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Two charged with murder in 1994 Newport Beach killing

A Ladera Ranch woman and a former NFL linebacker have been charged with murder in the 1994 slaying of the woman’s multimillionaire fiance in a Newport Beach gated community -- one of Orange County’s most baffling unsolved crimes.

Police arrested Nanette Ann Packard, 43, Wednesday at her home. Eric Andrew Naposki, 42, of Greenwich, Conn., was arrested by local authorities earlier that day.

Authorities long suspected the couple, who were having an affair at the time, of plotting to kill businessman William McLaughlin to get his life insurance money.

Prosecutors allege that Packard gave Naposki a key and told him when McLaughlin would be home. Naposki is accused of entering McLaughlin’s home the night of Dec. 15, 1994, and shooting him six times in the chest with a 9-millimeter handgun in the kitchen.

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McLaughlin’s 24-year-old son heard the shots from upstairs and found his father’s body. The intruder was gone.

Police and Orange County prosecutors said Thursday that they reopened the cold case two years ago and uncovered new evidence linking Packard and Naposki to the killing. They declined to disclose the evidence.

“We feel strongly that we have enough evidence to proceed with this case and look forward to presenting it to a jury,” said Matt Murphy, a senior Orange County deputy district attorney.

The criminal complaint requires the suspects to provide DNA samples and thumb and palm prints.

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Packard, who is being held without bail in Orange County Jail, appeared in court Thursday but did not enter a plea. From the audience, her husband and two of her children cried and blew her kisses. Naposki is being extradited from Connecticut to Orange County.

McLaughlin was a legendary figure in medical circles and made a fortune in the 1980s after inventing in his Santa Ana garage a prototype blood-filtering device for collecting plasma.

His death stunned the gated community of Balboa Coves, where he was a fixture, and made national headlines when it was revealed that the 55-year-old McLaughlin, who had gone through a messy divorce in 1990, was romantically linked to a woman nearly half his age who was considered a suspect in his slaying.

Naposki had played for the New England Patriots and Indianapolis Colts and worked as a bouncer at the Thunderbird Nightclub, just 484 feet from the victim’s home. He showed up late for work the night of the killing, police said.

McLaughlin and Packard met in 1990 after McLaughlin answered a personal ad from a woman that read: “I know how to take care of my man if he knows how to take care of me.”

They dated for several years, and McLaughlin supported her and her two children, paying for a beachfront house for them.

Authorities said Packard -- 29 and known as Nanette Ann Johnston at the time -- took out a $1-million life insurance policy on McLaughlin. In addition, his will stipulated that she would receive $150,000 and have the right to live in his beach house rent-free for one year in the event of his death. Prosecutors said she received a portion of the money from the insurance policy.

In 1995, Packard pleaded guilty to forgery and grand theft for taking nearly $500,000 from McLaughlin’s bank accounts, including cashing a $250,000 check the day before his death. She was sentenced to one year in County Jail and five years’ probation in that case.

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In a 1995 interview with The Times, Packard denied killing McLaughlin, saying, “The police are all wet.” She said Naposki was with her at the time of the killing.

“I didn’t do it and [Naposki] didn’t do it,” Packard said then. “I don’t think [the police] have any real facts. They couldn’t, because I didn’t do anything. . . . I stood to gain a lot more by being with Mr. McLaughlin than [from] an insurance policy.”

Naposki, who is being held without bond, waived his extradition rights during a brief court appearance Thursday in Connecticut. He winked toward family and friends in the audience.

Afterward, his attorney said Naposki was surprised when he was arrested Wednesday as he backed his car out of his driveway.

“He is perplexed as to why they continue to go after him,” Jeffrey Chartier said. “He thought this had all been resolved a long time ago, and he maintains now as he did then that he had nothing to do with this.”

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tony.barboza@latimes.com

The Hartford Courant contributed to this report.

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