted suicide knew McNaughton. Chandler refused comment on a possible relationship.

Both lawmen said the man attempted to stab himself, but was still alive Wednesday. Chandler said the man was at an undisclosed hospital, but refused comment on whether he was in police custody. Officials would not say if he is a suspect in the McNaughton slaying or if he could have been a distraught friend.

Sherrie Devou and Monica Drager, friends of McNaughton, said McNaughton knew a man from her job as a waitress who matched descriptions of the hospitalized man.
“(He) was a regular Friday customer,” Devou said. “He tipped well. He came to see Laura.”

“She said they always had good conversations,” Drager said.

A telephone call Wednesday to the man’s home was not returned.

Search warrants were filed Tuesday in 9th Judicial District Court for McNaughton’s home and the man’s pickup.

However, both documents were sealed by Judge Stephen Quinn at 1:18 p.m. on Tuesday, records show.

Officials would not say if the sealed documents are related.
Bowman would not detail other rumors law officers have received in recent days, but he said the community should not be concerned about a serial killer and that no other homicides have occurred in the region of late.

Chandler said he believes rumors related to McNaughton’s death will go away once officials release more information, but “there are particulars of the investigation that cannot be released to keep the integrity of the investigation.”

Family members and friends of the victim said police have asked them not to talk to media about the case.

Freedom Newspapers staff writer Marlena Hartz contributed to this report.