Police: Suspect knew victim

By Tonya Garner: CNJ staff writer

Laura McNaughton’s family members told police a dentist had been “weirding” her out. The resulting investigation led to Tuesday’s arrest of Dr. James Smith, a dentist with La Casa de Buena Salud in Clovis and Portales, police records show.

Smith is charged with an open count of murder in connection with McNaughton’s slaying on Dec. 10.

Efforts to contact Smith’s family and several friends were not successful on Tuesday. Prosecuting attorney Matt Chandler said he did not know if Smith had retained an attorney.

Police records show Smith knew McNaughton as a customer at a restaurant where she worked. But he told police his relationship with McNaughton was “very limited,” records show.

“Smith knew that McNaughton was a single mother with two children, had gone to San Diego for Thanksgiving, and was currently a student,” according to a police report.

Police said Smith attempted suicide on Dec. 13, a day after he was interviewed by police about his relationship with McNaughton. He was treated for three self-inflicted knife wounds, but none were life threatening, police said.

Police said Smith left a note to his wife professing his innocence in connection with McNaughton’s death and claiming he was only guilty of “flirting,” police said the note reported.

Smith is a member of a good, loving family, according to retired Clovis dentist Dr. O.T. Rozzell.

Rozzell, a longtime Clovis resident, said he was not well-acquainted with James Smith but has played golf with Smith’s father, Tommy Joe Smith, on many occasions. “His family is really nice,” Rozzell said.

According to a police press release, James Smith was born and raised in the Clovis area and attended college in Lubbock at Texas Tech University. Rozzell said James Smith then continued his education at the University of Oklahoma College of Dentistry in Oklahoma City.

“I thought he would stay in Oklahoma but he came back to Clovis to run La Casa,” Rozzell. “I’ve seen his work (as a dentist) and he is good at what he does.”

Officials at La Casa declined to comment on Tuesday, but said they would issue a press release today.